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Israel passes divisive law declaring only Jews have right to ‘national self-determination’

Israel’s parliament has passed a divisive law declaring that only Jews have the right to “national self-determination” in Israel, prompting angry accusations from Arab citizens that the government is formally codifying racism. 

The law, known as the nation state bill, passed by a narrow 62-55 margin early on Thursday morning after hours of fractious debate between MPs in the chamber of the Knesset.  

While Israel is known around the world as the only Jewish state, its own laws have never formally classified it as a state for Jews. The nation state bill describes Israel for the first time as “the national home of the Jewish people”. 

“The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” the law states

The law downgrades Arabic so it is no longer an official language of Israel and declares that Jerusalem “complete and united” is the country’s capital.  

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and his Right-wing coalition government supported the bill. Mr Netanyahu praised the law’s passage as a “pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel.” 

“This is our state – the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being,” he said. 

Benjamin Netanyahu praised the law’s passage 

Credit:
Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP

Around 20 per cent of Israel citizens are of Palestinian origin, known sometimes as Palestinian citizens of Israel or as Arab-Israelis. Arab-Israeli MPs angrily denounced the bill as “an apartheid law” and tore copies of its text into pieces after it passed. 

“The state has declared that it does not want us here. It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens,” said Ayman Odeh, the leader of the mostly Arab Joint List party. 

Israel’s Labour Party and other opposition parties also voted against the bill.  

The nation state bill will become one of Israel’s Basic Laws, legislation that essentially forms the country’s constitution. The other Basic Laws describe the structure of the Israeli government but do not weigh in on the country’s Jewish character. 

The bill was significantly watered down from earlier versions and several of its most controversial provisions were changed. 

One clause would have allowed Jewish towns to refuse to allow Arabs or Muslims to live in them. In practice, segregation of housing is widespread in Israel but it has never been codified in law. 

Around 20 per cent of Israel’s population is of Palestinian origin

Credit:
REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, made a rare direct intervention into domestic politics to oppose the housing section, saying it could “harm the Jewish people, Jews throughout the world and the State of Israel”. 

The housing clause was removed shortly before the vote. 

Arabic and Hebrew were previously both official languages of Israel, a hangover of British law in Palestine which Israel adopted in 1948. The new law says Hebrew is the only official language and downgrades Arabic to “a special status in the state”. 

However, the law also includes a confusing clause saying the legislation “does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect”.

The law does not declare Judaism as the official religion of Israel. 

Supporters of the bill said it was similar to legislation in Europe, for example a law that makes French the official language of France. 

They point to the constitution of Slovenia, which declares the country to be “a state of all its citizens” but is founded on “the permanent right” of the Slovene majority “to self-determination.”

“[The nation state law] is far milder and more liberal than the constitutional arrangements of even some of the most liberal countries,” said Eugene Kontorovich, head of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum, an Israeli think tank which supported the bill.   

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/19/israel-passes-divisive-law-declaring-jews-have-right-national/

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