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Druze army vets campaign against Israel’s Jewish state law

09 August 2018

On Tuesday, Arab-Israeli leaders filed a petition with the country's Supreme Court against the nation-state law.

"For the Druze public, which gives of its blood and its sons for the State of Israel, the nation-state law is spitting in our face", the petitioners said.

Arab citizens account for some 21 percent of Israel's more than 8.8 million population; they have equal voting rights, freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly, but many have long complained of discrimination.

Filed by legal rights group Adalah, the petition said the law passed by the Knesset last month is "racist, massively harmful to fundamental human rights and contravenes worldwide human rights norms, especially those forbidding laws that constitute a racist constitution", according to a statement.

The law includes legally preserving Israel's "democratic" character, its state symbols (national anthem, flag, icon), Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Hebrew as the official language and the right of return for Diaspora Jewry.

Since the law was passed in July, at least three petitions have been submitted to the Israeli High Court, demanding that the justices overturn the law for its discriminatory nature. "Individual rights are anchored in many laws", Netanyahu said Sunday.

Arabs have strongly criticised the legislation, particularly those from Israel's 130,000-strong Druze community, who say it makes them second-class citizens even though, unlike other Arabs, they are subject to compulsory service in the military or police alongside Jewish Israelis. "[The law also] demotes Arabic from its previous status as an official language and declares that Arabic will not be an official language in this land for the first time in modern history".

Adalah lawyers also argued that the Jewish nation-state law negates the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination in violation of the United Nations charter, and that the law's application to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights also stands in violation of worldwide law, which specifies that these areas are occupied by Israel.

Tens of thousands of Druze Israelis, along with Jewish supporters, thronged a Tel Aviv square on Saturday night in a rare demonstration against government policy by the typically muted community.

It called on the Israeli Supreme Court to annul the law, arguing that it also violates the United Nations charter by denying the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Some of the criticism [of the law] is justified; a law that manages to unite virtually the entire Druze community against it, despite this community's longstanding support for Israel as a Jewish state in principle, clearly wasn't drafted with sufficient care, as even the heads of two parties that backed the law-Jewish Home's Naftali Bennett and Kulanu's Moshe Kaḥlon-now admit.

The wave of criticism piles pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already beset by corruption allegations.

Druze army vets campaign against Israel’s Jewish state law