Israeli Arabs stage mass protest against Jewish nation law branded 'racist' by critics

Government says recently passed bill merely enshrines the country's existing character

Shlomo Mor
Saturday 11 August 2018 22:46
Comments
Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a protest rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin square
Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a protest rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin square

Members of Israel's Arab minority led a mass protest in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night against a contentious new law that critics say marginalises the state's non-Jewish citizens.

The rally marked the latest stage in a fallout from the Nation-State law and came a week after thousands of Druze, also members of the Arab minority, packed the same city square to voice opposition to the bill.

Israel's 1948 declaration of independence defined the country as a Jewish and democratic state and the government says the recently passed bill merely enshrines the country's existing character.

But critics say it undercuts Israel's democratic values and sidelines the country's non-Jewish population, namely the Arab community that makes up 20 per cent of the country.

One clause downgrades the Arabic language from official to "special" standing.

The law has bitterly divided the parliament, sparked mass protests in Tel Aviv and even drawn criticism from the country’s president and attorney-general. Several of the articles have been dubbed racist against the country’s 1.8 million Arabs

Israeli parliament adopts contentious new law defining itself as Jewish nation

Israeli media reported tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs attended the protest. Some Arab protesters waved Palestinian flags and others held signs reading "equality”. Some knelt and preformed Muslim prayers.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, posted footage on Twitter of protesters waving the Palestinian flags. "No better testament to the necessity of the Nation State law," he wrote.

Ayman Odeh, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, said: "This is the first time that tens of thousands of Arabs have come to Tel Aviv with Jewish democratic groups.

“They came to say this is not the end of the demonstrations, but the first serious demonstration against the Nation State law."

Many Jewish Israelis, including top retired security officials and politicians, have also criticised the law.

The rally marked further fallout from the explosive Nation-State law

Omar Sultan, from the Arab city of Tira in central Israel, said he was protesting to send a message to Mr Netanyahu.

"This law is against us, against the Arabic language, against peace, against our future in this land, we are the real people of this land, we can't agree on this law," he said.

Israel's Arab citizens enjoy full citizenship rights but face discrimination in some areas of society like jobs and housing.

They share the ethnicity and culture of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and often identify with Palestinian nationalism, rather than Israeli.

AP

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in