By Francesca Merlo
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M – Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem, Palestine, released a statement on Monday regarding the recently enacted Basic Law: “Israel as the Nation state of Jewish People”, a new and controversial law which defines Israel as a Jewish state.
He opened his statement by declaring that this new law is a “cause of great concern (…) the law fails to provide any constitutional guarantees for the rights of the indigenous and other minorities living in the country”. He stated that Palestinian citizens are completely excluded from this act.
The Law gives Jews a right to national self-determination and has downgraded Arabic from an official language to a “language with a special status”, making Hebrew the official language.
Archbishop Pizzaballa stated that though the implementation of this new law may not have practical effects, it is symbolical: “It sends an unequivocal sign to the Palestinian citizens of Israel, to the effect that in this country they are not at home”.
The provisions of this new law reiterate the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law. They define the Palestinian capital of a future state as the “complete and united… capital of Israel”.
Disregarding Human Rights and equality
Archbishop Pizzaballa stated that this discriminatory law goes against the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 - which guaranteed the establishment of a Jewish State whilst still ensuring full civil rights to the Arabs living there.
It also contends Israel’s own Declaration of Independence, committed to foster the development of the country in order to benefit all its inhabitants and to ensure equality of political and social rights, regardless of religion, race and sex.
Above all, it contravenes and contradicts the Basic Law: “Human Dignity and Liberty” enacted in 1995, a law which guarantees the respect and dignity of every person. “Where there is discrimination, there is no dignity” he stated.
Minorities excluded, identities unprotected
Of the country’s population of over nine-million, 20% are Israeli Arabs. They often identify as or with Palestinians. This minority has seen the passing of this new Law as discriminatory.
“This Basic Law is exclusive rather than inclusive, disputed rather than consensual, politicized rather than being rooted in the basic norms that are common and acceptable to all fractions of the population”, Pizzaballa said.
The Law establishes that there are not equal rights for Arabs and Jews, refusing to acknowledge their existence. Pizzaballa believes that any state in which there is such a vast majority should hold a duty to guarantee the preservation of the minorities’ collective identity, this includes their religious, ethnic and social traditions.
Christian community, gathering voices to object
He ended his statement mentioning the Christian citizens of Israel, another minority, concerned as all other non-Jewish minorities in the area. Archibishop Pizzaballa states that the Christian community calls upon all citizens of Israel who “still believe in the basic concept of equality among citizens of the same nation, to voice their objection to this law and the dangers emanating thereof to the future of this Country.”