Saturday

18th Jan 2020

EU diplomats: 'Jewish state' is becoming too Jewish

  • Darawshe: 'My family has lived in the same small town for 28 generations and I am never going to leave it for the sake of giving the Jews a 'pure' homeland' (Photo: Johnk85)

EU countries have raised a red flag on Israel's treatment of its Arab minority in a complaint that touches the heart of its identity as a "Jewish state."

The deputy heads of EU embassies in Tel Aviv put forward their concerns in a 27-page-long internal report sent to the European Exernal Action Service (EEAS) earlier this month.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The contents were first revealed by Israeli daily Haaretz on Friday (16 December) morning. EUobserver has also seen the "Conclusions" and the "Recommendations" parts of the paper.

The Conclusions were endorsed by all 27 member states. The Recommendations were cut from the final draft because some EU countries objected to the content.

"We should see Israel's treatment of its minorities as a core issue, not second tier to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We should support the vision for Israel of its founders: Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, in which all its citizens have equal opportunities and are treated equally under law," the Conclusions say.

"In our dialogue with the government of Israel ... we should emphasise that addressing inequality within Israel is integral to Israel's long-term stability," they add.

"We should make the following points clear ... that we do not believe that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state should detract in any way from the vision of equality for all its citizens enshrined in its founding documents; that it is in the interests of all Israelis to demonstrate that Israel is not only Jewish and democratic, but tolerant and inclusive."

The controversial Recommendations made 16 points.

One idea was to nominate a "lead EU country" to monitor "potentially discriminatory draft legislation" and to "agree that approval at the second reading of such legislation [in the Knesset] should trigger an EU demarche."

They also suggested "high-level EU visitors see the Israeli Arab community and its leadership when they visit." They added that EU countries should "lobby" the Israeli government to employ at least 10 percent Israeli Arabs in its civil service and to promote Arabic teaching in schools.

'Shared values'

EU foreign relations spokeswoman Maja Kocjanic confirmed the text is authentic.

"It was prepared for us in order to reflect how we might engage constructively with government and non-government interlocutors in Israel when dealing with an issue identified in the EU-Israeli Action Plan [a 2005 bilateral treaty] as a shared value - the rights of minorities," she said.

Arab Israelis make up 1.5 million of the country's 7.8 million population but have a higher birth rate than Jews. Another 4.4 million Arabs live in Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Mohammad Darawshe, an Arab Israeli activist for the Jersualem-and-New-York-based NGO the Abraham Fund, told EUobserver Israeli laws give "some level of de jure protection" to Arab citizens. But he said "de facto" discrimination is widening the economic gap between Arabs and Jews.

He added that right-wing Jewish groups are steering the country "downhill" in terms of civil liberties: "Israel's charter says it is 'Jewish' and 'democratic' but some Jews are trying to change the defintion to make Jewishness the dominant factor."

Darawshe described a new law passed in March - the Selection Committee Bill, which bans Arabs from buying or renting land in some 500 municipalities - as "ethnic cleansing."

"My family has lived in the same small town [Iksal] for 28 generations and I am never going to leave it for the sake of giving the Jews a 'pure' homeland," he said.

'Irresponsible language'

For his part, Mark Regev, the spokesman of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said any talk of "ethnic cleansing" is "rubbish, rubbish ... no one is being thrown out of their homes, so to use this kind of language is irresponsible."

"Israeli Arabs enjoy full rights within a multi-party democracy with full separation of powers. Where else in the Middle East do Arabs have full freedom of speech, freedom of association?" he added.

Asked by EUobserver about the rights of Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank, Regev said "that is a whole different issue."

EU leaks on Jerusalem not enough, campaigner says

A leading activist against the expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem has castigated the EU practice of leaking reports and issuing statement after statement instead of taking action against Israel.

Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem draws EU rebuke

Israel has announced the construction of some 700 apartments in East Jerusalem just a month after the Jewish state proclaimed a freeze in the building of new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, provoking moderate criticism from the European Union.

EU countries confront Israel on latest land-grab

The four EU countries on the United Nations Security Council have used unusually strong words to criticise Israel's latest expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

Opinion

Israel needs outside 'interference'

It is imperative the EU shows support for Israeli human rights groups under fire from a draft law reminiscent of Apartheid, writes Alon Liel, Israel's former ambassador to South Africa.

News in Brief

  1. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  2. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  3. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  4. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  5. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal
  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Opinion

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us