Israel on July 19, 2018 passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country.
The controversial bill defines the country as an exclusively Jewish state. It is being called racist and on the verge of being apartheid by the members of the Arab minority in the nation.
The state law, which was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, was passed by a vote of 62 in favour, 55 against and two abstentions in the 120-member parliament after months of political argument.
Speaking after the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that this is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel.
• The law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel.
• It stipulates that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.
• The bill also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a special status that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.
• The bill states that advancing Jewish settlement is a national interest. It also states that the "whole and united" Jerusalem is its capital.
Beginning of a new apartheid?
The earlier drafts of the law were more discriminatory towards the Arabs in the nation, who have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens.
However, they were dropped following objections by Israel's president and attorney-general.
Despite the changes, critics feel that the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.
Israel’s President Netanyahu defended the law by saying, “we will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides.”
“An absolute majority wants to ensure our state’s Jewish character for generations to come,” he added.
The Arabs in Israel
The Arab population in Israel amounts to around 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the nation’s 9 million population.
They mainly comprise descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their land during the conflict between Arabs and Jews that culminated in the war of 1948 surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel.
Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled.
While those who remained have full equal rights under the law but they face constant discrimination and inferior provision of services such as education, health and housing.
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