In 2002, the Palestinian Legislative Council passed the Palestinian Basic Law, which states: "Islam is the official religion in Palestine. The principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation. Arabic shall be the official language." This is the logic of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians: Israel defining itself as a Jewish state is an act of "racism" and "apartheid," while, as a matter of course, the future Palestinian state will be an Islamic state governed by Sharia law, and that is not presumably an act of "racism" or "apartheid." (Photo by Zharan Hammad/Getty Images)
For the past few weeks, the Palestinians and their leaders have been raising strident voices against Israel's new Nation-State Law, which specifies the nature of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The Palestinians have condemned the law as "racist" and claimed that it paves the way for Israel becoming an "apartheid state."
This week, Palestinians declared a general strike in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to protest the law, which, they say, "eliminates the two-state solution."
It is far from clear, however, why the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be concerned about the new law. The Palestinians living in these areas are not Israeli citizens and are not part of the Israeli political system. The Palestinians living in these areas have their own (Palestinian) citizenship, their own flag, their own parliament and their own government. They are not affected by the law in any way. This fact renders their opposition to the law little less than ridiculous.
Because they have their own parliament and state institutions, the Palestinians are free to pass any laws they wish without seeking permission from Israel or any other party.
Most people are unaware that the Palestinians do have their own laws, including the "Palestinian Basic Law," which was passed by the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2002.
Why is it important to remind the world of this Palestinian law now?
Since the Palestinians are voicing their strong opposition to the Israeli Nation-State Law (which has nothing to do with them), there is a need to bring to international attention one of the major articles of the Palestinian Basic law. Only then will the world understand how the Palestinians and their leaders are duping everyone and engaging in hypocrisy and double standards.
The Palestinians say they cannot accept Israel as a Jewish state and will never recognize it as the homeland of the Jewish people. This, the Palestinians argue, is one of the main reasons why they are opposed to the new Israeli law.
In recent years, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly expressed his vehement refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, he has never missed an opportunity to make his position clear on this subject. "We will not recognize or accept the Jewishness of Israel," Abbas has repeatedly stated over the past few years.
Abbas and the Palestinians will, of course, never accept Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Doing so, they reckon, would mean that Palestinian refugees and their descendants will never return to their former homes inside of Israel. The Palestinians continue to argue that the "right of return" is sacred and, under any deal with Israel, millions of Palestinians should be permitted to converge on Israel -- a move that would mean turning the Jews into a minority in their own country.
The Palestinians, however, who are hell-bent against Israel declaring itself a Jewish state, are the very ones who are affirming that Islam will the official religion in a future Palestinian state. Here is what Article 4 of the Palestinian Basic Law states: "Islam is the official religion in Palestine. The principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation. Arabic shall be the official language."
So, this is the logic of Abbas and the Palestinians: Israel defining itself as a Jewish state is an act of "racism" and "apartheid," while, as a matter of course, the future Palestinian state will be an Islamic state governed by Sharia law, and that is not presumably an act of "racism" or "apartheid."
In a further ironic twist, the Palestinians say that they oppose the new Israeli law because it "abolishes" Arabic as an official language in Israel (a false claim), while they themselves are poised to make Arabic the sole official language of their future state.
In fact, the Israeli Nation-State Law does recognize Arabic as a primary language. Here is what the law says in this regard:
"The Arabic language has a special status in the state; the regulation of the Arabic language in state institutions or when facing them will be regulated by law. This clause does not change the status given to the Arabic language."
While Israel continues to respect the Arabic language and has even granted it special status, the Palestinians -- in their Palestinian Basic Law -- make no reference to any language other than Arabic. The Palestinian law does not even mention English, Hebrew or French as secondary languages. It states that the only official language in the Palestinian state will be Arabic, and Arabic alone.
This is where the double standards can be found with regards to the Palestinians' and the others' position on the Israeli Nation-State Law. Before condemning Israel for seeking to preserve its character as a Jewish state, the world needs to explain why it is all right for the Palestinians to plan that their future state will be ruled by Islamic law.
Why are the Palestinians permitted to plan for Islam to be their official religion, while Israel is denounced for seeking to maintain its Jewish character and identity? Moreover, why is Israel castigated because of a law that guarantees special status to Arabic in the Jewish state, while not a voice is raised in wonderment as to why the Palestinians refuse any language other than Arabic in their future state?
We are witnessing yet another remarkable mirror image brought to us by the Palestinians: once again, they seek to deny Israel precisely what they believe should come to them on a silver platter. But this is the old Palestinian story in a new bottle.
This time, the Palestinians wish to keep the tenets of the Palestinian Basic Law under wraps. Perhaps they are somewhat concerned about world opinion on the matter. Given the history of world opinion on related Palestinian duplicity, however, perhaps the Palestinians have less to worry about that they believe.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.