Israel adopts divisive Jewish nation-state law

Hugh Fox
July 21, 2018

The law will also apply to territories occupied in 1967 such as East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which were annexed to the territory of the State of Israel by law, but which has not been internationally recognised. We have enshrined the fact that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.

"We engraved in the stone of law our language, our anthem and our flag".

Israeli Arabs make up about 20 per cent of the Israel's population of about nine million people. "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 institutions". The law provides that, "The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established" and that "the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people".

Barry Trachtenberg
Barry Trachtenberg

Twenty percent of the 9 million population in Israel are Arabs which is around 1.8 million people who'll be affected by this new law and who've long said they are treated as second-class citizens.

Controversially, the law singles out Hebrew as the "state's language", effectively prioritising it above Arabic which has for decades been recognised as an official language alongside Hebrew.

Prime Minister Bajnamin Netanyahu, whose administration strongly dealt with Palestinian protesters earlier this year and also escalated confrontation with Iran after the U.S. scuttled the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, welcomed the move saying: "This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel", the Reuters report added.

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The "Jewish nation state" bill downgrades Arabic as an official language and says advancing Jewish settlement is a national interest.

"While the democratic State of Israel facilitates freedom of religion and affords people of various backgrounds the right to visit and reside there, the reality is that Israel is inherently a Jewish state and affirming that fact does not contravene the liberties that it benevolently bestows to individuals of other faiths", the group said in a statement.

Last week, Netanyahu defended the law, saying: "We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel's democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides".

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What is the nation-state law?

The omission has baffled many, including Amir Fuchs, who heads the Defending Democratic Values program at the Israel Democracy Institute.

The American Jewish Committee said it was "deeply disappointed" that the Knesset passed the law. "We applaud the Knesset for their leadership in passing this historic bill and shall undertake to work with the Knesset, the Government and our allies in the Diaspora to put the principles and vision of this law into effect".

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Arab Israeli legislators were angrily rejecting the bill after it passed, stressing the section that declares settling in areas conquered in the 1967 war to be a "national value" that will be encouraged and promoted.

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