07/20/2018, 18.33
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'Dark shadow ' or 'divine right’: Israelis divided over the nation-state bill

Human rights activists attack bill for undermining democracy and discriminating against minorities. For rabbi, the bill is the right response to the criminalisation of Zionism.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The new nation-state bill is either the right answer to those who criticise Zionism or a “dark shadow” cast on Israel.

The bill became a Basic Law with the smallest of margins – 62 to 55 – following an eight-hour parliamentary debate.

What is certain is that it has split the country between those who praise the new legislation and those who see it as the end of Israeli democracy. AsiaNews gathered some Israeli-Jewish opinions about it.

“The passage of the nation-state law has cast a dark shadow over Israel,” said Hagit Ofran, an activist with Peace Now. “In one swoop, the bill officially replaced our country's liberal democracy with an ethnic one, codifying the primacy and exclusive nation self-determination of Jews over the 20% Palestinian-Arab minority.

For Ofran, “This nation-state law is not about ensuring Jewish rights; it is about dominance over a marginalised minority. As Jews and as Israelis we are committed to continue to fight against this government's authoritarian, ethnocratic agenda for the sake of Israel's soul as an equal and cohesive society.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) agrees. “The law weakens Israeli democracy by sanctioning discrimination against minorities, most notably the Arab citizens of Israel, but including others, whose language, collective memory, and cultural identity have been relegated to second-class status,” said ACRI spokesman Gilad Grossman.

“The bill,” he added, “is essentially the opening part of a future constitution”. But it “does not address the issues of democracy and human rights, and blatantly undermines the balance between the State's Jewish and democratic definitions.”

Conversely, Henri Noach, rabbi and tour guide, is in favour of the bill. "The Jewish Nation- State Law reaffirms the fundamental principles of Zionism. Paramount among them: the land of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. “

“[I]f one asks, what need does this law satisfy, and why now? My response: the constant and on-going vilification of Zionism on the world stage - the denial of the Jewish people's rightful claim to national self-determination in its Divinely Promised land - has understandably and justifiably met its proper response, enshrined in Law: We have come home!”

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