A group of parliamentarians, artists and intellectuals convened at the Knesset on Tuesday as part of their effort to "protect democracy" in the aftermath of the government's approval of the amendment
to the Citizenship Act, under which non-Jewish prospective will be required to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic" state."
The Knesset members joined the Coalition Against Racism and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, as well as artists and intellectuals, in the fight against the legislation, which culminated Saturday night when some 6,000 people took part in a protest rally in Tel Aviv.
During Tuesday's debate, MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) said, "The country is thriving, but the flood of anti-democratic and anti-Israeli laws in Israel must end. We came here to say, 'Stop (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman's
"I am first and foremost a proud Jew, Israeli and Zionist. I am not going to ask that Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash chairman) or Afou Agbaria (Hadash MK) be Zionists. I want to preserve our democracy, because a democracy that does not defend itself is at risk, and we've seen what happened to the Jews when they did not defend themselves," said Molla, who chairs the Knesset's Lobby for the Struggle Against Racism.
MK Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly), who took part in the Gaza-bound flotilla
in late May, also pointed an accusatory finger at Lieberman, saying the foreign minister is currently "setting the tone."
"Lieberman is no longer on the margins of political culture. The entire government is following his lead, and the fact that society's infrastructure is willing to accept this is dangerous," she said.
Musician Yali Sobol, one of the event's organizers, said, "As someone who writes and expresses himself I am particularly fearful of laws that limit freedom of speech. The moment people begin to say what they are required to rather than what they believe – that is where totalitarianism begins."
Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer linked the debate to the 15th anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. "I wish to remind everyone that Rabin was murdered because he was branded a traitor. They (cabinet members) don't understand that the Arabs are the lifeline of Israeli democracy.
"Without Arab representatives in Israeli politics, Israeli democracy is no longer a democracy," he said.
Last weekend 28 lawmakers signed the invitation to take part in the discussion on "the threats against Israeli democracy and racist legislative initiatives that undermine the very foundation of democracy and violate human rights."
One of the debate's organizers told Ynet, "I fear for Israeli democracy due to the extremism and racist laws we are witnessing."