Published: Sat, July 21, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Israel adopts divisive Jewish ‘nation-state’ law

Israel adopts divisive Jewish ‘nation-state’ law

Today, Israeli lawmakers gave their final approval to the "Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People" bill that unambiguously defines Israel as a state that belongs exclusively to the "Jewish people".

"It is our state, the Jewish state, but in recent years some have tried to question that as well as the principles of our existence and our rights", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the vote on the legislation, backed by his right-wing government.

The bill enshrines Hebrew as the only official language of the state, stripping Arabic of that status, and names Jewish settlement a top priority. "Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens".

The institute's Shuki Friedman said much of the law is symbolic, but it would force the courts to consider the country's Jewish nature and lead to a more "narrow interpretation of Arabs' rights". "Otherwise how will people know he is more of a nationalist than you'" she said. "This not only directly affects the 21 percent of Israel's citizens who comprise the country's largest minority, but it also would appear to work against the government's ongoing efforts to encourage the use of Arabic, given Israel's location in the Middle East".

The Arab MKs were furious, calling the law "apartheid" and "racist".

The government says the bill only enshrines into law what had always been integral to Israel's existing character, but the country's minority Arabs, which make up about 20 percent of the country's 9 million people, see the change as akin to establishing apartheid.

Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi slammed the law as a license for "apartheid".

Also approved Tuesday was the so-called Breaking the Silence Law, which prevents individuals and groups that promote political action against the State of Israel or prosecution of Israeli soldiers overseas from speaking in Israeli schools.

Israeli military electronics firm Elbit Systems, which has just completed two acquisitions in the United States and Israel, remains on.

The legislation, dubbed the 'nation state law,' has been labelled by members of the country's Palestinian minority as racist.

Condemning the law, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin criticized what he called "this racist move that amounts to erasing the Palestinian people from their homeland physically and legally". Sometimes what a law says is more important than what it does. "We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel's democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides", he said last week.

Israel's prime minister praised the bill's passage as a "defining moment".

The issue is the latest source of tension between Israel and Turkey, one of the Jewish state's few key Muslim partners.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas also strongly denounced the nation-state law and said it "legitimizes Israeli racism".

Speaking ahead of the vote, Herzog warned that while fostering the Jewish state, the law might deal a blow to democratic values. "Israel is indeed the "national home of the Jewish people" and anyone attempting to deny that basic premise is turning a blind eye to history and disregarding what is an elemental truth". This includes a provision that would have instructed judges to consider Jewish law when making rulings, and one that would have allowed for exclusive communities based on religion or ethnicity.

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