The parliament of the Nation of Israel have adopted a controversial law “the Jewish Nation State Law” that could redefine Israel as a country. There’s fear that the law would lead to open discriminatory practices against the Arab members of the state.
Arab lawmakers and Palestinians have called the law “racist” saying it legalised “apartheid”, while others have pointed out that the law neglects to specify equality and Israel‘s democratic character, implying that the country’s Jewish nature comes first following a very rowdy debate in parliament.
The legislation which was adopted by 62 votes to 55 makes Hebrew the country’s national language and defines the establishment of Jewish only communities as being in the national interest; it reduced the Arabic language which had been at par with Hebrew as the official language of Israel to special status.
The new law recognised the state of Israel as a historic Jewish homeland and as such they (the Jews) possess a “unique” right to self-determination there, according to copies of the final text quoted by Israeli media.
Following the stormy session in parliament during the passing of the law, a deeply controversial clause that had been seen as more specifically legalising the establishment of Jewish-only communities was changed after it drew sharp criticism from the public, including from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as the legislation becomes part of the country’s basic laws, which serve as a de facto constitution.
The Israeli Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu praised the passage if the law, calling it a decisive moment in the history of Israel.
“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,”
While the law may be backed by the Prime Minister’s right wing government, a number of opposition politicians have denounced the vote as the head of the mainly Arab Joint List alliance Ayman Odeh called it “the death of our democracy”.
Parliarment members of Arabic Origins called the legislation “racist” and tore up copies of the bill in the chamber of the Knesset, Israel‘s parliament, after it was passed.
“This is a law that encourages not only discrimination, but racism as well,” lawmaker Yousef Jabareen said.
The Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat called the legislation a “dangerous and racist law” that “officially legalises apartheid and legally defines Israel as an apartheid system”. While Avi Dichter of the Likud Party who sponsored the law has said it aims to defend Israel‘s “status as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Other Critics however pointed out that references to “Jewish and democratic” in earlier versions of the law had been removed and that the law lacked references to equality as specified in the country’s 1948 declaration of independence.
Shuki Friedman of the respected Israel Democracy Institute think tank 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”.
Before the passage of the law, the state of Israel had been run almost like apartheid where the Arabs who make up 17.5% of the population are treated as second class citizens over the years.
Lands originally belonging to Arab Palestinians are often taken over with Jewish settlements built on them. While the Jews have proper access to public services, the Arab does not. The continued blockade of Gaza in recent years has also not helped the course of Israel.
While Israel has been known to be intolerant to other races within its borders, this law gives it even more powers to openly discriminate against non-Jews in the state.
The State of Israel was founded in 1948 after 6 million Jews were exterminated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s during World War II in what is now regarded as the Holocaust.