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Israeli parliament to hold vote on controversial 'Jewish State bill' next month

Aug. 26, 2017 3:47 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2017 12:57 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is expected to advance the so-called “Jewish State bill” -- also referred to as the “Nationality” or “Nation State bill" -- next month according to Israeli media, amid ongoing controversies over the bill’s discrimination of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Friday that a committee established to promote the bill would be given two consecutive sessions next month, despite the Knesset being in recess during that time.

The bill declares that Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people,” and that “the right to realize self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

It would also revoke Arabic’s status as an official state language, despite 20 percent of Israeli citizens being Palestinians, and downgrading it to “special status in the state.”

According to Haaretz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had wanted to put the bill up for a vote at the Knesset last month. However, its details have remained controversial and further discussions would necessitate “compromises” on the bill’s scope.

In May, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted unanimously to move the bill to a preliminary vote in the Knesset. According to Haaretz, since then the Israeli government has been unable to “formulate an agreed-upon version” of the bill.

Other sections of the bill reportedly addressed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, illegal Jewish settlements, the status of holy sites, and non-Israeli Jews’ right to obtain Israeli nationality.

Proponents of the bill aim to have it incorporated into Israel’s Basic Law -- the body of legislation which effectively stands as Israel’s constitution. Bills need to go through three rounds of votes in the Knesset before they can become law.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List, a coalition of political parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, denounced the bill on social media in May as “crushing the rights of minorities.”

“This Nationality bill is the tyranny of the majority, turning us into second-class citizens, and this time making it legal,” Odeh said.

Israel and its supporters have long claimed that Israel’s insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state was not different from other countries’ national identities.

However, Palestinians and activists have instead pointed out that passing legislation that privileges Jewish citizens over others was inherently discriminatory.

In addition, Israel’s status as a Jewish state and its longstanding occupation of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, has caused critics to challenge Israel’s claims of being a full democracy, while activists have pointed out that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Israel, Jerusalem, and the occupied territory amounts to “apartheid.”

Rights organization Adalah has tallied at least 76 Israeli laws that already discriminate between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, not to mention the various rights that are denied to Palestinians in the occupied territory, who are ruled under Israel’s military law.

Palestinian communities in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem have long been targeted by discriminatory Israeli policies, whether through “divide and conquer” tactics, attempts at forcibly displacing Bedouin communities, zoning policies at the expense of Palestinian-Israeli communities, and what has been denounced as a policy of "Judaization" of Jerusalem at the expense of other religious communities.
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