Dr. Yousef Jabareen is an elected Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (or Parliament). He visited Canada in 2016 to better understand Canada’s approach to minority issues. He has proposed a new “basic law” for Israel, in part inspired by Canada’s policy of multiculturalism. Many Jewish Israeli MK’s are outraged by the idea of making all Israel’s citizens equal before the law. Read more.
After spending a week on a fact-finding tour in Canada in 2016, Yousef Jabareen wrote an op ed in the Toronto Star entitled “What Israel can learn from Canada“. In it, he explained that he had examined carefully Canada’s multicultural approach to treatment of its minorities – including Quebec and its indigenous minorities. “Many Canadians may not think Canada is perfect, but viewed from the perspective of a Palestinian citizen of Israel, your record in recognizing and overcoming discrimination and inequality looks pretty good. It should definitely be exported, he said.”
On returning to his duties in Israel, Dr. Jabareen decided to try to do just that. On behalf of the Arab Joint List (a small group of mostly Arab members of Knesset) he recently introduced a bill entitled “Basic Law: Israel – A democratic, multicultural and egalitarian state”.
It was the Joint List’s response to a “Jewish nation-state bill” currently is under consideration by the Knesset. The Jewish nation-state bill, which is strongly backed by the government, would have constitutional weight declaring Israel to be the “nation-state of the Jewish people”. It would, among other things, enshrine Hebrew as the only official language, permit the creation and protection of “Jewish only communities’, and direct the Supreme Court to refer to “Jewish tradition’ in rendering some decisions.
Opposition to the “Jewish nation state bill” has been limited to a few journalists and a handful of Israeli parliamentarians. “Israel’s ‘nation-state’ law must be stopped – “the only way to preserve a democratic Israel is to enshrine equality among all its citizens in law,” ran an editorial in Haaretz when the bill was introduced last May. But it seems likely to breeze through the Knesset sometime this year.
A counter proposal based on Canadian style equality and multiculturalism
“In the “equality” bill we have proposed, instead of ethnic superiority for Jews, we propose enlightened ideas of equal citizenship and significant multiculturalism for all citizens.”
– Yousef Jabareen, Palestinian member of Israeli parliament
The Jabareen bill calls for Israel to be “a democratic and egalitarian state based on values of human dignity, liberty and equality.” The bill also says Israel should be seen as the state of all its citizens, Jewish and Arab, and that its resources and institutions will be used equally for all citizens.
“When I was in Canada‘,” notes Jabareen, “I saw that English and French are both official languages, and both can be used equally in all branches of government”.
“Our demographic situation in Israel has some parallels with Canada”, he continued, “Twenty per cent of Israel’s population is Arab speaking. Hebrew and Arabic should both be both official languages that can be used equally in all three branches of government in Israel.
In addition, his draft bill states that Arabs will have “appropriate representation” in all government institutions.”
Widespread outrage at the idea of legal equality for all citizens of Israel
Jabareen’s bill, which aims for Canadian style “equality”, has caused outrage among many of Israel’s Jewish MK’s. Likud MK Nurit Koren called the bill “science fiction.” Other MK’s have nicknamed it the “Palestinian nation state bill”, apparently confusing equality with domination.
Knesset Interior Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) called on Jabareen to resign from the Knesset, accusing him of acting like a part of the Palestinian Authority. “This is incomparably disrespectful. (…) he should quit and run in Gaza,” Kisch stated.
Jabareen responded to the criticism, saying that Likud MKs have started an “incitement campaign” against him and the other members of the “Joint list”.
“To many Jewish Israelis, the prospect of equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel is very threatening”,
– Yousef Jabareen, Palestinian member of Israel Knesset
“To many Israeli Jews, the prospect of equality is very threatening”, noted Jabareen. “But equality is supported by the whole world. No democracy without equality. It must eventually come to Israel, too.”
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