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.
Overnight, Israel's Knesset officially passed the 'Jewish nation state' bill into law, with a 62-55 vote.
Palestinian lawmakers tore it up and, as they were thrown out, yelled at Netanyahu: "You passed an apartheid law, a racist law".https://t.co/8SbDr1cSgT
— Ben White (@benabyad) July 19, 2018
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.
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.
After the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset:
“This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel.”
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) July 19, 2018
Palestinian members of the Knesset have condemned the bill.
Following the law’s passage, Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List – an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties – said in a statement:
“It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”
Ahmed Tibi, one of the lawmakers, said:
“I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy.”
Knesset approves 'nation-state bill' that promotes Jewish-only settlements https://t.co/CbuTrBKm6v
— RT (@RT_com) July 19, 2018
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, called the law a bid to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”.
Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, commented:
“The Jewish nation-state law features key elements of apartheid, which is not only immoral but also absolutely prohibited under international law. 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 favoring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of institutions.”
"Arab MP Ahmed Tibi said the bill's passing represented the 'death of democracy'. Adalah, an Arab rights non-governmental organisation, said the law was an attempt to advance 'ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies'." #Israel #Palestinehttps://t.co/NToAaR86qu
— EAPPI UK & Ireland (@eappi_uki) July 19, 2018
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.
Palestinian citizens of Israel number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population.
Israel passed a bill defining the country as the homeland for Jews, and Jews only. Palestinians say the bill "legalizes apartheid" and is a "dangerous and racist law" violating Palestinian human rights https://t.co/FH5hYfiVgS pic.twitter.com/p2eTTLHP4s
— The IMEU (@theIMEU) July 19, 2018
Early drafts of the legislation went further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination towards Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have long said they are treated as second-class citizens.
Clauses that were dropped in last-minute political wrangling – and after objections by Israel’s president and attorney general – would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities, and instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no relevant legal precedents.
"The moment we define that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people only, we establish for the courts that this is a constitutional value.” Naftali Bennett https://t.co/4tBIxvuKMO
— Adalah Justice Project (@AdalahJustice) July 16, 2018
Instead, a more vaguely-worded version was approved, which says:
“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.”
Even after the changes, critics said the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Palestinian Arab minority.
Israeli parliament adopts a controversial bill that defines Israel as the nation state of only the Jewish people, which critics say excludes the Arab-Israeli minority who make up 20 percent of population https://t.co/D6LNNNrpFS pic.twitter.com/HjVQjF5d2n
— The Ankara Times (@TheAnkaraTimes) July 19, 2018
Benny Begin, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the founder of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, abstained from voting, warning of the party’s growing disconnect from human rights.
“This is not a decision I expected from the Likud leadership.”
Jewish nation-state bill passed by 62-55, almost on coalition-opposition lines, but not quite:
1 coalition MK voted against – Yisrael Beytenu's Hamad Amar
1 abstained – Likud's Benny Begin
1 was absent – Likud's Tzippi Hotovely
(Independent MK Orli Levy-Abecasis also abstained)
— Raoul Wootliff (@RaoulWootliff) July 19, 2018
The American Jewish Committee, a group representing the Jewish diaspora, said it was “deeply disappointed,” saying the law “put at risk the commitment of Israel’s founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic”.
Netanyahu has defended the law.
He said last week:
“We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides. An absolute majority wants to ensure our state’s Jewish character for generations to come.”
Parliament approves 'Jewish nation-state bill' amid protests pic.twitter.com/LpELSDfcwF
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) July 19, 2018
Israel’s Palestinian population comprises mainly the descendants of those who remained on their land since 1948, the time of the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
The fledgling state consolidated its control over Palestinian lands on the back of an ethnic cleansing campaign where hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes.
This is beyond "controversial" as many headlines are saying. Israel is continuing a U.S. supported ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The "Jewish nation state" bill expands Israel's systemic violence towards the 1.8 million Arabs living within Israel's occupied territory. https://t.co/EyEgXh5vsp
— Manny (@Manny_A_Ramirez) July 19, 2018
(AJE, PC, Social Media)