Israel adopts divisive Jewish ‘nation-state’ law

Marc Israel Sellem  AFP  Getty Images

Marc Israel Sellem AFP Getty Images

The sponsor of the law, Avi Dichter from Netanyahu´s Likud party, has said the law aims to defend Israel´s "status as a Jewish and democratic state".

'Today, I will have to tell my children, along with all the children of Palestinian Arab towns ... that the state has declared that it does not want us here, ' Odeh said in a statement later.

A statement issued by the Arab Joint List, the major Arab political grouping and third-largest party in Israel, called on "the countries of the world and worldwide organizations to pressure the Netanyahu government so as to restrain its insane racist excesses".

The law, named "Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People", effectively gives state sanction to the creation of residential areas for Jews only that would be off limits to Arabs, according to legal scholars and Arab rights activists.

However, the law risks further alienating Israel's large Arab minority, who have long felt discriminated against. Arabic will have "special" status but will no longer be an official language. "The bill, that is essentially the opening part of a future constitution, does not address the issues of democracy and human rights, and blatantly undermines the balance between the State's Jewish and Democratic definitions", ACRI said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the bill's passage, saying it enshrines into law "the basic principles of our existence".

It also defines Jewish settlement of the land as a "national interest".

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home Party, said Breaking the Silence, "had crossed the line of legitimate dialogue a long time ago when they chose to slander the State of Israel in the worldwide arena".

Benjamin Netanyahu attends the Knesset Plenary Hall session ahead of the vote on the National Law defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people
Marc Israel Sellem AFP Getty Images

Speaking ahead of the vote, Herzog warned that while fostering the Jewish state, the law might deal a blow to democratic values.

"The law of nationalism is the last nail in the coffin of the so-called Israeli democracy, which has been dying in recent years because of its suffering from chronic racist diseases that have been afflicted with fascism and directed to Apartheid through the legislation of this law", they said.

"Democracy and equality, including when it comes to the rights of minorities, are key rights that define our societies and must to continue to be the basis also of the partnership that we have with Israel and we believe that they should be upheld", she said.

Legislation backed by the right-wing government was passed in the early hours of this morning.

"Today we engraved in the stone of the law: This is our nation, this is our language, this is our anthem, and this is our flag". Whereas most democratic states draw their legitimacy to govern from the consent of their citizens, Israel has excluded one out of every five Israeli citizens from that contract.

As he was leaving, Arab MP Ahmad Tibi, addressing Netanyahu, yelled: "You are afraid of our Arabic language - that's why you passed this racist law!"

Instead, the nation-state law serves as a rallying cry for each side's political base. "It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens". "It seeks to maintain a regime in which one ethnic-national group controls an indigenous-national group living in the same territory while advancing ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies in the most basic aspects of life".

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