Jonathan Cook

The National

NAZARETH // Leaders of the Arab minority in Israel warned this week that they were facing an unprecedented campaign of persecution, backed by the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, designed to stop their political activities.

The warning came after Said Nafaa, a Druze member of the Israeli parliament was stripped of his immunity last week, clearing the way for him to be tried for a visit to Syria three years ago.

In recent weeks legal sanctions have been invoked against two other Arab political leaders, following clashes with the Israeli security forces at demonstrations against the occupation, and pressure is growing for two more MPs to be investigated.

Arab politicians are particularly concerned about a bill introduced last month requiring all parliamentary candidates to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. If passed, the seats of the 10 Arab MPs belonging to non-Zionist parties in the 120-member parliament, or Knesset, would be under threat.

Jamal Zahalka, one of those MPs, said: “Every week either the Knesset or the government try to impose new restrictions on our activities and freedom of speech. There is a growing trend towards anti-democratic legislation.”

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