Israeli-Arab Leaders Consider Tel Aviv Rally a Success, Though Debate Over Palestinian Flags Rages On

'The spectacular scene yesterday allowed Netanyahu to begin unbridled incitement,' chairman committee wrote. Arabs divided over question of Palestinian flags

Protest against the nation-state law, August 11, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee expressed satisfaction with the march and rally held Saturday night in Tel Aviv. Committee chairman Mohammad Barakeh published a letter Sunday morning thanking participants and organizers and expressing appreciation for the Jews who took part in it.

“The spectacular scene yesterday in Tel Aviv allowed Benjamin Netanyahu and his group to let loose and begin their unbridled incitement showing how low they can go. They were joined by those who define themselves as head of the opposition like [Zionist Union MK] Tzipi Livni and [Zionist Union chairman] Avi Gabbay.”

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According to Barakeh, the Tel Aviv rally was not the opening salvo against the nation-state law. Rather, work was done at the grassroots level to enlist support and this was a test of the readiness of the Arab community to continue the public struggle.

No additional protests are expected in the coming days. Next week Muslims will celebrate Id al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, and after the holiday break the campaign will continue to enlist signatures on a petition against the nation-state law, with the goal of more than half a million signatures. Steps will also continue internationally, among them a meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who will meet Joint List members on September 4 in Brussels, as well as meetings with UN representatives.

Meanwhile, within the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and in the Arab community in general, debate is continuing about the rally, including over the types of slogans used and over the raising of Palestinian flags. This debate began at the beginning of last week and continued during the rally itself, and shows no signs of abating in the near future.

An activist for one of the parties that makes up the monitoring committee told Haaretz that some of the slogans and the waving of Palestinian flags at the rally were more a response to that internal debate than a statement directed against Jewish participants in the protest.

The controversial nation-state law passed by the Knesset July 19. The law states that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people,” which has exclusive right to self-determination in the country. It defines Hebrew as the country’s sole official language, designating Arabic as a language with special status, although adding that Arabic's status would not be harmed in practice.

Critics of the nation-state legislation, which, as a Basic Law, bears constitutional weight, object in part to the fact that it does not include a provision stating that all Israeli citizens are equal under the law.