Israel’s Distinguishing Between Christian and Muslim Arabs Is Racism

Such a distinction is designed to spark conflicts between minorities in a divide-and-conquer style.

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Likud MK Yariv Levin’s new bill threatens to erode even further the concept of citizenship in Israel. According to the bill, Christian Arabs will have their own representatives on the advisory council mandated by the Equal Employment Opportunities Law.

Ostensibly the purpose is to ensure better representation for communities whose members have a hard time finding their place in the labor market. But Levin doesn’t conceal his true goal: “To grant separate representation and separate treatment to the Christian community, which will be distinguished from the Muslim Arabs.”

“I take pains not to call them Arabs,” Levin added in an interview with the daily Maariv, referring to Christians. According to Levin, Arabs are “Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.” The widespread support for the bill in the Knesset shows that crazy ideas like these aren’t the province of an extremist, borderline-loony MK. They’re part of the national consensus.

Christianity, like Islam and Judaism, is a religion. To be Arab refers to an ethnicity and a nationality. The new covenant between Levin and Christian Arabs will not change their Arab identity. The unfortunate distinction between “good Arabs” – Christians – and “bad Arabs” – Muslims – not only reflects ignorance and racism, it does a great injustice to members of both religions who as minorities are not treated properly by the state.

The Knesset’s test of “love of the Jewish state” empties of meaning the concept of citizenship, which does not differentiate between religion, color or gender. This test paints the Muslim minority as a single entity, in shades of hatred and suspicion. Such a distinction is designed to spark conflicts between minorities in a divide-and-conquer style that breaches international agreements that Israel has signed. It pushes Israel into the ranks of the darkest states.

Levin’s racist legislation is made possible in a Knesset in which the opposition is mute. One wonders how these silent MKs would respond if some country branded the Jews there as “people who want to destroy the state from within,” or if it distinguished between “good Jews” and “bad Jews.”

The Knesset, led by the opposition, must immediately halt legislation that crushes the country’s democratic foundations. Such legislation does not reflect love of one’s country. It’s ugly racism by nationalist zealots.

Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews with their favorite flags, May 2010.Credit: Reuters