J Street’s tagline is “the political home of pro-Palestinian, pro-peace Americans.” It is not surprising that a group with such orientation would voice its strong displeasure with the Palestinian Basic Law, saying “This is a sad day for Palestine and all who care about its democracy and its future.”
J Street noted some troubling clauses in the Permanent Constitution Draft. Consider Article 2:
“Palestine is part of the Arab homeland. The state of Palestine abides by the Charter of the League of Arab States. The Palestinian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations. Arab unity is a goal. The Palestinian people work on behalf of its realization.”
J Street was horrified to only see “Arab” written throughout the text. Where was the space for non-Arabs? Why was Palestine ascribed to be part only of the Islamic nations? How were non-Muslims going to feel about such language?
The language would get even worse as the text continued to become more specific. Consider Article 4:
“Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and seat of its public authorities.”
How could the Palestinians state that Jerusalem is its capital when the Israelis claim the city for its eternal capital? Such a declaration spits in the face of Israel and diminishes a chance for peace and reconciliation.
Article 5 added to the problems:
“Arabic is the official language and Islam is the official religion in Palestine. Christianity and all other monotheistic religions are accorded sanctity and respect. The constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious creed.”
J Street was apoplectic about this clause. Why wasn’t Hebrew included as an official language? Why was Islam declared as the only official religion? The Basic Law mentioned that Christianity would be accorded “sanctity and respect,” but the law would not even mention the word “Judaism.” What kind of respect was the Palestinian Law truly giving when it could not even bring itself to mention Jews and Judaism?
J Street’s press release was biting:
“The Israeli minority that lives in the West Bank already face terrible job persecution and have a difficult time buying land due to Palestinian law that forbids any Arab from selling land to a Jew (subject to penalty of death). The laws laid out in the Constitution further reiterate that Israeli Palestinians are second class in their own homeland.
“This is an alarming trend of Palestine pulling back from its commitments to become a liberal democracy and moving in an increasingly theocratic, authoritarian and xenophobic direction.”
J Street commented that it was concerned about Mahmoud Abbas’s recent comments that he will continue paying the families of murderers monthly stipends. “Several left-wing NGOs receive some of that money,” J Street noted. “But not enough.”
J Street’s President Jeremy al-Ami, said that “We need more outspoken opposition to the far-right policies of xenophobia shown by Abbas and his cronies. We need more voices questioning the horrible laws and declarations in the Palestinian Constitution to make a better life for Israelis and Palestinians and Israeli Palestinians and Palestinian Israelis.”
Arab MK Ayman Odeh at J Street Conference was given a warm welcome.
Odeh would later refuse to meet with Jewish leaders because the meeting
was on the same floor as the Jewish Agency.
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