Palestinian citizens of Israel elected to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, are affected by a series of discriminatory regulations and discriminatory legislation that undermine their ability to represent and protect the rights of the Palestinian minority population in Israel. This is what Amnesty International states in a new report published today (Wednesday) and is an alert for the upcoming elections, on September 17.
The report “Elected but restricted: Reducing the Space of Palestinian Knesset Members in the Knesset of Israel” details how the freedom of expression of Palestinian Knesset members is threatened by changes in legislation, bills and various regulations of the Knesset itself – all of which are intended to discriminate against them. HH highlights the inciting rhetoric used by government ministers to tarnish Palestinian Knesset members and reveals how bills filed unfairly by Palestinian Knesset members for discriminatory reasons were rejected.
“The State of Israel is careful to brag about the hallmarks of its democracy, including the representation of representatives of diverse population groups in the Knesset, including Palestinians who are citizens of Israel. But that is a mask,” said Molly Malkar, CEO of Amnesty International Israel. For example, as in this report, they not only discover that the mask is crumbling, but that the image beneath it is gloomy and disturbing, racist, discriminatory, depraved and inciting. “This H should concern every person for whom the democratic foundations in Israel are important.”
“Palestinian MKs in Israel are facing increasingly severe discrimination. Although democratically elected like their Jewish counterparts, Palestinian MKs are a target of deep-rooted discrimination and undue restrictions designed to prevent them from expressing themselves in a way that protects the rights of the Palestinian people,” said Saleh Hijazi. , Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. “While Israel systematically violates the human rights of Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it is essential that the voices of Palestinians in the Israeli parliament be heard, seriously considered and respected,” he added. The growing restrictions facing Palestinian Knesset members are part of a pattern of blatant discrimination by Israeli authorities against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Palestinians are about 20% of the population of the State of Israel and although the state recognises their rights to participation and political representation and they are recognised in international law, in practice they are discriminated against in all areas of life: citizenship, housing, education and health services.
The “Nationality Law” (in its official name – Basic Law: Israel – the nation state of the Jewish people), which came into force in 2018, defines Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people only, and constitutionally perpetuates inequality and discrimination against non-Jewish citizens in the state. The law exclusively grants the right to self-determination to Jews, establishes the situation where immigration automatically leads to citizenship exclusively for Jews, promotes the construction of Jewish settlement (which can be interpreted as promoting illegal settlements) and lowers the status of Arabic from official language before the days of this law. In recent years, the Israeli authorities have intensified their partisan and polarising statements against minority groups and marginalised and weakened groups, thus, among other things, reducing the space for Palestinian rights activists. Israeli authorities have threatened and defamed both Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations and activists. International human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, were also attacked.
Blatant discrimination in the Knesset:
Amnesty International has identified a series of amendments to various laws, regulations and practices of the Knesset itself, which promote discrimination against Palestinian Knesset members. For example, an amendment to legislation from 2016, dubbed the “Dismissal Law” or worse, the “Hanin Zoabi Law,” allows Knesset members to oust other elected MKs by a majority. This means that Knesset members who express non-violent political positions or opinions that are considered unacceptable in the first place among most Knesset members may face dismissal from the Knesset, even though they are not violent. One of the Palestinian MKs described the amendment to the legislation as “a sword raised over our heads by MKs who oppose us politically,” and pointed out that the amendment was intended to serve as a threat, and to deter Palestinian MKs to the point of silencing them.
In addition, the report emphasises the blatant discrimination of Israeli politicians against their Palestinian counterparts in Israel, and the divisive and inciting rhetoric used by those Israeli politicians against their Palestinian counterparts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly stated that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. “Only the nation state of the Jewish people”, he claimed that the Palestinian parties were trying to eliminate the State of Israel. Senior Israeli government officials and Knesset members regularly use inciting language that encourages prejudice and hatred to describe their Palestinian colleagues, in a clear attempt to get them and their work done. Legitimisation: Palestinian Knesset members who dared to criticise Israeli policy were labeled “traitors” and faced inciting calls calling for “outlawing them” and “judging them for treason.”
The Knesset regulations, whose original purpose was to enforce ethical customs, were abused in order to restrict the freedom of expression and action of Palestinian Knesset members. Among other things, two Palestinian Knesset members were prevented from leaving the state borders through funding from organisations that appear on the “black list” of the Israeli government, following a 2018 amendment to the Knesset’s Code of Ethics that prohibits travel abroad when funding comes from bodies calling for a boycott of Israel. Although Amnesty International does not support or call for specific boycotts, it sees the right to call for a boycott, or to participate in it, as one of the many forms of legitimate freedom of expression that the authorities have a duty to respect and protect.
The report further notes that since 2011, at least four bills dealing with the rights of Palestinians, including their right to participate in public life in Israel, have been rejected even before they were debated in the Knesset. “The Knesset and the Palestinian citizens of the state, starting with the ‘Nationality Law’,” said Saleh Hijazi. “The Israeli authorities must remove the discriminatory restrictions on the activities of Palestinian Knesset members and ensure that their freedom of expression is protected. In addition, all elements in Israel must immediately cease the use of rhetoric of incitement that expels and expels elected officials and prevents them from working for human rights and equality, and arouses hostility toward the Palestinians in general. “