Tibi bill seeks to give Israeli Arabs official national minority status

Legislation is meant to strengthen state's commitment to equality between Jews and Arabs.

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset.
A new bill by MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) would recognize Israeli Arabs as an official national minority.
Tibi plans to submit the bill when the Knesset’s winter session begins in October, he said Sunday, explaining that it is a response to the various attempts by coalition parties to pass a Basic Law (a law treated as though it has constitutional status) defining Israel as the Jewish State.
In some countries, such as the UK, Canada, China, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands and others, certain ethnic groups are recognized as official minorities and receive special rights, such as to be educated and communicate with the government in their native language.
No such status exists in Israel, but Tibi hopes to instate it for Israeli Arabs.
“After 66 years since the establishment of the state, the time has come to anchor in a law the value of equality between all citizens by recognizing Arabs as a national minority with recognized basic rights in all areas of life like the right to be equal,” Tibi said.
Tibi added that he is “challenging Israeli democracy to bring equality to all citizens, including Arabs.”
All citizens already have equality by law in Israel. In fact, the vast majority of laws in Israel apply to all citizens, without any differentiation between ethnicities, such that the rights and responsibilities they grant apply regardless of whether someone is Jewish or an Arab of any religion.
One notable exception to this rule is the Law of Return, which gives all Jews, as well as their spouses and offspring, the right to move to Israel and become citizens.
Tibi addresses this by proposing in his bill that there may not be laws that apply to only one nationality in Israel.
The UAL-Ta’al MK’s bill states that “the basic rights of the Arab minority... will be respected in the spirit of justice and international treaties to which Israel is a party.”
As such, the bill says Israeli Arabs’ culture and heritage should be respected and that they may not be denied any rights given to other groups in Israel.
The bill also states that Israeli Arabs may not be discriminated against in areas of education, housing, language, property or employment.
Such discrimination is already illegal under existing laws in Israel.
The legislation also seeks to increase Arab representation in public institutions, which Tibi wrote will help maintain the state’s commitment to equality between Jews and Arabs.