Israel's Nation-state Law Shouldn't Harm non-Jews' Rights, Lawmakers Told After Court Ruling

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A protest against the nation-state law in Tel Aviv, August 2018.
A protest against the nation-state law in Tel Aviv, August 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

A Justice Ministry attorney told a Knesset panel on Monday that the nation-state law should not impinge on the individual civil rights of non-Jews.

Eyal Zandberg represented the ministry before the Knesset Committee on the Rights of Children on Monday, which debated a court’s recent use of the nation-state law to strike down a petition by Arab children living in Carmiel. Haaretz had reported days before that a magistrate court registrar cited the law in striking down the children’s petition, which demanded reimbursement for traveling to Arab schools outside Carmiel, which has no such school.

Zandberg, who heads the unit for public law at the counseling and legislation department at the ministry, said, “The state argues that the nation-state law does not detract from the individual rights of the country’s citizens, and should therefore not impinge on these children’s rights. Since there is a pending petition, this is no place to deal with individual arguments.” This position was presented by the state to the High Court of Justice, which is hearing the petition.

Zandberg said the state was not a side in this process, since the decision was made by a court registrar. “I heard of an intention to appeal or start another procedure. If one is initiated, we’ll study the case and see what to do, but it’s not before us now. I don’t represent the judge or the registrar.” He was responding to questions by MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Yousef Jabareen and Osama Saadi (Joint List).

During the hearing, attorney Nizar Bakri, the attorney representing the children, who lives in Carmiel, said, “The problem began before the law was passed. It has been implemented in practice for a long time. Thousands of Arab residents in Carmiel are excluded by the municipality. The city funds bussing for Jewish children needing to travel very short distances, but won’t fund Arab schoolchildren needing to travel several miles.”

Committee chairman Yousef Jabareen said after the meeting that he has no doubts regarding the implications of this law. “We have to fight every attempt to translate it into policy and offensive practices. This law should be struck down, it contradicts democratic values such as equality. It’s a racist law that has no place in the law books.”

He added that Arab schoolchildren are doubly affected. “They don’t have an Arabic-language school in the city, and we call for establishing one, and they don’t get reimbursed. The city ignores their right to a refund. We call on the municipality and Ministry of Justice to find a solution.”

The Carmiel municipality refused to send a representative to the meeting, saying it was not a side to this dispute and would not be dragged in by political forces. “The city abides by Ministry of Education guidelines, and the court accepted our position. The judge’s remarks on the nation-state law are unrelated.”

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