Thousands attend Arab-led rally against new law
TEL AVIV (AP):
Members of Israel's Arab minority led a mass protest in central Tel Aviv last night against a contentious new law that critics say marginalises the state's non-Jewish citizens.
The rally marked further fallout from the explosive Nation-State law, and came a week after thousands of Druze, also members of the Arab minority, packed the same city square last week.
Israel's 1948 declaration of independence defined the country as a Jewish and democratic state and the Government says the recently passed bill merely enshrines the country's existing character.
But critics say it undercuts Israel's democratic values and sidelines the country's non-Jewish population, namely the Arab community that makes up 20 per cent of the country.
One clause downgrades the Arabic language from official to 'special' standing.
Israeli media reported tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs attended the protest. Some Arab protesters waved Palestinian flags and others held signs reading 'equality'. Some knelt and preformed Muslim prayers.
Ayman Odeh, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, told The Associated Press: "This is the first time that tens of thousands of Arabs have come to Tel Aviv with Jewish democratic groups. They came to say this is not the end of the demonstrations, but the first serious demonstration against the Nation State law."
Many Jewish Israelis, including top-retired security officials and politicians, have also harshly criticised the law.
Omar Sultan, from the Arab city of Tira in central Israel, said he was protesting to send a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"This law is against us, against the Arabic language, against peace, against our future in this land, we are the real people of this land, we can't agree on this law," he said.
Israel's Arab citizens enjoy full citizenship rights but face discrimination in some areas of society like jobs and housing.