Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation-state’ law

Law defines the country as Jewish homeland, further marginalising 1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel. The legislation becomes part of the country’s basic laws, which serve as a de facto constitution

Israel’s parliament on Thursday adopted a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it will lead to blatant discrimination against its Palestinian citizens. The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, makes Hebrew the country’s national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.
The bill also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.
Highlights
 Self-determination is “exclusive” to the Jewish people/Israel is the Jewish nation’s historical homeland
 Views the establishment of Jewish-only settlements as being in the national interest
 Arabic will be demoted from official language to a “special” status
 Calls the “undivided” city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital
 National symbols include the Israeli flag, menorah, Jewish holidays, Hatikva anthem, the Hebrew calendar, and Israel’s Independence Day
 It stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”. It also states that an undivided Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
 “This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset after the vote.
 Palestinian members of the Knesset have condemned the bill.
 “It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens,” Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List – an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties – said in a statement following the law’s passage.
 Ahmed Tibi, one of the lawmakers, said: “I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy.”
‘Key elements of apartheid’
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, called the law a bid to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”. “The Jewish nation-state law features key elements of apartheid, which is not only immoral but also absolutely prohibited under international law,” said Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah.
‘We are not citizens with equal rights’
“By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging solely to the Jewish people – wherever they live around the world – Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favouring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of institutions.”
According to Adalah, there are currently over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens in Israel and Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging. The Jewish nation-state law features key elements of apartheid, which is not only immoral but also absolutely prohibited under international law.In Ma’alot-Tarshiha, a municipality in northern Israel which was created by linking the Jewish town of Ma’alot and the Palestinian town of Tarshiha, there was anger among Palestinian residents. “I think this is racist legislation by a radical right-wing government that is creating radical laws and is planting the seeds to create an apartheid state,” said physician Bassam Bisharah, 71.
EU leads criticism after Israel passes Jewish ‘nation state’ law
Legislation stipulates only Jews have right of self-determination in the country. The European Union has led a chorus of criticism after Israel passed a controversial law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country.
Adding that the legislation would complicate a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the EU joined Israeli Arab political leaders, Israeli opposition politicians and liberal Jewish groups in the US in flagging up concern, with some saying the law amounted to “apartheid”. The legislation stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.
It also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions. “We are concerned, we have expressed this concern and we will continue to engage with Israeli authorities in this context,” said a spokeswoman for the EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini.
“We’ve been very clear when it comes to the two-state solution, we believe it is the only way forward and any step that would further complicate or prevent this solution of becoming a reality should be avoided,” the spokeswoman added. The law was also condemned by the Turkish foreign ministry, which said the legislation trampled on the principles of universal law and disregarded the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

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