Thousands of Jews and Arabs against the Nation-State Law, calling for a democratic Israel
At the rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, where Palestinian and Israeli flags were waved, those present felt hope. For the director of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, “Israelis, Arabs, Jews and Palestinians” can work for “the same purpose and stand together”. Likewise, “The Jews and Arabs who participated [in the rally] saw the notion of state reflected in the event, a state that is inclusive of all its citizens,” said Bernard Sabella.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people rallied in Tel Aviv last Saturday to protest against the Nation-State law, which was approved on 19 July. Jews and Arabs stood side by side to demand its repeal, calling for a just and democratic state.
Organised by Israeli Arabs, the protest began at 8 pm. Demonstrators marched from Rabin Square to the plaza next to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Although organisers had asked people not to, some brought and waved Palestinian and Israeli flags.
Members of various Israeli civil society groups and NGOs took part in the event. Ran Goldstein, director of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, was one of them.
“The main purpose, the 'big statement' of this law is if you're not Jewish you won't have equal rights in Israel,” Goldstein said.
“This very statement goes against all the values that human rights organisations believe in. The meaning of his law is very dangerous,” and “Not only because it doesn't state that there will be equal rights for everyone”.
For Goldstein, “the meaning of this law is that the future can be a disaster for all Palestinians because no one can know what will happen next.”
“For us, for society it is very important to show that there are alternative ways to live in Israel, that there is a way to live with equal rights, to speak Hebrew and Arabic, with the same voice to support the same values of freedom of speech.”
“One of the successful aspects of the protest was a real demonstration of Jews and Arabs close together, fighting for the same purpose to have a democratic and equal society.”
“It's a personal feeling, but I felt it was a show of hope. It was very unique to have this demonstration in Tel Aviv because it was organised by the Arab leadership. They chose to do it in Tel Aviv and a lot of Israeli Jews supported it.”
“It was very unique: Israelis, Arabs, Jews and Palestinians coming together – with all the differences in our identities, because my identity is not the same, my background is not the same as that of an Arab who participated – so that we can understand and work for the same purpose and stand together.”
“It gave a lot of hope and energy and I hope it will bring cooperation, demonstrations. Those who support the ‘narrow view’ of separation will lose one day. The real solution for the people in Israel is to live together.”
Lastly, for Goldstein, “We fight for values. [. . .] When we fight for the rights of asylum seekers, gay people, minorities, in the end, we give hope to the people”.
For Bernard Sabella, a Christian member of Fatah, Jews and Arabs present at the event answered a question that touches the whole region: "What kind of state do we want? Can an Israeli state that is strictly for Jews ensure democracy and equality? Can it treat all its citizens as a state should?”
"I think the problem of the whole Middle East – not just Israel – has always been 'what kind of state do we want?'” With this law, “Israel becomes an example that goes against a notion of citizenship that includes all the people living in the country."
"The Jews and Arabs who participated [in the rally] saw the notion of state reflected in the event, a state that is inclusive of all its citizens. This does not necessarily negate the democratic and Jewish values of the state.”
"If Israel wants to be Jewish and democratic than it has to deal with its citizens on an equal basis. And it will clearly remain Jewish because the majority is Jewish. But to say that the only group that is entitled to self-determination is the Jewish people, then you're saying that others don’t have that right.”