Israel Passes Controversial 'Jewish Nation-State' Law

Larry Hoffman
July 21, 2018

To his part, Secretary General of the PLO, Dr. Saeb Erekat, said on twitter that the passing of the "Jewish Nation-State" Bill by the Israeli Knesset a risky and racist law par excellence, since it denies the Arab citizens their right to self-determination to instead be determined by the Jewish population.

Israeli government members praised the passage of the law on Thursday morning, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it "a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel". It proclaims "the state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people" and "the actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people".

The law also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a "special status" that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.

Furthermore, the law affirms "the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation".

Roughly 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, not including occupied East Jerusalem. The fact that so many people believe that for Israel to declare itself the nation- state of the Jewish people is controversial - that's a reason.

The law also revokes Arabic of its status as an official language alongside Hebrew. Some of Israel's most prominent current and former politicians - including President Reuven Rivlin, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the former chair of the prominent nonprofit the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, all expressed reservations about that clause, saying it would damage Israel's worldwide standing and would likely be struck down by the High Court. He said he suspects it is the first step in a bigger plan to establish more such laws and practices "against Arab citizens".

The law passed after the changing of a clause that would have allowed the state to "authorise a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community".

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, also said the law breaches global regulations. Odeh also said "a black flag hovers over it".

Mr Netanyahu said the bill was about defending the Jewish character of the state, which was established in 1948 as a homeland for the Jewish people, "for generations to come".

The latter "could be read as a euphemism for the originally proposed endorsement of support for Jewish-only communities in Israel", AJC said.

"In Israel you will not see people excited or not excited because for Jewish Israelis, the new law enshrines what already exists", Frantzman said.

The law states that only Jews have the right of self-determination in Israel.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said that such laws would not have passed were it not for the "silence of the worldwide community" and the backing of the United States administration.

Critics condemned Israel's new "nation-state" law saying it delivers a serious blow to the country because it puts Jewish identity ahead of the nation's democratic principles, while making Arab citizens "permanent foreigners".

The newly-adopted measure is categorized as among Israel's so-called "Basic Laws", which underpin the regime's legal system and are more hard to repeal than regular laws under its constitution.

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