The National (Editorial)
April 1, 2011 - 12:00am

In recent weeks, Israel's Knesset has passed a series of laws that make it clear there is only one kind of Israeli. Human Rights Watch has gone so far as to term the legislation, driven mainly by the hardline foreign minister Avidgor Leiberman, "race laws".

An Israeli, according to the so-called Nakba law, wholeheartedly and unreservedly celebrates the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. Any groups or institutions that mourn the event, which was accompanied by the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arab residents from their homes - the Nakba, or Catastrophe - or that deny the state's "Jewish and democratic nature" can now be denied state funds.

The first draft of the bill sought jail terms of up to three years for anyone who publicly recognised the Nakba or refused to pledge a loyalty oath to Israel. It was, unsurprisingly, met with an international outcry.

While slightly watered-down, the law as passed still institutionalises a one-sided narrative about an event that remains an open wound in the lives of Palestinians scattered around the region and the world. In Israel, it is now effectively illegal to deny the state's Jewish nature.

"This is a kind of law to control our memory, to control our collective memory," Haneen Zoabi, the first woman elected from an Arab party in Israel, said of the Nakba law.

Another of the laws, the Citizenship Law, allows the state to revoke citizenship and jail anyone convicted of acting against "the sovereignty of the state".

Supporters say the law is necessary to fight terror, but jurists fear that such a broad definition could be used to target even peaceful Arab activists. Another law entrenches the rights of rural, Jewish-majority communities to ban Israeli Arabs from moving to their areas and living among them.

Israel should realise that there will be consequences to cementing the idea that citizens who disagree with state policy are enemies.

These moves will certainly be raised when the UN debates whether or not to recognise the state of Palestine in September. People will undoubtedly argue that Arabs simply aren't welcome in Israel any more - and never will be.

In the longer-term Israel, which has always had greater moral obligations than other states because of the circumstances of its founding, is reinforcing its pariah status. Already, 66 per cent of Britons, a key ally, now view Israel negatively, a trend echoed elsewhere, a BBC poll this month showed.

The greatest danger, however, is to Israel itself. We've seen such behaviour before. These are the actions of a state sliding into fascism.


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