Thousand of protesters rallied in Tel Aviv on Motzoei Shabbos against the recently passed Nationality Law, which they say discriminates against Israel’s Arab community.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has defended the law, which says only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country and downgrades Arabic from an official language, saying it is necessary in order to fend off Palestinian challenges to Jewish self-determination.
The protesters, mostly Israeli Arabs, waved Palestinian flags and held up signs that read “equality” in Arabic and Hebrew.
Several of the protesters carried Palestinian flags, defying a request by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, which organized the demonstration, not to wave the flags at the event.
Many of Israel’s Arab citizens also identify as Palestinian. They make up about a fifth of the state’s 9 million people. Although Israeli law grants them full equal rights, many say they face discrimination and are treated as second-class citizens. The Arabs share the ethnicity and culture of the Palestinians in Yehudah and Shomron and often identify with Palestinian nationalism, rather than Israeli.
Largely declarative, the law stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.” It also downgrades Arabic from an official language alongside Hebrew to a “special status.”
Netanyahu posted on his social media page a video from the demonstration of a few protesters waving the Palestinian flag and chanting: “With spirit, with blood we shall redeem you, Palestine,” and wrote: “There is no better evidence of the nation-law’s necessity.”
Defenders of the law say civil equality is guaranteed in existing legislation.
Last week, a protest against the law by Israel’s Druze community, which numbers about 120,000 citizens, drew a far larger crowd.
The Druze are ethnic Arab members of a religious minority that is an offshoot of Islam incorporating elements of other faiths.
Their outrage over the law has had more resonance in Israel, despite their small numbers, because of their reputation as loyal supporters of Israel. Unlike the wider Arab population, several thousand Druze serve in the IDF, and some have risen high in the ranks.