Druze protest nation-state law in seventh petition to High Court
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Druze protest nation-state law in seventh petition to High Court

Appellants say legislation creates ‘race-based discrimination,’ warn it will cause a growing rift in society, ‘give voice to extremism, nationalism, sectarianism’

Activists and supporters of the Druze community in Israel protest against the national-state law recently passed by the Knesset for its ostensible discrimination against the community, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on August 4, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Activists and supporters of the Druze community in Israel protest against the national-state law recently passed by the Knesset for its ostensible discrimination against the community, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on August 4, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A seventh petition was filed Sunday at the High Court of Justice against Israel’s new quasi-constitutional nation-state law, as legal challenges mounted against the contested government legislation.

A group of 24 Druze citizens led by Daliyat al-Karmel Mayor Rafik Halabi appealed to the court to abolish the controversial legislation, saying it “creates race-based discrimination, excluding 20 percent of the nation’s citizenry and creating castes among Israeli citizens,” the Haaretz daily reported.

“The appellants, like most Druze, feel the nation-state law has betrayed them.”

Petitioners argued that the law contravenes the basis of Israel’s legal system as well as its Declaration of Independence by enshrining inequality among its citizens.

Daliyat al-Karmel Mayor Rafik Halabi (YouTue screenshot)

They warned that it would cause “a growing rift between Jews and non-Jews and give voice to extremism, nationalism, sectarianism and cause irreversible social and civic damages.”

The nation-state law passed by the Knesset in July enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also defines Arabic as a language with a “special” status, effectively downgrading it from its de facto status as Israel’s second official language, though it cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.” Read the full text of the law here.

Its passage into the law books has elicited a hail of criticism by Israelis, Jewish leaders and the international community.

A general view shows Rabin Square as Israeli Arabs and their supporters protest against the nation-state Law’ in Tel Aviv on August 11, 2018. (AFP/ Ahmad GHARABLI)

Multiple petitions against the law have already been filed with the court by Druze, Arab and Bedouin leaders, rights groups, academics, and the Meretz and Joint List political parties. Several more petitions are currently being drafted, Haaretz reported.

The Netanyahu government says the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are already anchored in existing quasi-constitutional legislation.

But critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines Israel’s commitment to equality for all its citizens. It has prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze minority, whose members — many of which serve in the Israeli army — say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens.

Earlier this month, 30,000 Israeli Arabs and Jews demonstrated against the legislation in Tel Aviv. An earlier, similar rally of the Druze community drew around 50,000 people.

Netanyahu has said a government team will review ways to strengthen the state’s ties to minorities, but has stressed he opposes altering the controversial legislation.

The nation-state legislation was passed as a so-called Basic Law, which, similar to a constitution, underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.

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