Israeli parliament passes contentious Jewish nation bill

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Israel's parliament on Thursday (Jul 19) adopted a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it will lead to blatant discrimination against Arab citizens.

Following a stormy debate in the parliament (Knesset), Israeli lawmakers approved the so-called "nation-state" bill with 62 votes in favor, 55 against and two abstentions in the early hours of Thursday. In a clause that set Arab lawmakers off, the bill explicitly states that "the right to exercises national determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people". One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to "special" standing. "We have enshrined the fact that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people", Netanyahu said in a statement.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, also said the law breaches worldwide regulations. "We were here before you and we will be here after you", he said, according to YNet.

"This law guarantees the ethnic-religious character of Israel as exclusively Jewish and entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality", the group said in a statement.

According to Adalah, there are now over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens in Israel and Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging.

The Jewish Nation-State Bill, passed just after the state marked the 70th anniversary of its birth, was hailed as a "defining moment in the annals of Zionism" by Netanyahu.

Israel is one of the only Western-style democracies in the world that does not have a constitution anchoring the rights of its citizens. "Long live the state of Israel".

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The newly-adopted measure is categorized as among Israel's so-called "Basic Laws", which underpin the regime's legal system and are more hard to repeal than regular laws under its constitution. It will make the Israeli flag the official flag - this time, as part of a clear Basic Law that can't be changed without a clear majority.

Giving the right of self-determination only to Jews is "the product of an outdated and discriminatory mentality" and the law "eliminates the vision of a two-state solution", the ministry warned. This law simply corrects a long overdue injustice and enshrines this very basic and fundamental principle. A section that would have affirmed the right of all Jews to move to Israel was watered down to reaffirm the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, especially the more liberal Jewish community in the United States that has been increasingly critical of Netanyahu's conservative government.

Critics called it an "evil law" which turned Arabs and other minorities into second class citizens.

In Maalot-Tarshiha, a municipality in northern Israel which was created by linking the Jewish town of Maalot and the Arab town of Tarshiha, there was anger among Arab residents.

Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, termed it "the law of Jewish supremacism that excludes more than twenty percent of the citizens".

Opposition parties even mocked this possibility by suggesting an amendment that would add the language "The objective of this Basic Law is to please the electorate on the right before elections" to the bill.

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