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Israel: Druze Protest 'Discriminatory' Jewish Nation-State Law

Israelis from the Druze minority, together with others, take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv. | Photo: Reuters Israelis from the Druze minority, together with others, take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv. | Photo: Reuters
Tens of thousands of Israel's most integrated minority, the Druze, took to streets in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square Saturday to protest the controversial nation-state law, which declares Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The Druze are ethnic Arab members of a religious minority that is an offshoot of Islam incorporating elements of other faiths, with the biggest communities in Lebanon and Syria.

The protest led by the Druze community condemned Israel's law, calling it discriminatory, as many rallygoers waved signs with statements such as "If we are brothers we must be equals," "Our force is in our unity – the nation-state law differentiates between us."

The Druze are ethnic Arab members of a religious minority that is an offshoot of Islam incorporating elements of other faiths, with the biggest communities in Lebanon and Syria.

According to Reuters, in Israel, there are at least 120,000 members. But unlike other Arab Israelis, who are mainly exempt from military service, Druze are drafted into the conscript army and widely active in mainstream governance and media, some holding high-ranking military positions. 

The controversial law states only Jewish people have the right to self-determination in the State of Israel, denying the right to 1.8 million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship.

The basic law which garnered 62 votes in favor, recognizes the Jewish people in Israel to have "an exclusive right to national self-determination." 

Arab Israelis, who make up around 20 percent of the country’s 9 million citizens,  say they face constant discrimination, citing inferior services and unfair allocations for education, health, and housing. 

Two men who attended the rally from the northern Druze town of Peki'in, waved the Druze flag. "The entire village is coming today," one man said, according to Haaretz. "We serve in the army, we do everything – and in the end, we are [labeled as] second-class citizens." 

According to Haaretz, Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community, addressed the protesters at the beginning of the rally, saying, "We were also proud of the country, we never contested its Jewish identity. We believed that part of its Jewish ethos would be a treat of full equality for its non-Jewish citizens, with the loyal Druze at their helm."

"No one can teach us about sacrifice and preach to us about loyalty, and the military cemeteries can attest to that," Tarif continued. 
"Despite our unreserved loyalty, Israel doesn't see us as equals. As much as we fight for the existence and security of the state, we are just as determined to fight together with you for Israel's character and the right to live in it with equality and respect," he added. 

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) has compiled a list of 'Discriminatory Laws Database' with over 65 Israeli laws which "discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging."  

The nation-state law also includes the declaration of a "united Jerusalem" as the capital of Israel, despite the fact that East Jerusalem is internationally recognized as being under Israeli occupation. The same law also affirms "the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation."

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