Following the mass protest by the Druze community last week, tens of thousands of Israeli-Arabs, alongside democratic-minded Jewish Israelis, marched together in protest against the Nation-State law passed by the country’s parliament on July 19.
This law, which amounts to an official endorsement of apartheid, confers “national value” on the illegal settlements in occupied Palestine, and effectively turns 1.8 million descendents of the original Arab inhabitants of the land into second-class citizens, by declaring that Israel is a nation-state of Jewish people who have an “exclusive right to self determination”.
Palestinian citizens of Israel from different parts of the country, including Galilee, the Triangle region and the Naqab desert, arrived in Tel Aviv. The protest saw the largest ever assembly of Arabs in the city centre.
After evening prayers by dozens of Muslims, tens of thousands of Arabs, along with Jewish citizens opposing the law, marched from Rabin square to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, chanting “Abolish Nation-state Law – Yes to Equality” and holding placards which read “Nation-state law is apartheid”.
The protest was called for by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which has petitioned the HIgh Court of Justice to overturn the law. Referring to the law as the “apartheid foundation law” while addressing the crowd in central Tel Aviv, chairperson of the Committee Mohammed Baraka said, “Today, there is no constitution in the world that has a clause that makes the state and its purpose the property of one ethnic group, determining that it is exclusively the state of a specific ethnic group There is not one constitution in the world that does not include in its clauses the right to equality for all of its citizens and residents,” adding further, “We are here together – Arabs and Jews. To say it’s unacceptable – neither apartheid nor genocide.”
“This damned law succeeded in uniting the Arab public and restoring the spirit of the public struggle of Arab citizens together with Jewish democratic forces,” said Yousef Jabareen, an academician and member of Joint List, which is a coalition of Arab-dominated political parties in Israel. Chairman of Joint list, Ayman Odeh added, “Tens of thousands of Arabs and Jews are moving in large quantities on buses to Tel Aviv, because today we insist on delivering a clear message – a democratic state must be for all citizens.”
Also participating in the demonstration were members of left-wing party Meretz, apart from numerous Israeli rights organizations, including Peace Now and Physicians for Human Rights. “We want equality, not to live in a society of masters and subjects”, reminded sociologist Prof Eva Illouz, who was a guest speaker at the ceremony.
While the organizers of the demonstrated had requested protesters not to bring flags to avoid any tensions, dozens of Israeli flags were waved over the crowds, alongside flags of Palestine. Irked by the demonstration which brought Jews and Arabs together in massive numbers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained, “Many of the demonstrators want to turn Israel into an Israeli-Palestinian state or a state of all its citizens.It is for precisely this we passed the nation-state law.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev pitched in, saying, “It’s absurd that the left is collaborating with the Arabs,” adding, the Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin “is turning in his grave”, perhaps unaware that the Rabin was assassinated not by Arabs, but by a Jewish extremist who sought revenge for Rabin’s attempt to make peace through the Oslo accords. Netanyahu had termed Rabin one of “the Oslo Criminals”.