Israeli Cabinet Minister: Arab Lawmakers Should Be Charged With Treason for Turning to the UN

Yariv Levin of Likud leads a chorus of outcries by Jewish MKs and ministers against Arab politicians' bid for international intervention against a controversial nation-state law Israel recently passed

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Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.Credit: אוהד צויגנברג
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Members of Israel's governing coalition and of the opposition criticized Arab lawmakers on Monday for seeking United Nations intervention against Israel's nation-state law, as reported by Haaretz last week. Leading the charge was cabinet minister Yariv Levin, who called to charge the MKs with treason.

Lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman, of the mostly Arab Joint List party, asked the UN undersecretary for political affairs, Rosemary Dicarlo, on Thursday to advance the possibility of obtaining international sanctions against the law passed weeks ago. Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv in protest agaisnt the law, which is perceived by many as discriminatory against Arabs and other non-Jewish minorities.

The UN's special rapporteur on minority issues recently said he would examine the possibility of launching an investigation against the law, in answer to an appeal by Joint List lawmaker Yousef Jabareen.

The Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, also known as the nation-state law, approved by the Knesset on July 19, affirmed that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. It also downgraded Arabic to a language with “special status,” among several other controversial measures that affect the Israeli Druze.

Minister Yariv Levin said on Monday that Israeli Arab lawmakers who turned to the United Nations over the recently passed Jewish nation-state law should be tried for treason.

"Another move from the Joint List," Levin, the minister for tourism, told Army Radio. "In any normal country there's one definition for that – treason. I hope the judicial system tries them."

MK Yoav Kish (Likud) asked the Knesset House Committee to amend ethics rules to enable any lawmaker cooperating with an international group against Israel.

"Arab Knesset members take advantage of their status as Israeli parliament members to deal blows to Israel at home and abroad," Kish charged.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz wrote on Facebook: "How can members of the Arab Joint List be Knesset members and act against the state at the UN and everywhere else? To have their cake and eat it, too? To enjoy the fruits of democracy and protest against it with PLO flags in Tel Aviv? If they had an iota of fairness they would move to represent Gaza, or one of our other neighboring 'democracies.'"

Housing Minister Yoav Galant tweeted that "elected officials taking measures against the State of Israel crosses a red line. There is no room in the Knesset for those who act against Israel's interests. The time has come for the judicial system to permit outlawing these dangerous extremists and removing them from the Knesset."

Opposition lawmaker also criticized the Joint List. Avi Gabbay, chairman of the Zionist Union, accused the Joint List of smearing Israel's name and threatened "we will continue to fight against this phenomenon."

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said: "We will stand up against the attempt by Arab lawmakers to act against Israel and get it condemned at the UN and we will fight within Israel to preserve it as a Jewish, democratic state. We will continue to vociferously oppose anyone who tries to hurt Israel's existence as a state of the Jewish people and a democracy."

On the left, MK Musi Raz of Meretz criticized Gabbay's and Livni's statements: "The Zionist Union has forgotten what it means to be on the left."

Raz accused the party of "dizzily falling in line with right-wing spin. You'd be better off focusing on being leftists and proposing a real alternative to left-wing voters instead of trying to be further to the right than Bennett."

The Joint List chairman, MK Ayman Oudeh responded in a tweet: "Nothing is secret. The law of Jewish supremacy institutionalizes segregation, discrimination and racism. We said this in the Knesset and we shall say the same to the world. This is propaganda at is best. The nation-state law deals a mortal blow to the equality of citizens of a democracy. We shall fight against this on all fronts."

Jabareen, who, in addition to the UN has also appealed to the International Parliamentary Union and the OECD to warn of the difficult blow the law has dealt to the Arab minority, said that "Netanyahu's government is not above international law."

"The rights of national minorities have long since turned from being a domestic issue to a universal one. Both the UN and Europe have clear instructions in international charters dedicated to defending minority rights," he said.

Touma-Sliman said of her appeal to the UN against the nation-state law that, the legislation "makes Israel an official apartheid state even within the Green Line, so it is not an internal Israeli matter, but rather a law that requires strong and urgent intervention by the international community and the UN.

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