Mass protest in Israel over ‘discriminating’ nation-state law

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Tens of thousands of Israeli Druze have gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest Israel's controversial "Jewish state" law.

Organized by a group called, "The Struggle against the National Law", the objective of the protest is to show the "importance in preserving the democratic character of the State of Israel" for all of its citizens.

The Druze are an Arabic-speaking minority. Hundreds of brightly colored Druze flags, rarely seen outside the community, fluttered in the square along Israel's national banners. "We are Israelis. We are brothers", Tarif said at the rally.

"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.

The Druze are followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam, a religious minority spread across Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Israel's hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to assuage Druze fears by meeting with their representatives after the law was passed.

Last week, Two Druze Israeli officersresigned from the military in protest against the controversial bill.

Israel's 1948 declaration of independence defined the country as a Jewish and democratic state.

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"We, groups of citizens from all sectors of Israeli society, call upon you to join us in the mass rally, whose goal is a public and powerful struggle against the national law under the title, "We are all equal Israelis", it says".

High-ranking Jewish and Druze reserve military officers as well as political leaders say they will attend Saturday evening's rally. They support the state of Israel, are active in parliament and, crucially, serve in the Israeli army.

Israel's Attorney-General Avichai Mandelbit has defended the law as having "no practical significance" and its vague wording means it as little to no effect.

The Nation-State Law, for example, prevents the exploitation of the family reunification clause under which very, very many Palestinians have been absorbed into the country since the Oslo agreement, and this law helps prevent the continued uncontrolled entry into Israel of Palestinians.

Haaretz stated that "the plan outlines a Basic Law and a regular law that will recognise the contribution of minorities who defend the country by "enshrining eligibility for the benefits of minority members of all religions and communities who serve in the security forces, for the goal of closing gaps and promoting social equality".

The Druze, numbering around 130,000 in Israel, have had special status since the 1950s, when they were drafted into the military, unlike Israel's Muslim and Christian populations.

Lawmaker Avi Dichter, a co-sponsor of the law, was heckled by Druze in attendance at another meeting.

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