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Israeli parliament set to pass 'racist' Nation State bill

Critics say the bill marginalises the country's Palestinian citizens and threatens Israeli democracy. [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 July, 2018

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Israel's parliament is set to vote on a controversial piece of legislation that would define the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Israel's parliament is set to vote on a controversial piece of legislation that would define the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

A parliamentary committee has approved a final draft of the Nation State bill, paving the way for the Knesset, Israel's parliament, to vote on its passage into law Wednesday.

Israel's government says the bill, which would have constitution-like standing, enshrines the country's Jewish character into law, but critics say it marginalises the country's Palestinian citizens, which constitute around 20 percent of the population, and threatens Israeli democracy.

One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to "special" standing.

Lawmakers removed a clause allowing the establishment of "separate communities" that was criticized as racist, replacing it with a clause encouraging "Jewish settlement."

The new legislation has bitterly divided Israeli lawmakers, with opponents arguing that it would effectively institutionalises "apartheid" rule.

"The nation state law was taken out of storage and apartheid pops out of the box," Tamar Zandberg from the left-wing Meretz party told The Independent.

PLO Executive Committee member Dr Hanan Ashrawi said last month that the bill was a "violation of human rights" which seemingly condoned "ethnic cleansing."

"Undoubtedly, Israel is working to achieve ethnic purity and prolong the occupation and its ongoing system of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, ridding itself of any responsibility toward the Palestinians and eradicating the right of return for Palestinian refugees," the senior Palestinian official told Ma'an News Agency.

The European Union's ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, said the bill "reeks of racism" and is "distancing Israel from the accepted norms of democratic countries."

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