Letter to Government Heads Re: Legislative bills aimed against the Arab citizens in Israel

May 29, 2009 Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu Mr. Shimon Peres Mr. Reuven Rivlin Re: Legislative bills aimed against the Arab citizens in Israel

May 29, 2009

Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu        Mr. Shimon Peres             Mr. Reuven Rivlin

Prime Minister of Israel              President of the State         Speaker of the Knesset

By fax: 03-6109898                    By fax: 02-5611033            By fax: 02-6496193

Dear Sirs:

Re: Legislative bills aimed against the Arab citizens in Israel

 I am contacting you in regard to the legislative bills recently presented by members of the coalition that are directly aimed against the Arab minority in Israel, as follows:

 1.      The legislative bills in question include: A) Independence Day Bill (Amendment – Prohibiting the Marking of Independence Day or the Establishment of the State of Israel as a Day of Mourning), 2009. This proposal seeks to prohibit the Arab citizens in Israel from commemorating Nakba Day; B) Penal Code Bill (Amendment – Prohibiting Incitement that Rejects the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State), 2009. This proposal seeks to restrict the right of Arab citizens to continue to struggle for civic equality and full national equality, and against all forms of discrimination; C) Population Registry Bill (Amendment – Declaration of Loyalty to the State, Flag and Anthem), 2009. This proposal requires that Arab citizens of Israel declare loyalty to the values of Zionism.


2.      These legislative bills are racist and oppressive proposals because they seek, via criminal prohibitions, to deny basic rights of the Arab citizens only due to their national identity. They require the Arab minority to deny its history and its Palestinian Arab identity, on the one hand, and to identify with the values of Zionism, which deny the national identity of the Arab minority, on the other hand.


3.      The Arab citizens in Israel are an indigenous minority, which has lived in its homeland from time immemorial. Its historical roots in this country are deep and long. There is no domestic law that can undermine Arab citizens' attachment to their homeland, their national identity and their history. These rights are based and anchored in international law. International law stipulates that a national minority is entitled to full equality in all areas, including the right to preserve and develop its national identity. The state is also obligated to honor these rights and act via legislation to promote and defend them. These rights and obligations are enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966 (to which the State of Israel is a party); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 (to which the State of Israel is a party); the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities of 1992; and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007.

4.      These rights were also anchored in UN Resolution 181 in regard to the partition plan of 1947.

5.      Therefore, these legislative bills contradict the commitments of the State of Israel under international law and are in violation of them.

6.      Moreover, these proposals are also contrary to the rulings of the Supreme Court, which has determined on more than one occasion that Arab citizens of Israel are entitled to act in democratic ways to promote their collective rights and to change the constitutional structure of the state.

See also: Election Confirmation 11280/02, Central Election Committee for the 16th Knesset v. Tibi et al., Piskei Din 57 4(1), page 24.

7.      In addition, the official commission of inquiry led by former Justice Theodor Or stated:

“The Arab minority in Israel is an indigenous population that sees itself as subject to the hegemony of a majority which is primarily not [indigenous] … The establishment of the State of Israel, which the Jewish people celebrated as the realization of the dream of generations, is associated in their historical memory with the most difficult collective trauma in their history – the Nakba … The content and symbols of the state, which are also anchored in law and celebrate the victories in this conflict, mark in the eyes of the Arab minority their defeat, and it is doubtful whether they have a way to really identify with them. Time can perhaps help to heal the pain, but as the national consciousness grows stronger – so does their awareness of this problem, which accompanies the very establishment of the state.”

See: Report of the Official Commission of Inquiry, Headed by Justice Or, 
Vol. A, pp. 26-27

8.      Since these legislative bills are contrary to international law and Israeli law, and to remove any doubt, I declare on behalf of the Arab public in Israel:

A.    The Arab citizens in Israel will continue to struggle, using all democratic means, for a democratic constitutional structure based on the principles of equality and a complete prohibition of discrimination.

B.     The Arab citizens will continue to mark Nakba Day, without fear or intimidation, as they have always done.

C.     The Arab citizens will oppose all of the illegitimate demands raised under the banner of “loyalty” and they will not declare loyalty to the values of Zionism.

Based on all of the above, I ask you to act immediately to reject the aforementioned legislative proposals and to take immediate action to stop the wave of racist incitement against the Arab citizens in Israel.




Muhammad Zidan

Chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel



Prof. Ya’akov Neeman, Minister of Justice

Mr. Menachem Mazuz, Attorney General