Senior Catholic clerics in Jerusalem called Sunday for Israel to repeal a controversial law giving Jews a “unique” right to self-determination in the country.
“We must draw the attention of the authorities to a simple fact,” bishops and archbishops of the Roman Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic and Greek Melkite churches said in a joint statement.
“Our faithful, the Christians, our fellow citizens, Muslim, Druze and Baha’i, all of us who are Arabs, are no less citizens of this country than our Jewish brothers and sisters,” they said.
The nation-state act was passed by the Knesset in July and forms part of Israel’s Basic Laws — a de facto constitution.
It speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and demotes Arabic from its former status as an official language.
Because it omits any reference to equality or the country’s democratic nature, Israeli Arabs say it will legalize discrimination.
The Netanyahu government says the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are already anchored in existing quasi-constitutional legislation.
There were widespread Arab protests after it passed into law and some Jewish politicians said it should be amended.
President Reuven Rivlin said the act “in its current version is bad for the State of Israel and bad for the Jews.”
Arabs account for some 17.5 percent of Israel’s nearly nine million population.
“Christians, Muslims, Druze, Baha’i and Jews demand to be treated as equal citizens,” said the letter, which was also signed by the Maronite archbishop of Cyprus and the Greek Melkite archbishop of Petra, in Jordan.
“We, as the religious leaders of the Catholic Churches, call on the authorities to rescind this Basic Law and assure one and all that the state of Israel seeks to promote and protect the welfare and the safety of all its citizens.”