TEL AVIV REUTERS Aug 11
Thousands of protesters rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday against Israel’s new law declaring it the nation-state of the Jewish people, legislation that has angered the country’s Arab minority and drawn criticism abroad.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the law, which says only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country and downgrades Arabic from an official language, saying it is necessary in order to fend off Palestinian challenges to Jewish self-determination.
The protesters, mostly Israeli Arabs, waved Palestinian flags and held up signs that read ‘equality’ in Arabic and Hebrew.
“The law legitimizes racism,” said Laila al-Sana, 19, from a Bedouin village in Israel’s southern Negev desert. “It’s very important to show we are here, to resist,” she said.
Israel’s Arab population comprises mainly descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their land after the 1948 war at the time of the creation of the modern state of Israel. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled.
Many of Israel’s Arab citizens also identify as Palestinian. They make up about a fifth of the state’s 9 million people. Israeli law grants them full equal rights, but many say they face discrimination and are treated as second-class citizens.
“When I heard about the law I felt I should defend my hometown, our land, the land of my ancestors,” said 68-year-old Sheikha Dabbah at the rally.