Israel Passes Controversial Nation State Bill

Hannah Rogers
July 21, 2018

The Hamas official further said "regional and worldwide silence on the occupation's crimes" has emboldened the regime in Tel Aviv to pass one "extremist" law after another. "The Jewish Nation-State bill officially legalizes apartheid and legally defines Israel as an apartheid system", he said in a tweet.

"It is a decisive moment in the history of the state of Israel that inscribes in stone our language, our anthem and our flag", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the vote on the bill, backed by his right-wing government.

Reacting to the law at a news briefing on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the EU's foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said, "We are concerned, we have expressed this concern and we will continue to engage with Israeli authorities in this context".

"Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens".

The question of Israel's status as a Jewish state is politically controversial and has always been debated.

Why is the law controversial?

Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel.

Last week, Netanyahu defended the law, saying: "We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel's democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides".

Many Jews in Israel and overseas also criticized the law.

"No racist law will undermine the rights of our people".

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Israel is one of the only Western-style democracies in the world that does not have a constitution anchoring the rights of its citizens. The nation state law is the 14th such basic law. These laws, passed with an absolute majority of the 120 members of Knesset, are hard to change or overturn. Reuven Rivlin, the country's ceremonial president who rarely delves into domestic politics, warned against clauses that appear to encourage segregation and downgrade the status of the Arabic language.

"This is not a decision I expected from the Likud leadership."

"All the bills Israel is trying to forcibly enforce are null and will not give any legitimacy to the Israeli occupation", the AL said in a statement.

The law also codifies the parameters of long-used national symbols such as the Israeli flag and the menorah, the use of both the Jewish and Gregorian calendars and Israel's relationship with diaspora Jews.

An earlier version of the bill would have allowed for segregated Jewish-only communities, but that clause sparked criticism from multiple directions.

However, it will likely face a challenge at the Supreme Court.

In an attempt to delay the bill's final passage, opposition parties introduced a number of amendments - all of which were struck down - to extend debate about the nation-state bill.

Mr Netanyahu said the bill was about defending the Jewish character of the state, which was established in 1948 as a homeland for the Jewish people, "for generations to come".

An amendment to add the language "The State of Israel is Jewish and Democratic" was also voted down by the coalition.

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