Israel passes divisive law declaring only Jews have right to 'national self-determination'

19 July, 2018, 15:42 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • Knesset enshrines Israel’s Jewish character in law

Israel has approved a controversial law that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people - leading to accusations that it discriminates against Arabs.

He said it "constitutionally enshrined the identity of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people only - despite the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of the state, residents of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - and guaranteed the exclusive ethnic-religious character of Israel as Jewish". One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to "special" standing.

Israeli Arab MPs condemned the legislation, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised it as a "defining moment".

The nation-state law declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance and Jewish holidays.

While Israel is known around the world as the only Jewish state, its own laws have never formally classified it as a state for Jews.

It's a controversial bill which has been debated in Israel's parliament for sometime.

Opponents of the new bill say it marginalizes the country's Arab minority of around 20 per cent.

Settlements in the occupied West Bank are viewed as illegal under global law and a major impediment to a viable Palestinian state in the future.

"This is an evil law", he said, adding that "a black flag hovers over it".

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"If there had been another paragraph that also gives full equality to all citizens of Israel, then I would have been a lot more relaxed", he said.

"With this law we determined the founding principle of our existence".

American Jewish organisations also expressed disapproval. "The Palestinian people will remain the sovereign of this land".

Even after the changes, critics said the new law would deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.

"This bill is not about law or justice, it is all about normalizing the Israeli occupation and blurring the difference between Israel and the occupied territories that are under military rule", said Roni Pelli of the Association for Human Rights in Israel. Last year, 40 families from the Israeli outpost of Amona were evicted when a legal petition from a Palestinian nearby village was supported by Israel's Supreme Court.

Reuters notes, "Early drafts of the legislation went further in what critics at home and overseas saw as discrimination toward Israel's Arabs, who have long said they are treated as second-class citizens".

"By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging exclusively to the Jewish people - wherever they live around the world - Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favoring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of its institutions", Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen said in a statement following the vote.

"I really hope that we won't find the fine balance between a Jewish and democratic state to be hurt", he said.

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