Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel August 11, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Sunday, asking to strike down the Jewish Nation-State Law as unconstitutional.
A prior petition was filed in July by Kulanu MK Akram Hasson and other top Druze officials, but the legal attack by ACRI is broader.
Both petitions said the law transforms the country’s minorities into second-class citizens.
However, ACRI’s petition argued that Israel has discriminated against its minorities as a matter of unofficial policy for decades and that the new law is unique because it makes the discrimination explicit and systematic.
In contrast, the petition by Druze officials called the law “a terrible blow to the Druze sector, a terrible blow to democracy and a terrible blow to Zionism.” The Druze officials are potentially seeking a midpoint where only parts of the new law are canceled, and largely maintain a positive view of Israel’s treatment of the Druze community beyond the specific law.
ACRI’s petition also adds the contention that it is unconstitutional to grant minorities full individual rights while reserving collective national-identity related rights only to the country’s Jewish populace.
Both petitions argue that the Jewish Nation-State Law
disproportionately and unreasonably harms minorities, making them feel like “exiled people in their own homeland.”
The petitions say the law violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which is considered the country’s most foundational legal basis for how it views all other issues.
Each of the petitions called on the court to be ready to declare the law unconstitutional, despite its status as a Basic Law and despite the many who argue the court can only cancel regular laws, not Basic Laws, which have quasi-constitutional status.
The Nation-State Law, according to the petitions, replaces the delicate balance between Israel’s Jewish and democratic principles, with a lopsided leaning toward the Jewish principle.
Moreover, the petitions say the law does not mention the state’s democratic character or the rights and equality of all of its citizens, but focuses instead solely on strengthening the state’s Jewish aspects.
Moreover, the petitions argue that the law eliminates Arabic’s status as one of Israel’s official languages, and that by favoring Jewish causes, such as Jewish settlement, it sets up a system of discrimination between different ethnic sectors.
Although the country’s Arab sector was highly critical of the law during Knesset debates, the Druze sector is typically more supportive of Israeli government policies and integrates into the IDF and government bodies more than the state’s Arabs and other minorities. In contrast, ACRI is often in a combative relationship legally with the state on a variety of issues.
ACRI explained its delay in joining the legal fight saying that it would be weeks before the court held its first hearing and that it took time to include all of its comprehensive arguments.
In addition to criticism within Israel, the law has drawn global condemnation from much of the US Jewish community.
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