Israeli Druze Protesters Enraged at Justice Minister Who Says Nation-state Law Won't Be Amended

'The pain is deeper because this suddenly says the country isn't mine': Demonstrators urged Ayelet Shaked to acknowledge damage of contentious legislation

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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaking to Israeli druze who protested outside her house in Tel Aviv, January 18, 2019.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaking to Israeli druze who protested outside her house in Tel Aviv, January 18, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked met on Friday morning with Israeli Druze protesters who demonstrated outside her home in Tel Aviv against the controversial nation-state law. 

In her conversation with the demonstrators, who have been calling since the contentious legislation's passage for it to be amended, Shaked clarified that it will not be changed but said that she understood their feelings of discontent.

Her statement angered some of the demonstrators, who began to yell and cut her off. 

"We don't disagree over the fact that everyone is entitled to civil equality, we have been trying to promote that in the government," the justice minister told the Druze protesters. According to her, "in order to heal [your] wound we can promote a separate legislation that will define the status of the Druze community."

Shaked further insisted that "nothing about this law hurts civil equality."

>> Read more: Basic law or basically a disaster? Israel's nation-state law controversy explained ■ What we can learn from the nation-state law | Opinion

The nation-state law, which was passed by the Knesset in July 2018, enshrines Israel's status as a Jewish status. It permit judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings. The words “democracy and “equality” do not appear at all in the law.

Among its controversial clauses is one that states that Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, which has a unique right to national self-determination here. Another contentious clause says that Hebrew is the only official language in Israel, and Arabic was defined as having special status.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Assad, the leader of the protest, told Shaked that the demonstrators didn't wish for Israel not to have a nation-state law, but that they rather want to ensure that the law will reference the equality that is every citizen of the country deserves. 

According to him, the demonstrators are not seeking compensation or for the Druze community to be included in the law, but are calling for the legislation to preserve the value of equality

"What country have I got? I'm not going to Druzeland," Assad charged, asking Shaked if she intended to act in the next government to add the words "equality and democracy" to the law.

The justice minister told protesters that they are a part of the country, but that their request was not going to be met. "Your pain is real, if it didn't matter I wouldn't have spoken to you."

Shaked said she "Knows the community well," noting that the deputy manager of her bureau is Druze. 

"There aren't second class citizens [in Israel]," she said. 

However, protesters did not accept Shaked's statement, with one telling her he is "concerned."

"Neither you nor Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and Bennett [Naftali Bennett, co-chair of Hayamin Hehadash party] can guarantee that in 50 years we won't get kicked out of here."

A different protester, a wounded Israel Defense Forces veteran, told Shaked: "Don't say you love me... don't take away my Israeliness."

He went on to recount that "since the nation-state law passed in the Knesset, the pain and the wounds are deeper and I can't let go because this law suddenly says I'm not Israeli and this country isn't mine, it's only the Jews' country."