Israel passes Jewish-only 'national self-determination' law despite outcry

Israelis wave national flags outside the Old City's Damascus Gate in Jerusalem

Israel's parliament (Knesset) has adopted a controversial bill that declares the occupying entity "the nation-state of the Jewish people", in what is widely criticized as an apartheid measure that could lead to discrimination against its own Arab population.

The bill, which has the status of a basic law (approximately the same as a constitutional law in countries with a written constitution), was passed overnight to Thursday with 62 votes in favor and 55 against after hours of fierce argument and debate.

'Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, which honors the individual rights of all its citizens, ' he said.

Ahead of the vote, opposition members of the Knesset said the law meant to harm the status of Israel's Arabs, with several clauses downgrading the status of the Arabic language from an official language to one with "special status", according to the newspaper.

Israeli Arab MPs condemned the legislation, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised it as a "defining moment".

Demonstrators attend a rally to protest against the Jewish "nation state" bill in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 14, 2018.

Arab members of the Knesset Ahmed Tibi and Ayeda Touma-Souliman yelled at Netanyahu, "You passed an apartheid law, a racist law".

"Such racist and prejudicial legislation is illegal by all standards of global law, democracy, humanity, justice, tolerance, and inclusion", she said. "It denies the Arab citizens their right to self-determination to instead be determined by the Jewish population".

On paper, Israeli Arabs - who are mainly Palestinians - have full rights unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories but they often complain of discrimination in housing, employment, education and services. 'It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens'.

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American Jewish organizations also expressed their disapproval of the law.

"I really hope that we won't find the fine balance between a Jewish and democratic state to be hurt", he said.

"This is a sad and unnecessary day for Israeli democracy", said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, described the law as a bid to advance "ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies".

But the Jewish community itself has been split about the law.

The controversial bill underwent a number of last minute changes to soften language following political disputes and objections, including from Israel's president and attorney-general.

Lawmakers had removed the most contentious clause of the bill on Sunday, which would have allowed the establishment of "separate communities", and whose inclusion critics had called racist.

But, they could have far reaching implications for Israel's non-Jewish minority, weakening the rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and delegitimizing those in Israel who defend them.

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