On Wednesday, Israeli Arab lawmaker Wael Younis submitted his letter of resignation to the speaker of Israel’s parliament, Yuli Edelstein.
But Edelstein refused to sign it. The letter was written in Arabic, and Edelstein said Younis could resign in Hebrew only.
“The Arab [lawmakers] tried to pull a stunt by giving me a letter in a language I don’t know,” Edelstein said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “I respect the Arabic language, but I cannot sign a letter that I cannot read.”
The dispute comes after Israel’s parliament passed a “nation-state law” in July declaring the country a national homeland for Jews. The law controversially elevated the status of Hebrew over Arabic in the country. While Hebrew remains the language of the state, Arabic has been downgraded to a “special status.”
Younis, who resigned as part of a rotation agreement within his party, said the speaker’s decision to refuse the letter was “the practical translation” of Arabic’s new, diminished standing, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“It cannot be that the Knesset speaker refuses to sign my resignation letter just because it is written in Arabic,” he said.
The disagreement also comes as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who came out against the nation-state law, reportedly said he would sign an Arabic version of the legislation to protest its treatment of the language. Thabet Abu Rass of the Abraham Fund, which promotes coexistence between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens, told the Times of Israel on Monday that Rivlin made such a pledge, though Rivlin’s office would not comment on the matter to the paper.
Israel’s Arab leaders filed a petition to the country’s high court on Tuesday against the law, calling it “racist, colonialist and illegitimate.” A host of human-rights groups have also criticized the new legislation.
“In addition to exacerbating discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel in planning, housing and infrastructure, the law sends a signal to government institutions and members of the public that Israel’s Arab minority is to be tolerated but not treated equally,” said Sari Bashi, an Israeli researcher with Human Rights Watch, to Al-Monitor.
© Ruby Mellen for The Washington Post