Tens of Thousands Gather in Tel Aviv for Nation-state Law Protest Led by Israeli Arabs

Protesters waving Palestinian and Israeli flags, chanting: 'Nation-state is apartheid' ■ Netanyahu: There is no better testimony for the necessity of the law'

Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel August 11, 2018.
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

Tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting the nation-state law gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday night in the wake of last week's mass march, which drew tens of thousands of Israelis to protest in solidarity with the country's Druze community.

Demonstrators marched from Rabin Square to the plaza of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which began at 8:00 P.M. Protesters gathered at Rabin Square. A rally under the name "Abolish Nation-state Law – Yes to Equality" took place after the march.

Some protesters came waving Israeli and Palestinian flags, despite the organizers' request not to bring flags in order to avoid conflict. Demonstrators held signs emblazoned with statements such as "Nation-state is apartheid." 

"There is a law here and a government that wrote a fascist, discriminatory law... Netanyahu thinks he will succeed in discriminating, but we have made progress," an marcher from the southern, Bedouin-majority city of Rahat told Haaretz. 

People holding signs slamming the nation-state law at a protest led by Israeli Arabs, August 11, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

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"For 70 years we have been living together. Why now [the law passed] is clear because it's political. What, for 70 years you didn't have a nationality? What's changed?," another marcher from Rahat said.

Demonstrators waving Palestinian flags at Rabin Square ahead of a march against the nation-state law, August 11, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter to comment on the ongoing rally. In response to protesters waving Palestinian flags, Netanyahu wrote on his official handle: "There is no better testimony for the necessity of the nation-state law. We will continue to wave the Israeli flag proudly and sing the anthem (Hatikva) with even greater pride." The premier attached a video from the protest showing protesters hoisting Palestinian flags in the crowd.  

Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken addressed the crowd at the rally, saying that ''Every Israeli citizen who is committed to preserving democracy must join the struggle, and not give up until the law is annulled.''

>> FULL TEXT: Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken calls for Israelis to 'join the struggle' at nation-state rally

In recent weeks, organizers of the march had tried to recruit more Jewish citizens.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in Israel, who along with a coalition of other Israeli Arab groups filed a petitioned with the High Court of Justice, said at a press conference last week that the law "shows that what was once part of the platform of some small political parties is now a Basic Law. We expect all people, regardless of their political views, to be outraged and join us until this law is canceled."

Members of the left-wing political party Meretz said that they would participate in the demonstrations. MK Micky Rosenthal (Zionist Union) is the only member to participate from his party, while new opposition leader Tzipi Livni told Army Radio that she would not attend the march because some of the members of the Arab Joint List don't share her view on Israel as the nation-state of the Jews.

Rights organizations, including Peace Now and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel participated in the protest. Guest speakers at the ceremony included the mayor of Sakhnin Mazen Ghanaim and sociologist Prof. Eva IIlouz, who said "We want equality, not to live in a society of masters and subjects."

Chairman of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, said: "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."

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said "This damned law succeeded in uniting the Arab public and restore the spirit of the public struggle of Arab citizens together with Jewish democratic forces."

Protest against the nation-state law in Tel Aviv, last month.
Meged Gozani