The Knesset passed a controversial law this week that now legally differentiates between Israeli Muslim’s and Israeli Christian Arabs. The bill, which was sponsored by Likud MK Yariv Levin, passed with 31 in favor of and 6 opposed to the bill.
The new law affects approximately 160,000 Christians living in Israel. About 80 percent of the Christian population in Israel are from Arab descent, with a large percentage from former Soviet states. Christian Arabs have fought for years to be differentiated from Muslims.
Christian in Israel will now, among other things, be able to select leaders to represent the religious minority on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity, specifically in the Employment Commission.
Upon approval of the law, Levin congratulated Israeli lawmakers and said, “This is a historic law. It’s the first time there is a separate representation for Christians. Soon we’ll expand on this and give [Christians] all the separate representation they deserve.”
Critics have slammed Levin for attempting to create friction among the Arab population, undermining Arab identity, and discriminating against Muslims.
MK Issawi Frej of the left-wing Meretz party said, “We are essentially in a situation where attempts are being made to define the country by religion, and here the government is trying to determine differences between Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs.”
MK Jamal Zahalke of the Balad Party pointedly told Levin: “You are a racist!”
Levin has consistently maintained that the purpose of the law was to ease Christian integration into the overall society of Israel. Levin told Maariv a few months ago that the new law is a “historic and important step that could balance the State of Israel and connect us to the Christians.”
He also stated that Christian Arabs are the “natural allies” of the State of Israel and are different from Muslims in that Christians “[do not] want to destroy the state from within.”