Arab nations slam Israel’s ‘racist, discriminatory’ Jewish nation-state law

Saudi Arabia says new legislation ‘perpetuates racial discrimination,’ while Syria claims it ‘enshrines Israel’s racism, goes beyond apartheid in South Africa’

King Salman attends a swearing-in ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 6, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency, via AP)
King Salman attends a swearing-in ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 6, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency, via AP)

Saudi Arabia slammed a controversial Israeli law as “perpetuating racial discrimination” against Palestinians by defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people, state media reported.

The law passed early Thursday enshrines Israel for the first time as “the national home of the Jewish people” in its quasi-constitutional Basic Laws, setting Hebrew as the national language, while affording Arabic a lower “special” status.

Citing a Saudi foreign ministry source, the official Saudi Press Agency said late Friday the kingdom “rejects and disapproves” of the new legislation which it argued contradicts international law.

The source called on the international community to “confront such a law and or other Israeli attempts, aimed at perpetuating racial discrimination against the Palestinian people,” SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia said the adoption of the law would also be a barrier to ending the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Syria’s foreign ministry also lambasted the law, calling it “racist” and saying it “enshrines the racism of this entity (Israel) through an apartheid system that goes beyond the former apartheid system in South Africa.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with the Greek Kathimerini newspaper, in Damascus, Syria, in this photo released May 10, 2018. (SANA via AP)

An official at the ministry told the official SANA news agency the law was an attack on Palestinian rights to their homeland and a violation of international law.

“This Israeli law would not have been issued without the unlimited support provided by successive US administrations to this rogue entity,” he said, adding that the Trump administration’s recent relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem “came as a green light” for Israel “to pursue its aggressive policy and racism.”

Earlier this year Saudi King Salman reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s “steadfast” support for the Palestinian cause, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signaled a shift in the country’s approach.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, attends a meeting at the United Nations in New York City, March 27, 2018. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

Prince Mohammed in April said in a magazine interview that Israelis as well as Palestinians “have the right to have their own land.”

Arab citizens account for some 21 percent of Israel’s more than 8.8 million population and have long complained of discrimination.

The Israeli legislation was also condemned by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Adoption of the law “reflected the regime of racism and discrimination against the Palestinian people,” GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani was quoted by SPA as saying.

Zayani accused Israel of trying to obliterate the Palestinians’ “national identity and depriving them of their legitimate civil and human rights on their occupied homeland.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 27, 2018. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool Photo via AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday called on the international community to intervene against Israel over the new law, calling the contentious piece of legislation “racist” and bristling at its affirmation of Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

Top Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said the law “officially legalizes apartheid and legally defines Israel as an apartheid system.”

Critics in Israel and abroad, including Diaspora Jews, have fiercely derided the legislation as discriminatory and unnecessary.

Israeli government members praised the passage of the law on Thursday morning, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel.” Many in the opposition criticized the legislation.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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