The demonstration in Tel Aviv Motzoei Shabbos against the Nationality Law, in which Palestinian flags were flown in the center of Israel’s biggest city, was nothing less than a declaration of war against the Jewish State, according to MKs and ministers on the right. “I had no doubt that Palestinian flags would be part of this demonstration,” said Culture Minister Miri Regev. “The left and the Arabs prefer the colors red, black and green of the Palestinian flag instead of the blue and white of the Israeli flag. The difference between a ‘state of all its citizens’ and a national homeland for the Jewish people was starkly on display here.”
Police estimated that tens of thousands participated in the demonstration Motzoei Shabbos, organized and mostly attended by leftist groups. The Palestinian flags were flown by members of Arab political party Balad. One person – a member of the Arab Higher Committee, a political group that helped organize the demonstration – was arrested.
If any proof was needed of the need for the Nationality Law, it was on display in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Motzoei Shabbos, said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The fact that Palestinian flags were flown prompted Netanyahu to say that “there is no greater evidence for the need for this law than this demonstration. We will continue to raise the flag of Israeli proudly.”
Transport Minister Yisrael Katz also voiced his disapproval. Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi and Ayman Odeh “are demonstrating against Israel as a national home for the Jewish people, but on behalf of the national home for the Palestinian Arabs. It is not the text of the law that bothers them, but the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. They will continue to protest, while we will continue to build and strengthen the State of Israel.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said that the event “shows that Arab MKs are not fighting the Nationality Law, but against the existence of the State of Israel. The Arab leadership is again dragging Israeli Arabs into a demonstration of incitement.”
Many MKs from Zionist Camp who were invited chose not to attend the demonstration. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a member of Labor, said that the organizers of the demonstration “had made a terrible mistake by allowing the flying of the Palestinian flag. They are a performing a service for those who would do away with the equalities promised in the Declaration of Independence, which states that there needs to be equality for everyone, without regard for race or gender, while declaring that the state is a Jewish state.”
Members of far-left party Meretz did attend the demonstration. In response to the comments by Netanyahu, Meretz head Tamar Zandberg said that the prime minister’s response was “boring and expected. We have heard this innumerable times, but the incitement no longer works. The prime minister who was elected by scaring everyone that the ‘Arabs are running to the polls’ is shocked and confused at the cooperation between Arabs and Jews against the racist law that erases equality.”
United Arab List head MK Ayman Odeh said in an interview Sunday that he was proud of his participation in the demonstration, and had no regrets about flying the Palestinian flag. “I am a Palestinian Arab, and I am also a citizen of the State of Israel. Some call me an Israeli Arab, which is a ‘processed mishmash’ as far as I am concerned. Please take me as I identify myself – 100 percent Arab, and as a fighter for 100 percent of my rights. I am not against anyone, but in favor of equal citizenship that respects both the Jews and the Arabs as a group.”
Among the tenets of the law are that Israel is the “national home” of the Jewish people; that Israel is obligated to preserve Jewish culture and tradition; that the Jewish calendar be used whenever possible to conduct state business; that Jewish law be the “source of inspiration” for legislation by the Knesset and decisions by the courts; that Jews be given the opportunity to immigrate to Israel and receive citizenship; that Hebrew be recognized as the primary official language of the country; and that the state encourage Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.