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Arab-Israeli Lawmakers Seek EU Support to Block Israel’s ‘Racist’ Policies

Parliamentarians from the Joint List lobby EU officials in Brussels

A delegation of Israeli parliamentarians from The Joint List (an alliance of Arab political parties) visited the European Union headquarters in Brussels “to address Israeli violations against the Arab minority in Israel.” The mission included lawmakers Yousef Jabareen, Aida Touma-Sliman, Masud Ganaim and Jamal Zahalka.

Speaking to The Media Line, Touma-Sliman related that a series of steps were agreed to with some EU countries and that meetings took place with the EU Human Rights representative and other officials. She contended that the visit was meant “to highlight the dangers of racist legislation in the Knesset [the Israeli parliament],” especially “the Jewish nation-state bill [which would further legally enshrine Judaism as the country’s official religion], the escalation of racist policies and the demolition of Arab homes in the Negev in southern Israel.”

According to Touma-Sliman, “Israel is preparing for an apartheid state.” She noted that under the provisions of Article II of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, the Israeli government is obligated to respect the human rights of all its citizens including the Arab minority, which makes up 20 percent of the population.

“We reported the Israeli violations against Arabs to EU parliaments,” she continued, “and urged them to demand that the terms of the EU-Israel agreement be implemented or abandoned.”

MK Jabareen told The Media Line that the EU meetings were very fruitful and that “we have presented the dangerous escalation in Israeli policies and the racist legislation in the Knesset.” He further conveyed that EU officials showed support for their demands, which includes a willingness to “take the practical step of discussing our issues with the Israelis in order to realize the rights of Arabs as a national minority.”

According to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens live in 35 “unrecognized” villages, most of which predate the establishment of Israel in 1948. The organization maintains that Israel considers the villages and the inhabitants “trespassers on state land” and thus denies them access to state benefits.

Orit Borreda, a spokesperson for lawmaker Sharren Haskel—a member of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party—asserted to The Media Line that Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East and therefore “no country treats its minorities [as well].

“We have Arabs as supreme court judges,” she continued, before noting that it would never be possible for a Jew to occupy a similar position in Iran, for example. Borreda added that while members of the Joint List should be allowed to speak their mind, “they are unlikely to accomplish anything.

“We also have delegations that travel [to the EU] and they tell the true story,” she concluded.

The Joint List, which is the third largest body in the Knesset, recently sparked a political storm when its chairman, Ayman Odeh, called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to congratulate them on the unity deal signed between the former rivals. Odeh told both leaders that Arabs in Israel support Palestinian reconciliation and expressed hope that the move would lead to an end of the Israeli military occupation.

In response, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed Odeh, describing him as “a senior representative of terrorist organizations in the Israeli Knesset.”