The Knesset today passed the Nationality law, which identifies Israel as a Jewish nation, establishes Hebrew as its sole official language while giving Arabic special standing, declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state.
Premier Benyamin Netanyahu spoke about the "respect of all citizens", while Ayman Odeh, the leader of Arab parties, said he believes the legislation demonstrates that Israel "doesn't want us here".
Ahmed Tibi is an Israeli Arab Lawmaker and he says it's discriminatory. Reuven Rivlin, the country's ceremonial president who rarely delves into domestic politics, warned against clauses that appear to encourage segregation and downgrade the status of the Arabic language. He argues that the Palestinians' refusal to do so is the biggest obstacle to peace, saying it demonstrates that the Palestinians do not genuinely recognise Israel's right to exist.
"Such racist and prejudicial legislation is illegal by all standards of worldwide law, democracy, humanity, justice, tolerance, and inclusion", Ashrawi said.
It also says the state places "national value" on Jewish settlement.
The law also codifies the parameters of long-used national symbols such as the Israeli flag and the menorah, the use of both the Jewish and Gregorian calendars and Israel's relationship with diaspora Jews.
"While the democratic State of Israel facilitates freedom of religion and affords people of various backgrounds the right to visit and reside there, the reality is that Israel is inherently a Jewish state and affirming that fact does not contravene the liberties that it benevolently bestows to individuals of other faiths", it continued.
Even after the changes, critics said the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Palestinian Arab minority.
Israel, which was boosted by the decision of the United States and some other countries to shift their embassies to Jerusalem, on Thursday (July 19) passed a strong law saying only the Jews have their right of self-determination in the country, sparking a new controversy in the region.
Arab Israelis make up a sizeable minority out of the country's population of nine million people.
It said it "seeks to maintain a regime in which one ethnic-national group controls an indigenous-national group living in the same territory while advancing ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies".
It comprises mainly descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land during the conflict between Arabs and Jews that culminated in the war of 1948 surrounding Israel's creation.
"No racist law will undermine the rights of our people".
They have equal rights under the law but have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens and say they face discrimination and worse provision of services such as education, health and housing. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled.
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