‘Multicultural Israel’ bill responds to Jewish nation-state proposal

Bill seeks to make Israel a state of all its citizens and change anthem, flag and symbol to also reflect Arab culture; Likud MKs call it "Palestinian nation-state bill"

MK Yousef Jabareen. (photo credit: Courtesy)
MK Yousef Jabareen.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The “Basic Law: Israel – A democratic, multicultural and egalitarian state” bill was proposed by Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen this week to serve as his response to the Jewish nation-state bill.
“Instead of dark ideas promoting a hierarchy in the status of citizens and ethnic superiority for Jews, I propose enlightened ideas of equal citizenship and significant multiculturalism for all citizens,” Jabareen argued.
The Jewish nation-state bill, which is strongly backed by the coalition and the government, would, if passed, be a Basic Law, with constitutional weight, that declares that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The proposal, which passed a preliminary reading and is being worked on in a legislative committee, includes many declarative elements about the Jewish homeland and reinforces many existing laws in a Basic Law, such as the flag, national anthem and national symbol and the right of any Jewish person to immigrate to Israel.
Its opponents have raised concerns about articles that could bring changes, such as one saying the Supreme Court should consider Jewish tradition if there is a case with no legal precedent.
Two particularly controversial sections include one that Hebrew is the official language while Arabic has special status, and another which allows “separate communal settlements” that can be for one religion or nationality.
Jabareen’s bill says the country’s borders are on pre-1967 lines, and that the state will have “total civil, cultural and national equality between all its citizens.”
“Israel is a democratic and egalitarian state based on values of human dignity, liberty and equality, in the spirit of the International Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter,” the bill reads. “All legislation must be interpreted according to this article.”
The bill also says Israel is the state of all its citizens, Jewish and Arab, and that its resources and institutions will be used equally for all citizens.
Jabareen’s proposal also seeks to change the county’s anthem, flag and state symbol to show the connection to both Jewish and Arab citizens, and says Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages that can be used equally in all three branches of government. In addition, it states that Arabs will have “appropriate representation” in all government institutions.
The bill would also cancel any existing laws that contradict it.
Opponents of the bill have nicknamed it “the Palestinian nation-state bill.”
Likud MK Nurit Koren called the bill “science fiction,” and said that if Israeli-Arabs should “serve the State of Israel fully and equally.”
“I have a feeling they won’t accept my suggested change. The members of the Joint Palestinian List have gotten used to full rights without any responsibilities or contributions to the state. Their bill aims for a situation that already exists – the State of Israel is a democracy... Members of the Arab public who want to be a real part of the State of Israel enjoy great momentum in every area.”
Knesset Interior Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) called on the Joint List MKs to resign from the Knesset, saying they’re acting like a part of the Palestinian Authority.
“They crossed a redline. This is an incomparably disrespectful. The Arab MKs from the Joint List are choosing to promote a Palestinian agenda in the Israeli legislature. They should quit and run in Gaza,” Kisch stated. “It cannot be that Israeli citizen’s vote in the Knesset so MKs represent them, and then they represent the PA instead.”
Jabareen responded to the criticism, saying that Likud MKs have started an “incitement campaign” against him and the Joint List.
“Has the political discourse in this country so deteriorated that I cannot propose a basic democratic idea? I challenge all the opponents of my proposal to point to one sentence that is not democratic. They’re hysterical because my proposal exposes their racist, condescending discourse,” he said.
Jabareen voiced his opposition to the Jewish nation-state bill in meetings with European Union officials in Brussels in November, saying it violates the EU trade agreement with Israel, which states “that the respect for human rights and democratic principles guides the internal and international policy of both Israel and the EU and constitutes an essential and positive element of the agreement. At Israel’s request, there is a Joint Declaration on the importance both parties attach to the struggle against xenophobia, antisemitism and racism.”