Opinion |

The Nation-state Law Paves the Way for a New Nakba

While the law has drawn much attention to the systematization of ethnic inequality, we cannot ignore another important aspect: the Israeli government’s plan to annex the territories designated as Area C

Neveen Abu Rahmoun
Neveen Abu Rahmoun
Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset Ahmed Tibi holds a sign during a demonstration against the nation-state law in the northern Israeli village of Jatt, October 1, 2018.
Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset Ahmed Tibi holds a sign during a demonstration against the nation-state law in the northern Israeli village of Jatt, October 1, 2018. Credit: Ahmad Gharabali/AFP
Neveen Abu Rahmoun
Neveen Abu Rahmoun

The present discussion regarding the nation-state law reflects only a partial understanding of its implications, and ignores the most important aspect. There is a natural tendency to focus on the dangers created by the law regarding Israeli citizenship, and its future effects on the rights Israel’s Palestinian citizens – since the law’s intent is to systemetize ethnic inequality, to constrain further the legal struggle against racist injustice, and to solidify the constitutional basis for the policy of Judaization as well as planning and budgetary discrimination against Arab society.

All that is of course sufficiently important and serious, but we must also focus on another important aspect of the law in order to read the map in full: the Israeli government’s plan to annex the territories designated as Area C – which is under full Israeli civil and security control - and to force a so-called solution on West Bank Palestinians in the guise of a confederation with Jordan.

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The nation-state law prepares the constitutional ground for accelerated progress in this direction that the government is planning, with the settlers’ leadership as the most significant force in the parties leading it. Added to that are the particularly convenient international and regional circumstances.

The right now feels that conditions for annexing Area C are almost ripe. This reasoning is also the main response to those wondering why the government needed the nation-state law, since Israel even without the law has de facto implemented all its clauses entailing discrimination against Arab citizens.

To the frequently asked question “What’s actually new about the law” there is therefore one answer: It grants constitutional legitimacy to promoting the annexation plan. Israel aspires to annex large parts of the West Bank by continuing to expand and strengthen the settlements, in order to create a fait accompli that means the elimination of any foreseeable possibility of Palestinian sovereignty.

An interview with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked entitled: “Israel’s justice minister explains why Trump is good for her West Bank plan,” was published last February in The Washington Post. Shaked said in the interview that the Trump administration was far less critical of Israeli policy than all its predecessors, and that this should be exploited in order to advance the plan to annex Area C. She said the time had definitely come to impose Israeli sovereignty on the territories. “I believe that in three years from now, the international community will understand this is the right solution,” she said.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which Shaked heads, approved the advancement of a draft bill that would expand the judicial authority of Israeli courts to Area C. If the proposal passes, it would weaken the Palestinians’ ability to defend themselves in the High Court of Justice and strengthen Israeli control on the ground. The goal of the architects of annexation is not control over just limited areas adjacent to the Green Line, but over 61 percent of West Bank territories.

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Since occupying the territories, Israel has been adopting systematic practices of military oppression against an occupied civilian population, massive settlement, land appropriation, destruction of villages and homes and destruction of fields and orchards.

The cumulative result is creeping ethnic cleansing. Area C is strategically important, fertile, rich in natural resources and water, and it has land reserves suitable for construction. Of course, without these areas there is also no possibility of a Palestinian state.

Therefore, the nation-state law should be understood in the context of the Israeli-American plan to eliminate the Palestinian problem: no Jerusalem, no right of return and no sovereign state. According to the American-Israeli proposals, Areas A and B, which don’t include Jerusalem and most of the West Bank – would be part of the confederation with Jordan, with security responsibility for the area effectively under Jordanian auspices.

The idea of a confederation between Gaza and Egypt also comes up in the proposals. The fight against the annexation plan must therefore become a principal goal of the opposition to the nation-state law, and of all Palestinian and international bodies engaged in the struggle.

Terms such as Area C may sound somewhat distant, not very tangible and lacking any emotional value. They don’t have the existential significance of words like Jerusalem – but these terms represent villages and people who are fighting for their survival and their future, as in Khan al-Ahmar, Kfar Kadum and the Jordan valley. The order of the day is to fight against the message of the new Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) that looms over them.

The writer is an MK from the Joint List, representing Balad.

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