Israel minister Isaac Herzog: ‘There is a whiff of fascism on the margins of Israeli society’

JERUSALEM — A left-leaning Israeli minister on Sunday warned of a “whiff of fascism” as the country’s right wing-led government appeared set to approve a bill requiring a loyalty oath from new citizens.

The cabinet was to vote on the bill to make all new citizens swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state,” legislation that has been slammed as inflammatory and racist by the country’s Arab minority.

“There is a whiff of fascism on the margins of Israeli society,” Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog of the left-leaning Labour party told army radio.

“The overall picture is very disturbing and threatens the democratic character of the state of Israel,” he said.

“There have been a tsunami of measures that limit rights… I see it in the halls of the Knesset (parliament), in the commissions and departments responsible for legislation. We will pay a heavy price for this.”

The loyalty oath bill has been strongly criticised within Israel’s Arab community, which makes up around 20 percent of the population, as targeting Palestinians looking to gain citizenship after marrying Israeli citizens.

Others have said the bill, which is supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would have little real effect and is probably a trade-off for the right wing if it supports an extension to a moratorium on Jewish settlements.

The ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman campaigned in last year’s election for a tougher version of the pledge which would apply to Arabs born in Israel and include a promise to serve in the military or perform other national service.

Yisrael Beitenu is the second largest member of the governing coalition after Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Many cabinet members oppose extending the settlements freeze, even though such a move could salvage US-backed direct peace talks with the Palestinians that resumed early last month.

A 10-month moratorium on new settlement building in the occupied West Bank expired on September 26 and Israel has so far refused to renew it, prompting Palestinian threats to abandon the peace talks.

Oct. 10 2010

Source: AFP

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