Israeli Palestinian MP resigns, calls Knesset 'racist'

Israeli Palestinian MP resigns, calls Knesset 'racist'
2 min read
28 July, 2018
MP Zouheir Bahloul had biting words for Israel's new nation-state law, calling parliament 'destructive' and 'extremist'.
Israeli Arab lawmaker Zouheir Bahloul during an election campaign press conference [Getty]

An Israeli Palestinian lawmaker resigned from parliament on Saturday in protest over a controversial new law that declares Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.

Zouheir Bahloul, of the opposition and centre-left Zionist Union Party, said he could not face telling his grandson that he remained part of the same chamber which passed the law.

"The nation state law officially, constitutionally, removes the Arab population from the path of equality in Israel," he said in Hebrew.

"Should I sit on the fence? Should I give legitimacy to this destructive, racist, extremist parliament?"

The new legislation calls Israel the historic homeland of the Jewish people and says they have a "unique" right to self-determination there. It also revokes Arabic's longstanding status as an official language. 

Bahloul said that his resignation would officially take effect when parliament returns from its summer recess in September, but he pledged not to reconsider in the meantime.

"I faithfully promise that I shall not go back," he said.

After the law was approved earlier this month Palestinian members of parliament branded the legislation "racist" and ripped up copies of the bill in the Knesset chamber.

Palestinian citizens of Israel make up some 17.5 percent of Israel's more than eight million population.

The law makes no mention of equality and Israel's democratic character, implying the country's Jewish identity takes precedence.

Leaders of Israel's 130,000-strong Druze Arab community - which unlike Muslims and Christians is subject to the military draft - has filed a challenge to the law with the country's Supreme Court.

On Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held talks with Israeli Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif and a retired Druze general.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu made no commitment and said that he would continue to hold consultations," the premier's office said in a statement.

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat on Thursday said "this law was introduced to constitute the basis of cancelling the concept of a two-state solution and to officially replace it with one state, two systems - apartheid".

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