Published: Sat, July 21, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Arab League condemns Israeli approval of controversial Jewish nation-state law

Arab League condemns Israeli approval of controversial Jewish nation-state law

One of the most controversial pieces of legislation ever to come before Israel's parliament, the so-called "Nation-State Bill", passed Thursday morning following hours of excited and angry debate.

The law passed 62-55 during a heated session that revealed deep divisions within Israeli society over the religious and democratic character of what many have long called the Jewish state. The law establishes Israel as the historic home of the Jewish people with a "united" Jerusalem as its capital and declares that the Jewish people "have an exclusive right to national self-determination" in Israel. Independence Day is now an official holiday, and Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day are recognized as days of mourning.

But the law has provoked fears it will lead to blatant discrimination against Arab citizens.

While much of the law merely cements day-to-day practices of life in Israel, it also breaks new and controversial ground. Critics were concerned that the reduced status of Arabic from an official language to "special" status was needlessly provocative.

Following the arguments, some clauses were dropped from the bill by Israel's President and Attorney General Reuven Rivlin, including a clause that would have enshrined in law the creation of Jewish-only communities.

Some believe the clause is discriminatory because it appears to promote the building of Jewish communities, but not necessarily West Bank settlements, at the expense of non-Jewish communities.

"The Jewish nation-state law features key elements of apartheid, which is not only immoral but also absolutely prohibited under worldwide law".

He said "this is an evil law" and added that "a black flag hovers over it".

After it passed in the Knesset, Arab lawmakers teared the nation-state bill in protest whereas moments after the bill had passed into law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "This is a defining moment - long live the State of Israel".

Officials from the Palestinian Liberation Organization called the law "racist" and said it legalized "apartheid".

The omission has baffled many, including Amir Fuchs, who heads the Defending Democratic Values program at the Israel Democracy Institute.

However, the law risks further alienating Israel's large Arab minority, who have long felt discriminated against. These laws, passed with an absolute majority of the 120 members of Knesset, are hard to change or overturn. "By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging exclusively to the Jewish people - wherever they live around the world - Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favoring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of institutions".

Knesset members Ahmad Tibi and Yousef Jabareen, both from the Joint Arab List party, assailed the bill's passage in a joint statement.

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