During a chance meeting at the airport on Monday, MK Moti Yogev took the opportunity to encourage a group of Arab Knesset members to emigrate from Israel.
“We congratulate you for leaving Israel. This is what you want,” Yogev, of the Jewish Home party, told the Joint List MKs, in an exchange filmed by the Ynet news site. “Welcome to all those arriving and blessed are those who are leaving. This is not your country. This land will always be the Land of Israel and all the traitors should leave.”
Yogev, who had come to the airport to welcome a group of people who had just immigrated to Israel, told Ahmad Tibi, Yousef Jabareen, and Talab Abu Arar that the West Bank, under control of the Palestinian Authority, will also be part of Israel.
“Even Ramallah will be part of Israel. Go to Paris, go to Britain, go to your anti-Semitic friends, go to whomever you want,” he berated them. “Your place is in the departure lounge.”
Tibi, who is a physician, jokingly replied, “Listen to your doctor’s advice — take your medicine three times a day.”
The Arab Israeli lawmakers are set to hold a series of meetings with senior European Union officials to urge them to oppose a controversial law passed last month enshrining Israel as a Jewish state.
“We are traveling to Europe to present the situation after the nation-state law was passed,” Tibi told Ynet after the altercation. “It is important for the world to know our opinion on the bill.”
The law, passed by the Knesset on July 19, anchors Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” for the first time, and says that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also defines Arabic as a language bearing a “special” status, effectively downgrading it from its de facto status as Israel’s second official language, though it cryptically also says the status of Arabic remains untouched.
The lawmakers will meet up with Joint Party leader Ayman Odeh and several other party members who flew on Sunday to Brussels. They are set to meet with a series of top European leaders, including foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, various foreign ministers and ambassadors.
Odeh requested the meeting with Mogherini months ago and will meet with her Tuesday, her spokesperson said.
Mogherini “regularly meets government representatives and parliamentarians of partner countries, both from the government and opposition,” a spokesperson for the EU embassy in Ramat Gan said Monday. “Israel is no exception, being a close partner to the EU for many years, with whom the EU has a strong relationship based on dialogues at multiple levels with all facets of society and with political leaders from across the spectrum.”
Last week, Hadashot news reported that the lawmakers from the Joint List had joined forces with the Palestinian Authority in an attempt to convince the UN to advance a resolution next month at the UN General Assembly that likens the quasi-constitutional legislation to apartheid.
That report, which was denied by all parties ostensibly involved, drew widespread condemnation in Israel, with one minister calling for the MKs involved to be tried for treason.
The report said Odeh also plans to approach the UN cultural body, UNESCO, to protest the law’s apparent downgrading of Arabic as an official language in Israel.
Israeli diplomats reportedly discovered that several Arab Knesset members, including lawmakers Jabareen and Aida Touma-Sliman, met recently with senior UN officials, including UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, to discuss the nation-state law.
Both DiCarlo and Touma-Sliman denied that any anti-Israel resolution was discussed.
The law was forcefully condemned by Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up some 20 percent of the population, as well as the country’s Druze minority.
The government has argued the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are already anchored in other semi-constitutional legislation.
But critics both at home and abroad say it undermines Israel’s commitment to equality for all its citizens outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
The legislation was passed as one of the so-called Basic Laws, which, similar to a constitution, underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.
Several petitions against the law have been filed to the High Court, demanding it be overturned on constitutional grounds. Druze leaders, including three MKs, were first to demand the High Court strike down the “extremist” legislation, saying it anchored discrimination against minorities in Israeli law. Two Bedouin former IDF officers also called on the High Court to either change the formulation of the law so it applies equally to all Israelis or abolish it completely.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.