Israeli Supreme Court upholds 'racist' Nation State Law

Israeli Supreme Court upholds 'racist' Nation State Law
Israel's so-called Nation State Law, which endangers the rights of Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens, was upheld by the country's Supreme Court on Thursday following a legal challenge.
2 min read
09 July, 2021
Rights groups have slammed the law as 'racist' [Getty]

Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the controversial Nation State Law, casting aside criticism that the legislation compromises the rights of Palestinian citizens and non-Jewish ethnic minorities.

Despite major opposition, and the court itself recognising shortcomings of the law, the court ruled it "did not compromise Israel’s democratic nature."

Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar, leader of the right-wing New Hope party, welcomed Thursday's ruling.

Saar claimed the law, which has been slammed as discriminatory and apartheid, “anchors the essence and character of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” and “does not infringe on the individual rights of any of the citizens of Israel”.

Adalah, a rights group that advocates for Palestinian citizens of Israel, tried to overturn the law, which it brands as illegitimate and racist.

"The Israel Supreme Court approved a law that establishes a constitutional identity, which completely excludes those who do not belong to the majority group. This Law is illegitimate and violates absolute prohibitions of international law," the group said in a statement.

Adalah blasted the Israeli Supreme Court for failing to protect Palestinians "from the most racist laws in the world, since World War II and the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa," vowing to "continue to work internationally to expose the discriminatory and racist nature of this law".

The nation-state law passed in July 2018 declared the country as the nation state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it could lead to further discrimination against Palestinian citizens.

Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers and Palestinians within Israel and outside called the law "racist" and said it legalised "apartheid" following a tumultuous debate in parliament.

Others said it neglects to specify equality and Israel's democratic character, implying that the country's Jewish nature comes first.

The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, makes Hebrew the country's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status.

The law speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and says they have a "unique" right to self-determination there, according to its final text.

The legislation became part of the country's basic laws, which serve as a de-facto constitution.

"It is our state, the Jewish state, but in recent years some have tried to question that as well as the principles of our existence and our rights," former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the vote on the legislation.

He called its approval a "decisive moment" in Israeli history, despite international condemnation.