As a Palestinian citizen of Israel, I am subject to insidious discrimination that is enshrined by law – and no major party sees it as an issue
As a Palestinian citizen of Israel, it is a strange experience to watch your humanity become a subject of national debate between a prime minister and a model. Responding to criticism by the well-known Israeli actor Rotem Sela this week, Benjamin Netanyahu took it upon himself to declare, via Instagram: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed [in July 2018], Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and not anyone else.” His assertion quickly dominated international headlines. Israeli Hollywood actror Gal Gadot (who played Wonder Woman in the 2017 blockbuster), President Reuven Rivlin, and other public figures joined the fray to defend Sela, who had posted the question: “When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal?”
Sela’s remarks are commendable. But Netanyahu is right: Israel is not a country built for all its people, a fifth of whom (more than 1.5 million) are Palestinian Arab citizens of the state. This was the case long before the “Jewish nation-state law” was enacted last year, and long before Netanyahu returned as prime minister a decade ago. Since the state’s establishment in 1948, more than 65 laws have been used to restrict the rights of Palestinian citizens in all fields of life, with more being passed every year. While many of these laws may not appear discriminatory at face value, their racist impact is evident to the people they target.