“Israel Adopts Divisive Jewish Nation-State Law”
Only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country now.
By Maayan Lubell
Jerusalem, July 19, 2018 (Reuters via The Huffington Post) - Israel passed a law on Thursday to declare that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, something members of the Arab minority called racist and verging on apartheid.
The “nation-state” law, backed by the right-wing government, passed by a vote of 62-55 and two abstentions in the 120-member parliament after months of political argument. Some Arab lawmakers shouted and ripped up papers after the vote.
“This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset after the vote.
Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. It stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”
The bill 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.
Israel’s Arabs 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 Israel’s Arabs, 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: “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.”
Even after the changes, critics said the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.
“I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy,” Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, told reporters.
Netanyahu has defended the law. “We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides,” he said last week.
“An absolute majority wants to ensure our state’s Jewish character for generations to come.”
Israel’s Arab population is comprised mainly of descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their land during the conflict between Arabs and Jews that culminated in the war of 1948 surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled.
Those who remained have full equal rights under the law but say they face constant discrimination, citing inferior services and unfair allocations for education, health and housing.
In Ma’alot-Tarshiha, a municipality in northern Israel which was created by linking the Jewish town of Ma’alot and the Arab town of Tarshiha, there was anger among Arab residents.
“I think this is racist legislation by a radical right-wing government that is creating radical laws, and is planting the seeds to create an apartheid state,” said physician Bassam Bisharah, 71.
“The purpose of this law is discrimination. They want to get rid of the Arabs totally,” said Yousef Faraj, 53, from the nearby Druze village of Yanuh. “The Israelis want to destroy all the religions of the Arabs.”
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, called the law a bid to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies.”
Letter: “All democracies must do better by minorities”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 25, 2018
To the editor:
The July 20 Eagle had an article about a new law in Israel that describes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. This new law may be redundant. Jews are 80 percent of the population of Israel, Hebrew is the primary national language and Jews run the government and most major public and private organizations. The law passed the Israeli parliament by only a slim majority. Some Israelis think this new law is necessary to re-affirm to the world that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, forever.
Israeli Arabs vote Arabs into the Israeli parliament, are doctors in Israeli hospitals and have thousands of students in Israeli universities. Israeli Arabs have a higher standard of living and higher literacy than Arabs living in majority Arab lands. Yet, as a minority in Israel, they do suffer some aspects of second class citizenship.
Minorities in most Western democracies, including our U.S., are subject to some forms of discrimination. Let's all work to improve the workings of democracies for ALL people.
Martin Silver, Lenox
credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
“Natalie Portman Slams Israel’s Nation-State Law As ‘Racist,’ ‘Wrong’”
It’s not the first time the Jewish actress has criticized the Israeli government.
By Sara Boboltz, The Huffington Post, December 13, 2018
Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman has only harsh words for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial “nation-state law” passed over the summer formally recognizing the country as a Jewish state despite its large population of non-Jewish Arabs.
“It’s racist and there’s nothing else to say about that,” Portman told the BBC in an interview posted online earlier this week.
“It’s wrong and I disagree with that [law],” the actress continued.
Called the “Basic Law,” the measure sets Hebrew as the national language and states that Israel’s Jews have a “unique” right to self-determination. It also defines Jerusalem as the “complete and united” capital of Israel, ignoring the fact that it’s occupied in part by Palestinians who wish to claim it as their capital.
Non-Jewish Arabs comprise around one-fifth of Israel’s population and the majority in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has long stood accused of institutionalized discrimination and human rights abuses against non-Jews.
Portman told the BBC it’s “hard to be from a place” where laws like this are in place. “It’s like your family ― you love them the most and you also feel the most critical.”
Critics have likened the law to apartheid. Proponents say it marks a “defining moment” for Israel and have said criticism amounts to anti-Semitism.
Portman’s critique comes eight months after she backed out of a major Israeli award ceremony in Jerusalem where she was scheduled to receive a prestigious honor. The “Black Swan” actress explained in a statement that she did not want to appear to support Netanyahu, who would be at the event.
Her statement, released on Instagram, said, “Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”
Thursday, July 19, 2018
- Jonathan Melle
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