Seven thousand protesters marched through central Tel Aviv on Saturday night, July 14, to protest the controversial, government-sponsored “nation-state bill,” calling it racist and discriminatory. Under the banner “This is home for all of us,” public figures, MKs from Hadash and Meretz, and peace and social activists addressed the demonstration, in which participants marched from Rabin Square to Dizengoff Center. The bill is expected to be brought before the Knesset tonight (Monday) for a final vote.
Twenty organizations participated in the march: Hadash – Communist Party of Israel, Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together); The Association of Ethiopian Jews; The New Israel Fund; Peace Now; The Israel Religious Action Center; Sikkuy; The Coalition Against Racism in Israel; Mossawa Center; Young Labor; Meretz; The Arab Movement for Peace; The Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Zazim – Community Action; The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality; AJEEC NISPED; Kulan – Feminist Organization; Socialist Struggle; Combatants for Peace; and Shatil.
Among the thousands of demonstrators was MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) who chairs the Joint List. Odeh blasted the bill as a “law whose purpose is to jab a finger in the eye of a fifth of Israel’s population; spark a dispute and further polarize the society to make political gains for the Netanyahu tyranny.” Odeh said, “In a government that has lost all shame, that fears its own shadow, the majority tramples the minority, legislation is racist and the democratic space is under constant threat.”
“The nation-state bill won’t make us disappear, but it will do huge damage to democracy [in Israel]” he said. Tonight’s “mass protest is an important step in our fight against fascism.… Racist legislation of a government that fears power; of a majority that tramples the minority, will not remove us. We will remain in our homeland; we will remain here – two nations. The thousands who came here tonight give us hope that we can, in the future, achieve a state in which there will be equality and peace,” Odeh opined.
Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said to protestors: “Now is the time to prevent a new war against the Palestinian people in Gaza… But what we see is that the far-right Netanyahu’s government is trying to hide the fact that it has no solutions for any of the country’s problems so it attempts to hide this and distract the citizens by incitement and racist bills.”
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Movement for Progressive Judaism, slammed the bill as “despicable.” He told elected officials not to be silent: “Do not play your political poker game for the elections at the expense of the image and values of Israeli society and at the expense of its people,” he said. Kariv ended his speech with a prayer for peace in the South – a topic not forgotten by speakers at the protest, which came at the end of a day of intensified violence on both sides of the Gaza border.
In a joint statement issued by the organizations participating in the Saturday night protest they wrote: “The Nation-State Law would turn racism, discrimination and segregation into an inescapable part of our lives. More than that – racism and discrimination are becoming desired and central in the State of Israel. The Nation-State law will bring the exclusion of and damage to minorities to terrifying levels that we have never before witnessed. Our position is clear: all citizens – all – are equal.”
“But the government is not willing to recognize this. Because they have no solutions for any of us – not to the housing crisis, not for the elderly and disabled, not for the high cost of living, not for the collapsing healthcare system – they are legislating unnecessary, terrifying and discriminatory laws like the Nation-State law. The law incites, confuses, and divides citizens of the State of Israel from one another.”
The message of Saturday’s protest, according to the organizers, was that “we are all equal citizens – Arabs and Jews, women and men, Mizrahim, Ethiopians, those of us from Russia, and members of the LGBTQ community.
“The law of division and discrimination that this government is promoting – which they call the Nation-State bill – will leave a great many of us out: out of towns with ‘admission committees’; out of fair treatment in the courts; out of citizenship; out of democracy. To this, we will not agree.”