Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat panned a new Israeli Basic Law on Thursday that enshrines Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, contending that it “legalizes apartheid.”
Early Thursday morning, the Knesset passed the law, which has been dubbed “the nation-state Law,” with 62 lawmakers voting in favor, 55 opposed and two abstaining, after hours of heated debate in the Knesset chamber.
“The ‘Jewish Nation-State’ [law] officially legalizes apartheid and legally defines Israel as an apartheid system,” Erekat tweeted from the PLO Negotiation Affairs Department account. “[It is] a dangerous and racist law par excellence. It denies the Arab citizens their right to self-determination to instead be determined by the Jewish population.”
Similar to a constitution, the Basic Laws underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.
The nation-state law 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. One clause of the law downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Hamas terror group, also blasted the law, contending that it officially legalizes “Israeli racism” and constitutes “a dangerous attack on the Palestinian [people] and its historic right to its land.”
Barhoum also asserted that the Knesset would not have passed the law, as well as others that he identified as “extremist,” without what he called “regional and international silence on the occupation’s crimes.”
“These extremist laws and resolutions would not have been approved if it were not for the regional and international silence on the occupation’s crimes and violations,” he said, without specifying which laws. “All these laws and resolutions are baseless and they will not come to pass or change anything on the ground. The Palestinian people will remain the sovereign of this land.”
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.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the law, asserting it violates international law.
“The ‘Jewish nation-state’ law gives license to apartheid, discrimination, ethnic cleansing, and sectarianism at the expense of the Palestinian people. Such racist and prejudicial legislation is illegal by all standards of international law, democracy, humanity, justice, tolerance, and inclusion,” she said.