Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, approved the controversial nationality bill on July 19 declaring Israel a nation-state for the Jewish people and downgrading the status of Arabic from official language to “special status”, TeleSUR English reported. Arabs make up 21% of Israel’s population.
The basic law, approved with 62 votes in favour and 55 against, recognises the Jewish people in Israel “have an exclusive right to national self-determination”. It also includes the declaration of a “united Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel, despite the fact that East Jerusalem is internationally recognised as being under Israeli occupation.
Furthermore, the law affirms “the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”.
Legislator Avi Dichter of the ruling Likud party, who also sponsored the bill, explained: “We are enshrining this important bill into a law today to prevent even the slightest thought, let alone attempt, to transform Israel to a country of all its citizens.”
Arab lawmakers protested the bill’s approval said it codified apartheid, ripping it up in a symbolic gesture that prompted Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to remove them from the plenum.
Legislators Ahmad Tibi and Ayeda Touma-Souliman yelled at Netanyahu: “You passed an apartheid law, a racist law.”
Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, released a statement saying that Israel “passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens”.
Jewish Israeli peace activists also protested the bill by unfurling a large black flag in the Knesset.
Global Jewish groups endorse BDS
An unprecedented joint statement has been issued by dozens of Jewish groups in several countries offering their support to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, TeleSUR English said on July 18.
“As social justice organisations from around the world, we write this letter with growing alarm regarding the targeting of organizations that support Palestinian rights in general and the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in particular,” the letter began.
“These attacks too often take the form of cynical and false accusations of anti-Semitism that dangerously conflate anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid.”
The Jewish-based solidarity campaign was initiated by the Jewish Voice for Peace, a US-based group, along with 36 Jewish groups in 15 different countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Germany, according to The New Arab.
Activists and supporters of the BDS movement have taken inspiration from the boycott and sanctions campaign undertaken in the 1980s that helped end apartheid in South Africa.