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"We—writers, screenwriters, playwrights, academic scholars and members of Israel's arts and letters community—would like to express to you our utmost shock and dismay, in light of the recent laws passed by the Israeli Knesset under your leadership," they wrote in a letter to the prime minister.
Among the signatories on the public statement, which was translated into English and Arabic as well, are: authors Amos Oz, David Grossman, A. B. Yehoshua, Savyon Liebrecht, Eshkol Nevo, Orly Castel-Bloom, Judith Katzir, Etgar Keret, Alon Hilu, Smadar Shir, Zeruya Shalev, Noa Yedlin, Yael Dayan and Prof. Ariel Hirschfeld; poets Agi Mishol, Ronny Someck, Eliaz Cohen, Shimon Buzaglo and Navit Barel; screenwriters Edna Mazia, Hillel Mittelpunkt and Shemi Zarhin; actress Hana Azoulay-Hasfari; and translator Halit Yeshurun, among others.
The public statement was initiated by Israeli gay writer Ilan Sheinfeld, a father of twins who were born through surrogacy in India and currently a resident of Tuval in the Galilee.
"According to a law recently passed by the Knesset and entitled 'Israel: The Nation State of the Jewish People,' Israel is now defined as a nation-state for Jews only. This is a Basic Law, with quasi-constitutional status, that explicitly allows racial and religious discrimination, rescinds the status of Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, does not mention democracy as the basis of the regime, and does not mention equality as a core value.
"As such, this Basic Law is undemocratic and runs counter to the definition of the State of Israel as a democratic state; moreover, it contradicts the Declaration of Independence, based on which Israel was founded. These are two things no Knesset has a right to do," the writers told the prime minister in their letter.
The writers also lamented the Surrogacy law, noting "The Knesset also amended the Surrogacy Law, when it extended the list of people who are eligible to receive the services of a surrogate child-bearer, to include single women who have a medical condition preventing them from having a child, but excluded single men and gay couples."
The protested the fact that "Those two laws exclude Christian and Muslim Arabs (including Bedouin), Druze and Circassians, and violate the LGBTQ community’s right for parenthood. They are part of a long list of actions by the various governments of the State of Israel that you have headed, from 1996 to 1999 and from 2009 to this day, and have unjustly penalized the most excluded and disadvantaged sectors in both Jewish and Israeli society, including Reform and Conservative Judaism, the Arab (including Bedouin), Druze and Circassian minorities, the sick and elderly, Holocaust survivors and differently-abled people, single women, Ethiopian Jews and many more."
"During your years in office, you and those governments have persistently eroded the foundations of our Jewish-democratic country," they accused. "You have damaged the relations between Israel and United States Jewry; you have sentenced huge populations to continued poverty and hardship; and you have knowingly and purposely damaged Israel's education system, public diplomacy, culture and economy, defense and welfare.
"By doing so, you have done severe harm to Israeli society. But the most severe damage has affected the values of equality and mutual responsibility, on which Israel's society is based and from which it draws its strength."
The writers demanded to "immediately repeal the Nationality Law, which has created a rift between Israeli society and United States Jewry; discriminates against Arabs (including Bedouin), Druze and Circassians; and damages the coexistence of Israel's Jewish majority with its minorities.
"Moreover, we demand your immediate response to the call for equality on behalf of the members of the LGBTQ community. It is unthinkable for the State of Israel to stand between a person and that person's natural desire to become a parent and to establish a family."
They concluded their letter by saying that "Felonies and misdemeanors properly defined as such by law fall under the jurisdiction of a court. On the other hand, sins that are infamously written into the law itself by the elected lawmakers—sins that undermine the core of the Jewish people’s existence and its homeland—must be judged by intellectuals and by the court of history.
"Please stop your government and coalition members from scourging minorities that create the colorful mosaic that is Israeli society and help to guarantee its existence. Do it now!"
"The public statement that I formulated knowingly and deliberately links the opposition to the Nationality Law with the opposition to the Surrogacy Law," said Ilan Sheinfeld.
"As I see it, Israel’s LGBTQ community, in its efforts that transcend borders and sectors of the population, and that continue to receive unprecedented support from all strata of Israel’s public, has kindled a struggle that is far greater than the Surrogacy Law itself. It is the struggle for equal rights and mutual responsibility in Israel. Sharing in that struggle are all of the weak and excluded sectors of Israeli society, including the members of the LGBTQ community and everyone who has been harmed by the Nationality Law."
Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua, one of the signatories, told Ynet that the Nationality Law is "unnecessary and harmful."
"What was this commotion good for?" he wondered. "Why start making the whole world angry? Now all of a sudden they (the government) found out they're neglecting the Druze. There are also Bedouin and Christian Arabs in the army. This (law) is some sort of senseless whim."