Tens of thousands of people converged on Tel Aviv's Rabin Square last night to take part in a protest against the Nation State Law passed by the Knesset last week. The leader of the demonstration, Amal Assad, declared that the protest was on behalf of all minorities in Israel, although it was organized and led by the Druze community.
Former senior IDF officers and members of other branches of the security forces joined the demonstrators, but not all of them were among the speakers. Former Israel Security Agency head Yuval Diskin called on people to attend the demonstration yesterday, as did former prime minister and minister of defense Ehud Barak. Others present were former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, former minister of defense Itzhak Mordechai, and former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Hamad Amar, a member of Knesset for Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, was also there.
The demonstrators were urged to lower party banners and to wave Israeli and Druze flags only.
Leader of the Opposition MK Tzipi Livni called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "Bibi, decide - this Nation State Law or the Declaration of Independence. Which side are you on? The ringing answer of the thousands here this evening is clear. The possibility still exists of unity around the Declaration of Independence instead of this Nation State law. We undertake to legislate the constitutional rights in the Declaration of Independence as a basic law such that the State of Israel will be the nation state of the Jewish people with equal rights for its citizens; both Jewish and democratic."
In his speech, Yuval Diskin said that Israel should be a model in its treatment of minorities precisely because the Jewish people had known persecution as a minority in other countries.
The Nation State Law, like Israel's Declaration of Independence, asserts the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the land of Israel, but omits the statement in the Declaration of Independence that the state "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." This has been perceived by the law's opponents Israel turning its back on the values of equal citizenship and full democratic rights for all, while its proponents argue that equal rights are enshrined in other legislation. The new law also downgrades Arabic from an official language in Israel to a language with "special status". Israel's Druze, who, along with some other minority communities, serve in the Israeli army, have been especially aggrieved by the new law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page yesterday that the protesters from the Druze community were being egged on by the left in Israel and by the European Union. In response, the EU embassy in Israel posted on Twitter, "With the possible exception of climate change we have been accused of almost everything by now. We probably underestimate our own influence, looks like we nothing happens without us plotting in the back…"
Brig. Gen. (Res.) Amal Assad said, "I call on all citizens of Israel to stand by us for the sake of the covenant of life and the unity between us. We, senior army officers who served the state for decades, who lost friends, soldiers and family, want to retain our Israeliness and believe that the government and its head, the honorable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have the ability to act to amend the Nation State Law." Netanyahu walked out of a meeting with Druze leaders on Thursday, accusing Assad of calling Israel an apartheid state.
Parallel demonstrations took place in several Druze and Arab towns in Israel, and in Haifa.
Sheik Mowafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, spoke of pride in the enlightened, democratic and free State of Israel in which human dignity and freedom are a supreme value," and said that the Druze had never denied the state's Jewish identity.
Meanwhile, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel has lodged a complaint against the Nation State Law with UN High Commissioner for Minority Rights Dr. Fernand de Varennes, on the grounds that the law violates the collective rights of Israel's Arabs. Dr. de Varennes said he had begun an investigation.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 5, 2018
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