World News

Led by Druze, thousands protest Israel's nation-state law

Led by Druze, thousands protest Israel's nation-state law

Thousands of members of Israel's Druze minority and their Jewish supporters packed a central Tel Aviv square Saturday night to rally against a contentious new law that critics say sidelines Israel's non-Jewish citizens.

Israel's Palestinian and other Arab minority - 20 percent of the population - has also slammed the law, but the Druze community's concerns have garnered more sympathy from the governing coalition.

The Druze sheikhs and former army officers had come to discuss a divisive nationality law pushed through by Mr Netanyahu's government.

Druze protests have increased against the recently passed Nation-State law that enshrines the state's Jewish character and which critics say undermines israel's democratic values. The bill, now part of Israel's Basic Law, also downgrades Arabic from an official language to a language with a special status, encourages settlements in the occupied West Bank, and states that "the right to exercise national self-determination" is "unique" to the Jews.

The Druze feel especially discriminated against by Israel's new law.

The Druze, who follow an offshoot of Shiite Islam, have managed to survive in a turbulent region by showing loyalty to their country of residence - sometimes at the cost of fighting other Druze on the battlefield. They are fiercely loyal to the country in which they live.

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Individual rights, Netanyahu said, are anchored in numerous Jewish state's (existing) laws, but not so Jewish national rights. Israeli law guarantees them full equal rights, but many say they face constant discrimination, citing inferior services and unfair allocations for education, health and housing.

Participants included newly-appointed Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and senior figures from the Druze community. "For the love of the nation, I call all of us to cancel or amend the law that leaves the "other" outside the circle and to remove this ugly stain from the face of our state of Israel". Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to stop the protest by holding talks with Druze leaders but failed.

Lawmaker Avi Dichter, a co-sponsor of the law, was heckled by Druze in attendance at another meeting.

"The prime minister has made a decision to rank the citizens of Israel: Jewish are first-class, Druze are second-class, Arabs and LGBT are fourth-class", Zandberg stated incisively, alluding to the passage of another law recently passed that precludes the gay community from surrogacy parenthood. "From this rally, with joint hands and hearts, we go forward for many more years of joint life in Israel in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence".


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