TEL AVIV (Dispatches) -- A Knesset member who resigned in protest over the Israeli "nation-state” law says the legislation "normalizes and enshrines in law” the superiority of Zionists over their Arab peers, and warned of a limit to what the Arab community in Occupied Palestine will tolerate.
Zouheir Bahloul, 67, a popular sports commentator turned politician who represented the Zionist Union, quit the Knesset on 28 July following the passage of the law last month, which declared the occupying regime to be the "nation-state of the Jewish people”.
In an interview with Middle East Eye, Bahloul said that after three years in parliament, he was moved to quit over a law he says institutionalizes the "inferior status” long experienced by Arab citizens of Occupied Palestine.
"My resignation is an outcry that we will not accept laws that chase the Arab presence from this country,” he said.
"Our legal status after this law is inferior because the law normalizes and enshrines Arab inferiority and Jewish superiority through a basic law that has the authority of a constitution to which the High Court can hardly object.”
The law also describes Zionist settlement building as being in the Israeli interest and declares Hebrew as the national language, with Arabic granted only a special status.
It makes no mention of equality nor democracy, implying that the Jewish character takes precedent over Palestinians, Druze and Circassians in Occupied Palestine.
Critically, the law is part of the Zionist regime’s so-called Basic Laws, which act as a de facto Israeli constitution and would require the regime’s high court to be overturned.
Bahloul, who was born in Occupied Palestine into a Muslim Arab family, described the law as "unprecedented” and said it has crossed many red lines for Arab citizens.
He is particularly critical about the absence of the word equality from the law, which he sees as one more attempt in a long history of legislation aimed at expelling Arabs from their occupied country.
"In the past, chasing the Arab minority in Israel was in the form of policies, heated statements and shortages in financial budgets for Arab towns, but it was not a basic law that has a constitutional power,” Bahloul said.
He added: "There is ethnic cleansing in this law that allows building Jewish-only towns without any Arabs. This is more than what the Arabs could absorb. All of that comes over human rights”.
Despite holding Israeli citizenship, Palestinians in occupied territories lived under a military administration between 1948 and 1966 and faced curfews, severe restrictions on free speech and political rights, and persecution in front of military courts. Rather than being referred to as Palestinian citizens, they are often called "Arabs” or "Arab Israelis”.
There are around 1.6 million Palestinian citizens today, making up 20 percent of Occupied Palestine’s population. Many have been left unsurprised by the new law, which they see as simply making official what they have felt for decades: that they are second-class citizens compared to Zionists.
Still, warned Bahloul, there is only so much that can be tolerated. "The ability of the Arab minority to be silent, patient and endure these laws is limited... I am not trying to scare anyone here, but if this violent campaign against Arabs in the form of laws continues, I think there will be a possibility for the creation of new facts,” he said.
Bahloul’s resignation was one of the most high-profile reactions against the law, along with three Druze soldiers who made headlines when they announced on social media that they would stop serving in the Zionist army in protest.
Over the past few weeks, Bahloul has been outspoken about the need for Arab and Druze citizens of Occupied Palestine to work together against the law.
The Druze, a religious sect within Islam that has had a presence in the Levant since the 11th century, number about 110,000 in northern Occupied Palestine, with another 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Druze community has strongly criticized the legislation as they have been subject to compulsory service in the military or police since 1956. Druze in the Golan Heights do not serve in the army and many have refused Israeli identity cards since the beginning of the occupation during the 1967 war.