Israel’s Nation-State Law Explained | NowThis World

[Host]: Israel’s parliament passed a bill that officially declared the country a Jewish state The July 2018 legislation defines things like Israel’s national holidays, symbols, and the state’s connection to Jewish heritage

Supporters of the bill say at worst, it’s a symbolic nod toward Jewish unity that won’t actually impact the lives of citizens day-to-day, and, at best, a 'defining moment' for Zionism Critics, including many international Jewish groups, say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing majority coalition are bolstering 'tribalism' or, even more severely, 'apartheid' Even celebrities are speaking up about it [Portman]: It’s racist, and there's nothing else to say about that [Host]: But what does this mean for the near quarter of Israel’s population that isn’t Jewish? Well, the controversial ‘Nation-State’ bill declared Jewish settlement a 'national value' and made the right to national self-determination in Israel 'unique to the Jewish people

' Key contentious clauses were removed late in the game, including one that would ‘authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community’ Basically, legal segregation based on religion or ethnicity We sat down with Aida Touma-Sliman, an Arab Israeli member of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, for her take [Touma-Sliman]: We had to understand from the beginning that this law is ignoring 20% of the citizens of Israel, which are us, the Palestinian citizens of Israel We are not mentioned in any way in the law

[Host]: She’s been outspoken in her opposition to the Nation-State law, which passed 62 to 55 votes The feminist activist is one of fewer than 20 Arab members and 35 women of the 120 lawmakers in the Israeli Knesset Despite the ones that were removed, plenty of controversial sections also stayed put For example, the bill revokes the 70-year status Arabic had as an 'official' state language, downgrading it to a 'special status' and making Hebrew the state’s only official language Even though the law didn’t specify any immediate action around this, Touma-Sliman says there are greater symbolic and cultural implications

[Touma-Sliman]: Arabic language is part of the public scene in Israel, it’s part of the homeland And it is the spoken language of the indigenous people who used to exist forever in the homeland there So denying that is part of denying the narrative and the story and the history The law also states that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel That’s really nothing new from Israeli officials, who have claimed the city as its ‘undivided’ capital since 1967, after occupying the Eastern part of the city during the Six-Day War

But the land is disputed Palestine also claims Jerusalem as its capital, with Palestinians living in the Eastern part of the city comprising roughly 38% of its population Basically, this clause reinforces a foreign policy trend in 2018 that’s seen increasing international support of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, like President Trump moving the US embassy there, and several other countries reportedly considering following suit

Still, most of the world has not recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and critics say the clause is a slap in the face to the huge population of Palestinians living and worshipping there Another disputed section of the law? The one that defines Jewish settlement as a 'national value' The process of settlement, commonly understood as Israeli communities set up in Palestinian territories, has been repeatedly defined as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this They've been rapidly expanding for years, and threaten the possibility of a two state solution According to Peace Now, an Israeli NGO that tracks settlement activity, there are upwards of 413,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank

Construction of new settlements reportedly more than doubled over the second quarter of 2018 A lawyer who has represented the government regarding the illegal outposts has reportedly already said that he plans to use the new law as justification to legalize unauthorized Israeli outposts in Palestinian territory, which are currently illegal even under Israeli law It’s important to mention that this bill has been in the works for years, in varying forms and levels of harshness It’s now one of 14 Basic Laws which Israel has enacted over time in place of a constitution In 2011, Avi Dichter, now a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, introduced a version of the legislation, and it was bounced around the Knesset for almost 7 years

After the law passed, even the Trump administration reportedly expressed concerns over what it meant for the treatment of minority populations But it wasn’t just the international community that responded negatively Some Knesset members protested by physically tearing up copies of the bill In the months that followed, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest, including Jewish Israelis and many Israelis who are ethnically Arab, like the minority Druze community [Moraja]: We are here to send a clear message to the Israeli government: we will not settle down for nothing less than equal rights as Israeli citizens

[Touma-Sliman]: I’ve been active for more than 35 years, and I’ve never seen a situation where, especially in the last few years, that Jews and Arabs come together to protest and oppose something in a passionate way [Host]: Touma-Sliman and other MKs have promised to fight the law at a parliamentary level, as well as continue appeal to international bodies like the EU and UN for oversight [Touma-Sliman]: We are asking the United Nations also to recognize us as a minority in danger, and to recognize that if they do not move quickly in order to establish the two-state solution, we will end up with a one-state solution [Host]: And all of this is happening at a very precarious time for the Prime Minister, who hasn’t backed down on the law despite the protests Netanyahu is facing indictment on charges including bribery and fraud, following three corruption investigations

He has made every attempt over the past year to hold on to his right-wing governing coalition’s shaky majority, but it’s unclear whether he’ll hold onto it, or his agenda, in the upcoming elections Israel has consistently touted itself, 'the only democracy in the Middle East' Now it looks like one of many with an increasingly authoritarian leader, threatening the legal status of its minority citizens There’s been a lot of debate over the symbolism versus real world consequences of this law So, what do you think? What kind of a concrete impact could it have on the population of Israel that’s not Jewish? Let me know below

And thanks, as always, for tuning in to NowThis World

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