World

Israeli parliament passes contentious Jewish nation bill

Israeli parliament passes contentious Jewish nation bill

"It is a decisive moment in the history of the state of Israel that inscribes in stone our language, our anthem and our flag", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the vote on the legislation, backed by his right-wing government.

"Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens", Netanyahu said, as cited by Haaretz.

The law downgrades Arabic so it is no longer an official language of Israel and declares that Jerusalem "complete and united" is the country's capital.

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".

Arab members of the Knesset Ahmed Tibi and Ayeda Touma-Souliman yelled at Netanyahu, "You passed an apartheid law, a racist law".

The bill has bitterly divided Israeli lawmakers, with some arguing that the law will institutionalise "apartheid" rule in Israel.

Arab parliament members who called the legislation "racist" ripped up copies of the bill in the chamber of the Knesset, Israel´s parliament, after it was passed.

'This is an evil law, ' he told lawmakers, adding that 'a black flag hovers over it'.

For instance, New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch called the bill "completely incompatible" with the "democratic foundation" of the Israeli state.




Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List, pulled out a black flag and waved it during his speech in Parliament, warning of the implications of the law.

"We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel's democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides", he said.

"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.

Israel's Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 per cent of the 9 million population.

"This is not a decision I expected from the Likud leadership", he said.

"The law features key elements of apartheid, which is not only immoral but also absolutely prohibited under global law", said Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, a Palestinian human rights organization in Israel.

The American Jewish Committee, a group representing the Jewish Diaspora, said it was "deeply disappointed", adding that the law "puts at risk the commitment of Israel's founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic".

Arabs living in Israel - descendants of those who stayed after many were expelled from historic Palestine in 1948 - have equal legal rights, but they say they are discriminated against in areas such as work, housing and education.

Rivlin, whose role as president is mainly symbolic, had made a rare intervention in politics earlier this month to raise alarm over the clause.


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