Nation-state Law Builds Up 'Racist Laws' Against non-Jews, Top Palestinian Official Says

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Palestinian senior official Saeb Erekat speaks in Ramallah, July 4, 2018.
Palestinian senior official Saeb Erekat speaks in Ramallah, July 4, 2018.Credit: Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

Israel's new nation-state law "turns a 'de-facto' Apartheid regime into a 'de-jure' reality for all of historic Palestine," top Palestinian official and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Thursday.

"This law builds up on dozens of racist and discriminatory laws against non-Jews, being an extension of racist and colonialist practices that aim at burying the rights of the Palestinian people," Erekat said before taking the international community to task.

The newly-approved law, which has near-constitutional status, formally declares that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people." Other clauses state that a "united Jerusalem" is Israel's capital, that the country's official language is Hebrew, and that the government will work to encourage Jewish settlement.

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"We are convinced that this law would not have been passed without the culture of impunity that Israel continues to enjoy," he said. "It is time for the international community, and particularly for those who still claim to 'share democratic values' with Israel, such as the European Union, to take measures in accordance with this new reality of Israel, a state that systematically violates its obligations under International Law and UN resolutions, defining itself as an Apartheid state."

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The Knesset passed early Thursday the controversial bill with 62 lawmakers voting in favor of the legislation and 55 opposing it.

Two lawmakers, Benny Begin (Likud) and Orly Levy-Abekasis (independent) abstained.

It passed after a long and stormy debate that began Thursday afternoon, with lawmakers voting on hundreds of clauses presented by the opposition that objected to different parts of the bill. 

Immediately after the law passed, Arab lawmakers tore copies in protest, and were subsequently removed from the Knesset plenum hall. Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, released a statement saying that Israel "declared it does not want us here" and that it had "passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens."

Speaking moments after the bill passed into law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "This is a defining moment – long live the State of Israel."

Netanyahu further said that "122 years after Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens."