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In video - Knesset passes controversial 'Nationality Bill' into law

July 19, 2018 12:31 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2018 10:42 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Knesset passed the "Nationality Bill" into law on predawn Thursday, which enshrines the status of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Knesset members went through a heated debate until the controversial bill was approved into law in its second and third readings, with 62 MKs voting in favor, 55 opposing, and two abstaining.

The approval caused outrage among critics and Arab MKs, but received a round of applause from right-wing government members.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his full support of the law. He stated that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that honors equal rights among its citizens, even though the law was labeled as “racist and discriminatory” by many critics from all over the world.

After the vote, Netanyahu said that "This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel." He continued by saying that "122 years after Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, published his vision, we've enshrined into the law the basic principle of our existence."

MKs Benny Begin, of the Likud party, and Orly Levy abstained in the 120 member Knesset after months of political debates, while Arab MKs, who said the law is racist and creates apartheid, shouted in the plenum and ripped up papers after the vote, which prompted Knesset Speaker, Yuli Edelstein, to have the Arab MKs removed.

The law was enacted just after the largely symbolic 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel. The law confirms that the State of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, who are the only ones in the nation to have an exclusive right to self-determination.

The number of Israeli Arabs makes up about 1.8 million citizens, which is approximately 20% of the total population of nine million.

The approved law strips the Arabic language of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew language, receiving a “special status” as Israel's second official language, but the law would not require making state services accessible in Arabic.

Original drafts of the law took it further, which many critics saw as discrimination towards Israeli Arabs.

The original drafts would have enshrined into law the establishment of Jewish-only communities, and instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no relevant legal precedents available.

Instead of the original, several “changes” were made and a more vague version of the law was approved, which states that "the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment."

Regarding the changes made, critics still insisted that the law will deepen a sense of apartheid within the Arab community, which has become a minority over the years.

Following the vote, MK Avi Dichter of the Likud party, who initiated the bill, attempted to justify his reasons for passing it into law by saying, "You (Arabs) were not here before us and you will not be here after us."

Dichter continued "The most you can do is to live among us as a national minority that enjoys equal individual rights, but not equality as a national minority."

Israeli Arabs, who remained in Israel after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, received full equal rights under the law but already face constant discrimination on a daily basis. The approved law will probably only increase the racism and discrimination across Israel, causing a modern-day apartheid to take place.

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah, called the "Nationality Bill" a bid to progress "ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies."

The video below shows Arab MKs opposing the approved law by shouting and ripping up the papers after the final vote was taken:

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