Israeli writers urge Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel Nationality Law

Israeli writers urge Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel Nationality Law

Nearly 200 poets, playwrights and screenwriters ask Prime Minister to scrap controversial legislation and amend Surrogacy Law

Demonstrators for LGBT rights march in Tel Aviv
Demonstrators for LGBT rights march in Tel Aviv

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau and members of the Knesset have been urged to scrap the controversial Nationality Law

Also asked to amend the Surrogacy Law, which was described as being “part of a long list of actions by the various Israeli governments that have unjustly penalised the most excluded and disadvantaged sectors in both Jewish and Israeli society”, 180  novelists, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, among others, wrote a letter to Netanyahu on Saturday night.

It read: “We – writers, screenwriters, playwrights, academic scholars and members of Israel’s arts and letters community – would like to express to you our utmost shock and dismay, in light of the recent laws passed by the Israeli Knesset under your leadership.”

The letter was translated into English and Arabic, and was set up Israeli gay writer Ilan Sheinfeld. It continued: “According to a law recently passed by the Knesset and entitled ‘Israel: The Nation State of the Jewish People,’ Israel is now defined as a nation-state for Jews only. This is a Basic Law, with quasi-constitutional status, that explicitly allows racial and religious discrimination, rescinds the status of Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, does not mention democracy as the basis of the regime, and does not mention equality as a core value.

“As such, this Basic Law is undemocratic and runs counter to the definition of the State of Israel as a democratic state; moreover, it contradicts the Declaration of Independence, based on which Israel was founded. These are two things no Knesset has a right to do.”

In reference to the Surrogacy law, it added: “The Knesset also amended the Surrogacy Law, when it extended the list of people who are eligible to receive the services of a surrogate child-bearer, to include single women who have a medical condition preventing them from having a child, but excluded single men and gay couples.”

Saying how both laws exclude Christian and Muslim Arabs, Druze and Circassians, as well as violating the LGBTQ community’s right for parenthood, it also accused the government of “severely harming Israeli society”.

“During your years in office, you and those governments have persistently eroded the foundations of our Jewish-democratic country,” the letter continued. “You have damaged the relations between Israel and United States Jewry; you have sentenced huge populations to continued poverty and hardship; and you have knowingly and purposely damaged Israel’s education system, public diplomacy, culture and economy, defense and welfare.

“By doing so, you have done severe harm to Israeli society. But the most severe damage has affected the values of equality and mutual responsibility, on which Israel’s society is based and from which it draws its strength.”

Demanding an immediate repeal of the laws, it concluded: “We demand your immediate response to the call for equality on behalf of the members of the LGBTQ community. It is unthinkable for the State of Israel to stand between a person and that person’s natural desire to become a parent and to establish a family.

“Please stop your government and coalition members from scourging minorities that create the colorful mosaic that is Israeli society and help to guarantee its existence. Do it now!”

Sheinfeld added: “The public statement that I formulated knowingly and deliberately links the opposition to the Nationality Law with the opposition to the Surrogacy Law.

“As I see it, Israel’s LGBTQ community, in its efforts that transcend borders and sectors of the population, and that continue to receive unprecedented support from all strata of Israel’s public, has kindled a struggle that is far greater than the Surrogacy Law itself. It is the struggle for equal rights and mutual responsibility in Israel. Sharing in that struggle are all of the weak and excluded sectors of Israeli society, including the members of the LGBTQ community and everyone who has been harmed by the Nationality Law.”

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