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Israel's parliament rejects loyalty oath bill

Arab Israelis allowed to commemorate Naqba

An Israeli parliamentary committee scrapped Sunday a controversial bill that would have required Israelis to take a loyalty oath to the Jewish state in order to get citizenship and softened a law on commemorating the Naqba.

The bill, proposed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ultra-nationalist party was voted down eight to three. It needed the parliamentary committee's approval in order to go before the full Knesset, where it would require three votes to become law.

The proposed pledge required Arab Israelis, most of whom are Muslim or Christian, and Jewish Israelis to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state.

"I pledge loyalty to the state of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values, to serve the state as much as I am required in military service or alternative service, as decided by law," read the proposed oath.

The bill targeted Arab Israelis, who have lately sided with their counterparts in Gaza and the West Bank against Israeli aggression, and many took part in the suppressed Nakba events that coincided with Israel's "Independence Day."

The rejected bill came on the heels of another controversial proposal put forward by Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu that would make it a crime to publically deny Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

Arab Israelis warn of civil disobedience

Haneen Zoabi, MK and National Democratic Party member, said the committee's refusal came in response to the Israeli Arab Higher Monitoring Committee's official rejection on Saturday of the loyalty oath bill and warning of civil disobedience if the state proceeded to pass "racist laws."

"This bill did not see the light because the ministerial committee saw a united Arab front that mobilized to reject and warn against institutionalizing racist policies," Haneen Zoabi told Al Arabiya.

The Israeli Arab Higher Monitoring Committee is a coalition of the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Arab countries and international organizations. The official rejection was submitted to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday.

Zoabi added that scrapping the bill was a purely political decision that weighed the danger of igniting Arab civil dissent at a massive level, as the official document from the committee warned.

This bill did not see the light because the ministerial committee saw a united Arab front that mobilized to reject and warn against institutionalizing racist policies

Haneen Zoabi, MK NDP

Naqba bill softened

The Israeli cabinet also softened on Sunday a much-criticized bill on the Naqba, what many Palestinians lament as the "catastrophe" of the 1948 creation of Israel.

The revised draft law now prohibits any government funds from being used for events marking the Naqba, instead of banning commemorations altogether, a government official said.

"The original bill marked a serious infringement on the freedom of expression, which we deemed excessive," the official said.

The changes followed a legal review of the bill approved by the cabinet last week, which would have prohibited any events marking Naqba and provided for penalties of up to three years in prison.

I pledge loyalty to the state of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values, to serve the state as much as I am required in military service or alternative service, as decided by law

Israel Loyalty Oath