Palestinians say newly passed Jewish state law 'legalizes apartheid'

Pauline Gross
July 19, 2018

Israel's parliament passed a controversial law early Thursday that declares only Jews have a right to national self-determination in Israel, drawing criticism from human rights organizations and Arabs who called it racist and amounting to apartheid.

Lawmakers in Israel's parliament passed the law by a vote of 62-55, with two abstentions, following months of debates on the issue.

"Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, which honours the individual rights of all its citizens", the prime minister said.

The law further rescinds Arabic as an official language, downgrading it to a "special status".

The bill "is very important to guaranteeing the essence of our existence, and we must pass it soon", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday at a meeting of his Likud party's parliamentary faction.

The nation-state law declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance and Jewish holidays.

Mr Rivlin was one of many Jewish Israelis who objected to the law, and thousands protested the proposed legislation under the banner "this is home for all of us" in Tel Aviv last week.

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

Some Arab politicians shouted and ripped up papers after the vote.

The government says the bill will formally place into law the country's existing status.

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Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, described the law as a bid to advance "ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies".

The head of the mainly Arab Joint List alliance Ayman Odeh called it "the death of our democracy".

"This law, passed 50 years after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, will normalize the lives of the residents there", said Shaked, referring to the territory by its biblical name.

"The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment."

"The law features key elements of apartheid, which is not only immoral but also absolutely prohibited under global law", said Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, a Palestinian human rights organization in Israel.

'This is not a decision I expected from the Likud leadership, ' he said.

About 20% of Israel's population of nine million are Arab - with an additional 2.8 million Palestinians living in the Israel-occupied West Bank and about 1.7 million in the Gaza Strip.

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 American Jewish Committee, a group representing the Jewish Diaspora, said it was "deeply disappointed", adding that the law "puts at risk the commitment of Israel's founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic".

Other reports by GizPress

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