The Central Elections Committee has given right-wing party Yisrael Beytenu and its chairman Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman less than a week to respond to allegations that their latest election campaign is racist.
Meretz party MK Issawi Freij petitioned the committee to ban the campaign, saying it violates Israel’s anti-racism laws by calling for the revocation of citizenship for Israelis based on race and nationality.
Liberman has long advocated a controversial land swap plan in which towns in “The Triangle” region southeast of Haifa — including heavily populated Arab cities — would become part of a Palestinian state in any peace agreement, and their residents would lose their Israeli citizenship and become citizens of Palestine, in exchange for the Jewish settlement blocs of the West Bank. The party’s election slogan is “Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine,” referring to the West Bank settlement and the northern Israeli Arab city, respectively.
Central Elections Committee chairman Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran responded to the petition Thursday by asking Yisrael Beytenu to respond by February 10.
“Liberman claims to be the lord of the land, with the authority to decide who deserves to be a citizen and who does not, but the citizenship of Israeli Arabs does not depend on him or on his party members,” Freij, an Arab himself, wrote in a Facebook post.
The party presented its campaign for the land and citizenship swap last month.
The proposal could affect some 300,000 Israeli Arabs.
“Liberman’s proposal to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arabs stands in stark contrast to the values of the Israeli Declaration of Independence,” Freij wrote. “The party chairman does not care about the Declaration, especially not the parts regarding equality.”
Freij also addressed the ambivalent attitude of the Arab community towards national symbols, which often evoke Jewish traditions and history, leaving them feeling excluded.
“Liberman claims only those who can whole-heartedly sing ‘A Jewish soul [still yearns]’ [lyrics from the Israeli anthem “Hatikva”] deserve to be citizens of Israel, in this way disqualifying anyone non-Jewish [from being a citizen],” he wrote.