Israel’s parliament on Thursday adopted a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it will lead to blatant discrimination against its Palestinian citizens.
The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, makes Hebrew the country’s national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.
The bill also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language, downgrading it to a special status that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.
It stipulates that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it. It also states that an undivided Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
After the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset:
Palestinian members of the Knesset have condemned the bill.
Following the law’s passage, Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List � an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties � said in a statement:
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, called the law a bid to advance ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies.
Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, commented:
According to Adalah, there are currently over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens in Israel and Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging.
Palestinian citizens of Israel number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population.
Early drafts of the legislation went further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination towards Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have long said they are treated as second-class citizens.
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.
Instead, a more vaguely-worded version was approved, which says:
Even after the changes, critics said the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Palestinian Arab minority.
Benny Begin, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the founder of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, abstained from voting, warning of the party’s growing disconnect from human rights.
Source: Palestine Chronicle