Israeli Druze rally against new nation-state law

Illustrative Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force stand on an armored vehicle near an IDF soldiers in the Israeli Golan Heights near the Quneitra crossing between Israel and Syria

Israel, which lacks a traditional constitution, holds its basic laws as preeminent, as they are meant to guide the judiciary and require a supramajority in parliament in order to be overturned. Hasson said the law transforms the country's Druze population and other minorities, including Arabs, into second-class citizens.

The law is especially controversial among the 130,000-strong Druze minority due to their noted loyalty to Israel.

"Just as we fight for the existence and security of the state so we are determined to fight together for the character and right to live in it in equality and dignity", said Tarif.

Israel's prime minister is defending a divisive new law enshrining the country's Jewish character after tens of thousands of people demonstrated against it in Tel Aviv.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the law, which says only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country and downgrades Arabic from an official language, from fierce criticism at home and overseas.

According to the plan submitted by the prime minister's representatives, "the law will recognise the contribution of the Druze community to the security of the state, and will include support for community institutions (religion, education and culture), will strengthen Druze residential settlements, and establish new towns if needed".

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Amal Assad said, "I call on all citizens of Israel to stand by us for the sake of the covenant of life and the unity between us".

Holding colourful Druze flags alongside Israeli ones, protesters at Saturday's demonstration, estimated by local media at over 50,000, chanted "equality", AFP reported. The law's passage made it one of Israel's Basic Laws, which, similar to a constitution, underpin Israel's legal system and are more hard to repeal than regular laws.

The Druze serve in the military, unlike most of the country's Arab citizens, who overwhelmingly follow Sunni Islam and have close family ties with Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories. Hundreds of brightly colored Druze flags, rarely seen outside the community, fluttered in the square along Israel's national banners.

Dr. Amir Hanifas, a Druze professor and community activist, who made headlines after causing a scene at a ceremony where he confronted the parliamentarian who sponsored the nation state bill, told i24NEWS that the problem is not about the Druze community or about defining Israel as a Jewish state.

Several Druze military officers have resigned over the law.

"These things are all happening", Netanyahu said, "because only individual rights were anchored in the state's laws, without any constitutional balance of our national element". On Asad's Facebook page last week, he warned Israel could become an apartheid state because of laws like the nation-state law.

Dozens of protesters erected a huge sign blaring the words "Crime Minister" and bearing an image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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