‘Jewish State’ law raises fears among Israel’s non-Jews


Abdel Raouf Arnaout

JERUSALEM (AA) – Israel’s recently-passed “Jewish Nation-State” law has raised deep concerns among the country’s non-Jewish minorities.

Some groups, like Israel’s Druze — an Arab minority religious community, members of which serve in the Israeli army — have condemned the law as a new manifestation of “apartheid”.

Approved by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) on July 19, the legislation defines Israel as a “Jewish” state with a “united Jerusalem” as its capital. It also makes Hebrew the country’s only official language.

The new law threatens to further alienate Israel’s Arab minority, members of which say they already face discrimination at the hands of Israeli Jews and the government.

Known as “Israeli Arabs”, Palestinians of Israeli citizenship account for roughly 21 percent of the country’s population and have members serving in the Knesset.

– ‘Stab in the back’

Meanwhile, Israel’s Druze population (roughly 140,000 people) and its Circassian minority (about 4,000 people) — both of which serve in the Israeli army — have described the new law as a “stab in the back”.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mohamed Baraka, head of the High Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, said the new law denies equal citizenship rights to “the more than 1.5 million Arabs who are the country’s original owners”.

He predicted that the law would be reversed “sooner or later” due to “popular, legal and international” pressure against it.

Baraka also noted that many Israeli Jews had also voiced opposition to the law.

Saleh Saad, a Druze member of the Knesset for the Zionist Union party, for his part, told Anadolu Agency that Israel’s Druze minority would continue opposing the law by all legal means at its disposal.

“We want to see the law abolished or amended, especially in regards to equal citizenship rights and the status of the Arabic language, which must be made an official language as it was before,” Saad said.

The law turns non-Jewish Israelis into “second-class citizens”, he added, going on to assert that such a status was “unacceptable” to the Druze community, members of which have served in the Israeli army since the country’s establishment in 1948.

Over the past two weeks, Druze activists have staged a number of demonstrations in Tel Aviv against the law, while a number of Druze soldiers — including some officers — have publicly relinquished their army posts in protest.

– 'Total rejection'

Israel’s Christian community, meanwhile, has also decried the controversial legislation.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Wadie Abunassar, a spokesman for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (the Catholic episcopal see of Jerusalem), voiced the “total rejection” of the law on the part of all Christian churches in Israel.

“From the church's point of view, all citizens are equal; and they should be so regardless of their religion,” Abunassar said. “But the law contradicts this fundamental principle.”

The new law, he added, threatens all of Israel’s Arab minorities — Muslim, Druze and Christian — “as it erodes their rights and puts their futures at risk”.