Arab lawmaker: Move into Jewish cities

Former aid to Yasser Arafat urges Israeli Arabs to move into predominantly Jewish towns across Israel. 'This used to be our country'.

Hezki Baruch,

MK Ahmed Tibi
MK Ahmed Tibi
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

A senior Israeli-Arab lawmaker and former aid to Yasser Arafat called on Arabs with Israeli citizenship to move into predominantly Jewish cities across Israel in protest of the “Nationality Law”, and to affirm what he claimed were Arab rights to the country he said had been denied since the British Mandate.

Speaking at a Knesset hearing on the “Nationality Law – a bill which would establish in law Israel’s status as the Jewish homeland, with Hebrew as the official national language – MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List), a former adviser to Palestinian Authority chief Yasser Arafat, blasted one of the law’s provisions, calling it a “hate crime”.

“The Nationality Law is a hate crime against the Israeli Arab community,” said Tibi, referring to a clause which would uphold the right of small towns to use entrance committees to bar some potential renters or buyers in order to maintain a specific character.

Earlier this week, President Reuven Rivlin protested the clause in a letter to the Knesset, saying that the committees could be used to exclude haredi or Mizrachi Jews, Arabs, Druze, or other groups.

While the use of such committees is currently heavily restricted, some communities maintain de facto restrictions.

“We didn’t immigrate here,” said Tibi on Thursday. “Not only were we born here, our roots are here. The Arab population in Israel needs to be treated like an indigenous minority.”

“Before 1948,” said Tibi, referring to the year of Israel’s establishment, “we had more than 90% of the land, but today we have just 3%, since the Australians [serving under the British in World War I] took our land from us,” Tibi claimed, referencing Great Britain’s conquest of the Levant from the Ottoman Empire and subsequent establishment of the British Mandate for Palestine. Nearly all of the land, in the area allotted to the Mandate had in fact been state land, owned by the Ottoman Empire prior to 1917, administered by the British until 1948, and becoming property of the State of Israel in 1948.

MK Tibi urged young Arab couples to move into predominantly Jewish towns across the country.

“I call on young Arab couples who cannot build [new homes]…to seek refuge in Upper Nazareth,” referencing the predominantly Jewish town outside of the largely Arab city of Nazareth, “and to Harish and Karmiel, or to live in mixed cities.”

While supporters of the controversial clause noted that de facto restrictions barred Jews from living in most Arab communities in Israel, Tibi said the comparison was “ridiculous”.

“Jews don’t move to Kfar Kana or Taibeh because those [towns] are below their standard of living.”

But Arabs seeking higher living standards do look to predominantly Jewish towns for housing options, continued Tibi. “It is natural for the separate community [Arab Israelis] to move to mixed towns in order to live in better conditions.”