European MPs: Jewish nation-state bill legalizes ‘systemic discrimination’

Members of European Parliament from across political spectrum come out against EU funding for BDS.

JOINT LIST members of Knesset stand in front of the European Council in Brussels last month. (photo credit: Courtesy)
JOINT LIST members of Knesset stand in front of the European Council in Brussels last month.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The left-wing bloc in the European Parliament came out against the Jewish nation-state bill, saying it discriminates against Israeli Arabs, in a letter to senior EU officials, two weeks after a delegation of Joint List MKs visited Brussels to make the same claim.
Also last week, 60 MEPs from all four major political groups in the European Parliament called for the EU to stop funding the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
A statement by the 189-member Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament reads: “We express our deep concern over the nation-state bill currently under debate in the Knesset, which can be interpreted as an attempt to deepen and legalize systemic discrimination against the Palestinian Arab minority in the country.”
The S&D letter “is certainly a result of our visit” to Brussels earlier this month, Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
“The topic of the nation-state bill was one of the main topics we brought up in our meetings at the EU.”
Jabareen recounted that an EU official who saw an English translation of the bill called it “a flavor of apartheid.”
The coalition’s Jewish nation-state bill, is a proposed Basic Law that says that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and reestablishes in law the anthem and flag, among other national symbols and norms. Opposition critics say the bill gives Jewish citizens primacy, and point specifically to an article saying Hebrew is an official language, while Arabic has special status.
Last week, the committee working on a different bill debated an article that would allow separate towns for different communities – which is already legal, in the sense one may need approval from a local committee before moving to a small town – but added nationality or religion to the legal meaning of community.
Many lawmakers on the left and right opposed the clause, calling it discriminatory.
The S&D letter was sent to the EU Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, as well as to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani last Friday.
The progressive MEPs urged Tajani and Mogherini “to raise their voice and to make it explicit that the adoption of this bill in its current shape – against the strong protests of the Palestinian Arab community constituting one-fifth of the population – is incompatible with the basic values of EU-Israel relations and with the image of Israel as a solid democracy in the Middle East.”
Earlier this month, lawmakers from the Joint List met with MEP s and EU officials, saying Israel is violating the 1995 EU-Israel Association Agreement, specifically the article calling for the protection of human rights and democratic values, and protested the Jewish nation-state bill.
On Tuesday, 60 MEPs from all four major political blocs in the European Parliament, including S&D, called on Mogherini to stop EU funding for BDS groups.
The letter tells Mogherini to ensure “that no public funds go to organizations calling for a boycott of the State of Israel, and to instruct agencies not to engage with companies, organizations or other entities involved with the BDS movement.”
Lars Adaktusson, a Swedish MEP, President of the Europe Israel Public Affairs political board and signatory on the letter, said the EU and European Parliament are “in danger of being deemed irrelevant as a peace broker if it fails to address the incitement on its own soil against Israel.”
MEP Cristian Dan Preda, the foreign affairs coordinator for the European Parliament’s largest political group, the European People’s Party and one of the letter’s initiators, said: “It’s in the interest of this House and of our citizens to see an upgrade in the partnership agreement with Israel.
We should not allow the current stalemate in the peace process to dictate the terms of our relationship with Israel.”
Europe Israel Public Affairs Founder Rabbi Menachem Margolin lamented, “Israel sometimes feels misunderstood by Europe, and this leads to a further strain on the relations.”
Margolin said he’s “glad to see such a wide support for investment, rather than divestment, from something that has been, for more than three decades, a mutually advantageous bilateral [relationship].”