Israel's first Muslim Arab government member - Minister of Science, Culture and Sports Raleb Majadle - refuses to sing Israel's national anthem, HaTikvah.

Majadle, a long-time member of the Labor Party, defended his decision, saying he does not believe that “enlightened and sane Jews” would request a Muslim to sing a song which speaks to the Jewish people. “The Arabs are not in a mood to sing right now,” the Arab minister commented.

The new minister said in an interview with the newspaper Yediot Acharonot, “To the best of my knowledge, the law does not require me to sing the anthem, but to honor it.” He said he expresses his respect by standing up when the anthem is sung.

“Of course I would not sing the anthem in its current form," Majadle said. "But before we talk about symbols, I want to talk about equal education for my children. It’s more important that my son would be able to buy a house, live with dignity.”

Majadle’s announcement led to protests from National-Religious camp and staunch support from Israeli-Arab Knesset Members.

MK Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP) explained that he does not desire to force Majadle to sing the anthem, but believes that someone who does not identify with the character of the state as expressed by the national anthem should not be serving as a minister.

MK Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) expressed concern that Majadle’s refusal might be a violation of his declaration of loyalty to the state, and requested that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ask Majadle if he is loyal to Israel as a Jewish state.

Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) responded, “The attacks on him from the right-wing are hypocritical, self-righteous and ridiculous.” MK Tibi added that he, too, never sings the anthem.

“HaTikvah’s words cannot be sung by any Arab citizen,” he pointed out. “Lately we have witnessed a torrent of anti-Arab statements and this should be understood in this context,” he said.