Arab MKs meet with Arab League to condemn nation-state law

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit calls controversial bill ‘racist’; MKs Ahmad Tibi and Jamal Zahalka say the law ‘destroys the possibility’ of a two-state solution

This picture taken on September 11, 2018, shows a general view of a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers at the organization's headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)
This picture taken on September 11, 2018, shows a general view of a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers at the organization's headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

A delegation of Arab Israeli lawmakers from the Joint List met Tuesday with the head of the Arab League in Cairo to discuss Israel’s recently passed Jewish nation-state law and its implications for a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Foreign ministers from several Arab countries discussed the controversial law passed last month enshrining Israel as a Jewish state, calling the law “racist.”

The discussion took place during a session which was supposed to have focused primarily on raising money for UNRWA, the United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, after the US announced it will stop funding the organization.

According to MKs Ahmad Tibi and Jamal Zahalka, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the new “apartheid law” had enshrined racism.

“In the past Israel presented itself as a democratic state, but Netanyahu presents it through this basic law as a racist state by means of an apartheid law,” the lawmakers quoted Gheit as saying, Hadashot news reported.

“We came here to explain the implications of this law to the Arab public and to the national conflict, as part of our global propaganda campaign,” the MKs said, adding that the law “creates blatant discrimination between the citizens and destroys the possibility of two states,” Hadashot reported.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi attends a discussion on the ‘Jewish State’ bill in the Knesset, on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Tibi also slammed the latest moves against the Palestinians by US President Donald Trump.

“This is a revenge campaign against the Palestinian people and its leadership after they expressed their complete refusal to discuss his delusional ideas for what he calls ‘the deal of the century’ and for cutting off ties with him after he moved the embassy,” from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Tibi said.

He also referred to the US decision, announced Monday, to shutter the PLO mission in Washington.

“This move follows his decision to choke the Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem and his attempt to close UNRWA,” he said, referring to Friday’s State Separtment announcement that the US will slash aid to hospitals in East Jerusalem that provide crucial care to Palestinians. “Even a decision like this won’t sway the Palestinian people or its leadership and won’t remove the refugees or change the fact that East Jerusalem is occupied territory.

“The mentality of an unskilled trader fails time after time and causes the US to lose its standing as a broker in the diplomatic process and it makes do with the messianic ceremonies of Ambassador [David] Friedman and the right-wing tweets of [Jason] Greenblatt,”

The meeting of the MKs with the Arab League is part of an international push by the Israeli lawmakers to force Israel to undo the legislation.

Last week at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh met with the union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, while five of his fellow lawmakers met with other top officials, including the foreign minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn.

Odeh requested that the EU condemn and call for the cancellation of the controversial law, which appears to demote Arabic from an official language to one with a “special status” and declares national rights in Israel to be “unique” to the Jewish people.

MKs from the Joint (Arab) List and Luxembourg FM Jean Asselborn, September 2018 (courtesy Joint (Arab) List)

Arab Israelis and other non-Jewish minorities have vociferously protested the law, which they say turns them into second-class citizens. Many Jewish Israelis and some in the international community have also condemned the legislation.

Odeh said the meeting with Mogherini was an important milestone in what he called his party’s “joint Jewish-Arab effort” to have the law be rescinded.

The meeting at the EU came weeks after Arab parliamentarians met with representatives at the United Nations over the law. That meeting drew widespread condemnation from other Knesset members, though some of the opposition was based on a false report that lawmakers were working with the Palestinians to push a UN resolution against the law.

The government sees the matter as an internal issue and has expressed dismay over attempts to involve the international community.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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