Druze Community Leads Drive to Amend Racist Nation-State Law; Touma-Sliman: “Scrap It Entirely!”

The Arab Druze community in Israel launched a campaign to amend the Nation-State law in a rally held on Monday, January 14, calling for the legislation to be amended to eliminate its discriminatory nature. The renewed campaign began with Druze activists leading a procession in Rosh al-Ayn, in the center of the country, on Monday, to outside the home of Benny Gantz, former Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli military and leader of the Israel Resilience Party.

Hadash poster: "The Nation-State law must be rescinded"

Hadash poster: “The Nation-State law must be rescinded”

Gantz, who is seen as one of the only possible threats to a Netanyahu victory in the upcoming elections, addressed the rally and said that amending the law would “express the connection between the Druze community and the State of Israel, a deep and unbreakable connection not only in battle, but also in life. We have a blood pact, but more than that, we have a life alliance.”

Amal Assad, one of the leading Druze activists who served as officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, said that Gantz’s addressing the rally was a good sign and a gives him hope that the legislation will indeed be amended.

“In 21st-century Israel, such a racist law that makes the Jewish race superior to Arab race cannot be passed,” Assad said, adding that he hopes all candidates in upcoming Knesset elections understand that the law is a “disgrace and must be repealed or amended to include an item that affirms the right to equality for all citizens.” Assad said the Nation-state Law Amendment Forum, which he heads, is determined to fight against the law and make it a central theme for the upcoming election campaign battle from now until the day of parliamentary elections on 9 April. Future rallies organized by his movement will terminate outside the homes of other Israeli officials and candidates, and will culminate in a demonstration outside the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For its part, Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) is unhappy about Gantz’s first foray into political punditry. The fact that the general who headed the military during Israel’s brutally violent Protective Edge operation against Gaza in 2014 chose to solely emphasize in his appearance before the participants in Monday’s rally “the connection between the Druze community and the State of Israel, a deep and unbreakable connection not only in battle, but also in life,” leaves, in the eyes of critics, much to be desired. “The Nation-State law does not have to be fixed but should be entirely scrapped,” said Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List). “To merely propose changes to the law’s wording constitutes a real victory for the right,” she argued.

In fact, even far-right PM Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that the law created a problem that needs fixing. He has firmly rejected calls for the law itself to be changed, but when tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to protest the legislation after its passage in July, he too determined that something had to be done.

He established a “special ministerial committee” to advance the “deep bond” between Israeli Jews and Druze, and asked his aides to meet with Arab-Druze local council heads and with relevant ministries, and to “submit to the committee feasible steps to remove the impediments especially regarding housing and employment.” The so-called “Ministerial Committee for the Affairs of Druze, Circassian and Minority Community Members who serve in the Security Forces,” met twice in August but has not been convened since then.

Earlier this month, over 50 prominent Israeli Jews of Mizrahi (Eastern) origin filed a petition with the High Court of Justice demanding it strike down the racist Nation-State Law, claiming that it discriminates against both Jewish Mizrahi and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. When the High Court conducts its first hearing on the several petitions against the law, on January 28, a mass Arab-Jewish demonstration will be held at Jerusalem.

Related: Posts on the Nation-State Law