Israel: MPs approve Jewish Nation-State Law despite protests against ‘apartheid law’

Israel: MPs approve Jewish Nation-State Law despite protests against 'apartheid law'

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli lawmakers have come under sharp criticism after approving a law that defines “the right of national self-determination” as belonging exclusively to the Jewish people, reduces the status of Arabic, encourages illegal settlements and claims Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the passing of The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People by 62-55 votes was a “defining moment in the annals of Zionism”.

However, Arab MPs were among critics who said the bill confirmed their view that Arabs are treated as second-class citizens in the Israeli state, where they make up around 21 per cent of the population.

The new law ends the historic status of Hebrew and Arabic as official languages of the state, with Arabic now demoted to “special status”.

In a dramatic turn, MPs from the left-wing Joint List were ejected from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, after ripping up copies of the bill and calling it an “apartheid law”.

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, later issued a statement describing it as a “law of Jewish supremacy”.

Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, the Legal Centre of Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said: “The Jewish Nation-State Law features key elements of apartheid, which is not only immoral but also absolutely prohibited under international law.

“The new law constitutionally enshrines the identity of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people only – despite the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of the state and residents of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – and guarantees the exclusive ethnic-religious character of Israel as Jewish.

“By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging solely to the Jewish people – wherever they live around the world – Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favouring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of its institutions.”

Among the legislation’s provisions are that “the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”.

Its approval by Israel comes just a week after Ireland’s Seanad gave its backing to the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, which limits Irish trade with illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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