UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Oct. 21)
Netanel Lorch, Israel’s representative to the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee of the UN today denied a Lebanese charge that Israel practiced religious discrimination against Israeli Arabs. The Lebanese delegate, Yahya Mahmassani, had charged that Arabs in Israel had the choice of other “leaving their homes” or becoming second-class citizens. He said that racial discrimination in Israel had been legislated through the Israeli Nationality Law (Law of Return) which permitted any Jew to become a citizen once he stepped on Israeli soil, but denied the “right of return” to one million Arab refugees, “the rightful owners of the land.” The refugees in Lebanon, Mr. Mahmassani said, want to return to Israel, not to become Lebanese citizens. In replying to Mr. Mahmassani’s charges, Mr. Lorch stated categorically that there was no discrimination in Israel, and pointed out that the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset was of Arab descent. He said that Israel had come into being to solve the problem of Jewish refugees and added that Israel could not permit the unlimited return of Arab refugees to Israel since “they were among the people most determined to exterminate Israel.” Stating that Arabs in Israel had freedom of speech, something they do not have in Arab lands, Mr. Lorch challenged Mr. Mahmassani to point out any discriminatory law in Israel and invited him to visit Israel to see for himself that Israel practices no discrimination against Arabs or anyone else and that all citizens had equal rights.