Israel is facing criticism over a bill that requires prospective non-Jewish citizens to swear allegiance to the Jewish state.
The government says the Loyalty Oath is a necessary step for peace, but Arabs are refusing to pledge themselves to a country they say is snatching their Holy Land.
One photograph is all that remains of Samir Moussa Riwadi’s family home.
The house survived for generations, but it could not survive an Israeli demolition two years ago.
“I started to have problems with the settlers ten years ago,” Riwadi recalled. “They wanted to take all my land. They took one house and then they wanted to take another.”
Since then he has starting rebuilding. “Thank God the Supreme Court has discovered they had fake document,” Riwadi added. “They changed the name of my grandfather on the papers.”
But the discovery did not help him hang on to most of his grandfather’s land. A family of Israeli settlers now lives on property Samir insists is his. And his story is only one of many.
In the two hours RT’s crew spent in Silwan there were four arrests – and the usual round of tear gas, rubber bullets and blame.
“The Palestinians shouldn’t complain about anything. They should say ‘Thank you, Israel. Thank you, that we are still here,’” said Jawad Siyam from Wadi Helwe Information Center.
And they will be saying a lot more than that if the country’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, gets his way. He wants all one million Arab Israeli citizens to pledge loyalty to the Jewish state.
“The Arab World, if they want us to give concessions for peace, if they want us to give some sacrifices for peace, they should start looking at us a legitimate state,” said Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Besa Center for Strategic Studies.However, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s extreme-right Foreign Minister who first called for the legislation, has his supporters – those who believe there is reason to be cautious of Israeli Arabs.
“It’s not only justifiable,” Kedar added, “It’s essential.”
Samuel Sandler, from the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, says pledging allegiance to any state is an “accepted practice” around the world.
“In the US, every child, every morning takes the pledge of allegiance,” Sandler said. “So, I don’t see anything wrong with new immigrants, whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish coming to the state and pledging allegiance. This is a Jewish state. It is the only Jewish state in the world.”
However, Mordechai Kremnitzer from Hebrew University, called the proposed bill a “provocation.”
“It is a shame that the Israeli government is supporting Avigdor Lieberman in this initiative, [whose] only purpose is to promote hostility between Arabs and Jews within the state of Israel.”