Thousands attend Arab-led rally against Israeli 'nation-state' law

Thousands attend Arab-led rally against Israeli bill

Passed last month, the divisive law officially affirms Israel's Jewish character, but critics say it turns non-Jewish citizens of the country into second-class citizens, further marginalising some 1.8 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and other minorities.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted Saturday night that "there is no greater testament to the necessity of this law" than the presence of the Palestinian flags at the protest.

"It's not a big deal to demand equal rights for people you totally agree with", she said.

Netanyahu has repeatedly defended the contentious law passed on July 19.

Chanting "resist apartheid" and "we are all brothers", thousands of protesters rallied in Tel Aviv against the controversial new law that has proclaimed Israel to be the nation-state of just the Jewish people.

Led by a large Arab contingent, the event was marked by a large number of Palestinian flags, and very few Israeli ones.

Israel's Palestinian population comprises mainly the descendants of those who remained on their land since 1948, the time of the establishment of the modern state of Israel. "It's clearer now more than ever that the nation-state law is needed to ensure the future of Israel as a Jewish state".

The impact of the law on Israel's Druze minority was a particular focus of the rally, with senior figures from the Druze community delivering speeches and many participants waving the multi-colored Druze flag.

What those waving the Palestinian flags seem to forget is that the Palestinian Authority already long ago passed its version of the Nation-State Law, and that piece of legislation is about as racist and religiously discriminatory as they come.

"When I heard about the law I felt I should defend my hometown, our land, the land of my ancestors", said 68-year-old Sheikha Dabbah at the rally.

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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 allows the existence of Jewish-only communities, and sets Hebrew as the official language, relegating Arabic from an official language to one with "special status".

Im Tirtzu official Tom Nissani, who documented the slogans, said: "Not a demonstration against the Nationality Law is taking place tonight in Tel Aviv, but a demonstration calling to destroy the State of Israel".

"I feel ashamed that after 70 years I have to accentuate my nationalism instead of being generous towards all those who live here", said Gila Zamir, 58, a Jewish Israeli from the Arab-Jewish city Haifa. Some Arab protesters waved Palestinian flags and others held signs reading "equality".

Palestinian citizens take part in a protest against the Jewish Nation-State Law, central Tel Aviv, August 12, 2018.

At Saturday's rally, protesters accused the Israeli government of being an "apartheid regime", shouting in Hebrew and in Arabic, "equality, equality" and "apartheid will not pass", AFP reporters said. Rights groups and Jewish groups in the Diaspora have spoken against the legislation, as have the EU, Egypt and Israel's own president.

The fledgeling state consolidated its control over Palestinian lands on the back of an ethnic cleansing campaign in which hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes.

Their outrage over the law has had more resonance in Israel, despite their small numbers, because of their reputation as loyal supporters of the state.

Last week, some 50,000 Israelis demonstrated in Rabin Square against the bill, in a protest led by the country's Druze minority.

Members of the Druze community also took part in Saturday's rally.

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