Israel’s national parliament, the Knesset, recently passed a new controversial law on Thursday, July 19, that would characterize the Middle Eastern country as a “Jewish Nation,” where ethno-religious Jews are the only people in the country who have the right to self-determination. The new law, which was passed by a vote of 62 in favor, 55 against, and 2 abstentions, also removes the Arabic language as a co-official language alongside Hebrew and declares it as a minority language of special status. Several ethnic Arab members of parliament protested the new law inside and outside the parliamentary chamber due to the bill’s racially insensitive language and purpose since more than 20% of the country is composed of ethnic Arabs and other non-Jewish ethnic as well as religious minorities. Early drafts and amendments of the legislation were scrapped, including the legal establishment of Jewish-only communities and instructing legal secular courts to rule according to religious Jewish ritual law.
While this legislation is mostly symbolic in the wake of the country’s 70th anniversary as an independent state since 1948, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, which is composed of mainly religious conservatives and secular ultranationalist Zionists, has been pushing an agenda that would appear to benefit the country’s Jewish majority population instead of all residents regardless of their own race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion.
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