Druze Lawmakers File First Court Challenge to Israel's Nation-state Law

The lawmakers argue that the Nation-State Law violates basic rights such as the right to equality, and deems that non-Jewish minorities have no status in the state

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In this Sunday, May 13, 2018, file photo, Israelis wave national flags outside the Old City's Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem.
In this Sunday, May 13, 2018, file photo, Israelis wave national flags outside the Old City's Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem.Credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File

Three Druze MKs on Sunday joined a number of Druze groups in filing the first High Court of Justice petition against the Nation-State Law, which was passed by the Knesset last week.

Akram Hasoon (Kulanu), Saleh Saad (Zionist Union) and Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu) led the petitioners. Hasoon and Amar both voted against the law, even though they are members of the ruling coalition.

>> Jewish Nation-state Law Makes Discrimination in Israel Constitutional | Analysis

The petitioners seek annulment of the law, officially known as the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, or parts of it, and to prevent its publication in the state’s Official Gazette, whereby it officially becomes law. They argue that it violates basic rights such as the right to equality, and deems that non-Jewish minorities have no status in the state.

The petitioners further maintained that the law harms Druze members of the security forces, including Druze soldiers, as well as “the Druze bereaved families who have been in fact exiled from their country despite their sacrifice for it.”

According to the petition, the law “completely ignores the Druze minority in particular and the Arab minority in general.” The petition also states that not only does it define Israel as a state with an emphasis on its Jewishness, it also “enshrines the collective rights of the Jewish majority. The Arab minority, which constitutes 20 percent of Israel’s citizens, receives no recognition at all of its collective rights, but beyond this, it does not even win recognition as a minority in Israel,” while individual rights are not protected.

Hasoon said: “We will do everything possible to stop this racist law. Not only for my community, but mainly for the image of Israel and the people of Israel. The law first and foremost hurts my brothers the Jews, but unfortunately cheap political considerations have won out over the good of the State of Israel. In the days of Ben-Gurion and Begin, this law would not have been proposed,” he said.

Lawmakers from the Joint List and the Arab legal rights NGO Adalah are also considering petitioning the High Court against the law, claiming discrimination against Arabs and breach of international law. They point particularly to Clause 7 of the law, which encourages the establishment of communities for Jews only, which they say contravenes previous High Court rulings. In the case in 2000 of Ka’adan versus the Israel Lands Administration, a panel of five High Court justices ruled that the state could not allocate land to entities that would establish communities for Jews only.

Legal experts told Haaretz they believed the likelihood of the court striking down the law was “very low” because it had the constitutional status of a Basic Law. According to these experts, the petition does not address the Nation-State Law’s being a Basic Law. In such a case, the argument that it goes against other Basic Laws is not enough to strike it down.

The possibility of judicial review of Basic Laws was recently discussed in a petition, which the High Court rejected, against a 2016 law allowing the Knesset to oust an MK for incitement to racism or for calling for an armed struggle against Israel. At the time, the High Court left unanswered the question of whether it had the authority to strike down an amendment to a Basic Law due to unconstitutionality.

The first time the High Court intervened in a Basic Law was over an amendment to the Basic Law on the State Economy, an amendment that made it possible to pass a two-year budget, which contradicts another Basic Law that states the Knesset will approve the state budget once a year. This year an expanded High Court bench ruled that in the future, the Knesset could not pass a two-year budget in the form of an emergency measure.

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