'Dropping Pretense of Democracy,' Israel Advances Bill for Jewish Nation-State

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'Dropping Pretense of Democracy,' Israel Advances Bill for Jewish Nation-State

Critics warn legislation advanced by Cabinet further institutionalizes discrimination against Palestinian Israelis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is backing the bill to designate Israel "the national homeland of the Jewish People." (Photo: Cherie Cullen/cc)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is backing the bill to designate Israel "the national homeland of the Jewish People."  (Photo: Cherie Cullen/cc)

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday passed a controversial bill which declares Israel a Jewish nation-state, institutionalizes Jewish religious law, and eradicates Arabic as a second official language.

Critics warn that the measure, which still requires approval by parliament, would further codify religious and ethnic discrimination against Palestinians and other non-Jews while institutionalizing a theocratic shift to the right.

"The cabinet's vote is another clear indication that Israel is dropping any pretense of it being a democracy," Josh Ruebner of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told Common Dreams. "Israel more than ever self-identifies as an apartheid state which exists for the privilege and benefit of one set of people and discriminates against another."

The bill, which is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would amend Israel's Basic Law to designate Israel "the national homeland of the Jewish People."

"The right to self-determination in the state, according to the bill, is limited to Jews," writes Aeyal Gross for Haaretz. "Others only have 'personal rights according to any law.' Most of the principles in the bill, relating to heritage, symbols, holidays, and the role Hebrew law plays in legislation, equate the state with only one group."

According to Ruebner, the bill would further subject the approximately 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian to deeper levels of oppression and mistreatment by adding to the more than 50 discriminatory laws on Israel's books.

"This bill is, in many respects, a logical outcome of Israel's turning inward, becoming more of a fascist culture and society, and developing a politics that's growing increasingly intolerant of any Palestinian presence in all of historic Palestine, not just Israel's armistice borders," said Ruebner.

Michael Marder argues in Al Jazeera that much of the bill, if passed, "will only confirm the ongoing discrimination that [Palestinian Israelis] have been subjected to well before the drafting of the new law."

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