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Israel passes controversial ‘nation-state' law

New York Daily News

July 19. 2018 7:48PM
Palestinian Jihad Shawamrah stands on the ruins of his house that he demolished to not face the prospect of Israeli settlers moving in after he lost a land ownership case in Israeli courts, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, on Thursday. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

The Israeli government has pressed forward with a controversial "nation-state" law that many in the Arab minority say makes them "second-class citizens."

Lawmakers in the Knesset barely passed the law supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which declares that the Jewish majority has the "exclusive right to national self-determination" in the country.

Israel's population is around 20 percent Arab, and critics of the law have said that the measure moves the country towards being an apartheid state.

One idea that was proposed for the measure but did not make the final draft would have allowed segregated communities for Jewish people only.

Beyond the symbolic language of the law, it now downgrades Arabic from an official language to a language with a "special status."

Arabic will still be allowed as a working language in government institutions.

Netanyahu praised the measure as a historic moment for his country 70 years after its founding and trumpeted Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East.

Others said that it is a blow against democracy represents the increasingly rightward drift of his scandal-plagued administration.

"The law of nationalism is the last nail in the coffin of the so-called Israeli democracy, which has been dying in recent years because of its suffering from chronic racist diseases that have been afflicted with fascism and directed to Apartheid through the legislation of this law," said a statement to CNN from Arab Knesset members Ahmid Tibi and Yousef Jabareen.

In an open letter earlier this week, American Jewish organizations such as J Street said that the law would "give constitutional protection" to legislation that could discriminate against women, LGBT people, ethnic minorities, other religions and non-Orthodox Jews.

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