The Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem on Monday issued a statement slamming the newly passed nation-state law, which it called discriminatory, and said it violated both Israeli and international law.
The Patriarchate, which represents the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, called on all Christians in Israel to protest the law that reserves the right to national-self determination exclusively for Israel’s Jewish citizens.
“The law fails to provide any constitutional guarantees for the rights of the indigenous and other minorities living in the country,” a Patriarchate statement said. “Palestinian citizens of Israel, constituting 20 percent are flagrantly excluded from the law.”
The law, passed earlier this month, has roiled the country, amid mounting criticism of provisions that many decry as exclusionary toward minority groups. Supporters of the law see it as necessary to balance Israel’s Jewish and democratic characters, as well as enshrine into law the country’s status as a Jewish state.
“It is beyond conception that a Law with constitutional effect ignores an entire segment of the population as if its members never existed,” the church said. “It sends an unequivocal signal to the Palestinian citizens of Israel, to the effect that in this country they are not at home.”
The church said the law contravened the United Nations Resolution 181 that established the State of Israel, and Israel’s own Declaration of Independence.
It also called on Christians to protest the law.
“The Christian citizens of Israel have the same concerns as any other non-Jewish communities with respect to this Law. They call upon all citizens of the State of Israel who still believe in the basic concept of equality among citizens of the same nation, to voice their objection to this law and the dangers emanating thereof to the future of this Country,” it said.
In addition to defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, the law downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with “special” status, declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance, and Jewish holidays.
The government has faced widespread international and local oppostion to the law. However, within Israel most of the dissent has focused on the exclusion of the Druze.
Unlike Arab Israelis, members of minority groups such as the Druze and Circassians are subject to Israel’s mandatory draft and serve in large numbers alongside Jewish soldiers in some of the military’s most elite units. They also serve in the police and Border Police gendarmeries.
Several lawmakers within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition have pushed for changes to the law that would grant the Druze a special status of their own, but Netanyahu has insisted he will not amend the legislation.