Israel is first and foremost a Jewish state and Israeli Arabs harboring anti-Israeli sentiments cannot complain it’s not a state of all its citizens, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) said on Tuesday, immediately drawing accusations of racism and discrimination.
Livnat participated in a debate on socio-economic problems afflicting areas outside Israel’s major population centers at the Tel-Hai Academic College in northern Israel, Maariv reported. Her remarks came in response to a speech by Basel Rateb, a representative of the Arab anti-Zionist Balad party, who criticized what he described as institutionalized racism and unequal representation of Arabs in Israeli institutions.
“We want to be part of the discourse in the Galilee, but the Galilee doesn’t want to be part of our discourse,” Rateb said, pointing out Arabs constitute 55 percent of the Galilee’s population.
Livnat responded saying “Israel is a Jewish state. It’s certainly not created to be a state of all its citizens.” Enraged Jewish and Arab audience members shouted that she was a racist.
“Arab students and Israeli Arabs are free to enroll to whatever educational institution they please in the state of Israel,” the minister continued. “Anyone who wishes to establish a Palestinian state on the one hand and refuses to acknowledge the existence of a Jewish state on the other hand, cannot expect it to be a state of all its citizens.”
She raised her voice above the vociferous heckling, adding “I ask you to show me the same tolerance you evince toward the representative of the Balad party, otherwise you wreak havoc on democracy.”