Israeli Arab MP resigns over controversial ‘nation state’ law

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Zouheir Bahloul Image copyright AFP
Image caption Zouheir Bahloul branded Israel’s parliament as racist and destructive

An Israeli Arab politician has resigned in opposition to a controversial new law which declares Israel to be the nation state of the Jewish people.

Zouheir Bahloul, 67, branded parliament “racist” and “destructive” for passing the law, which also revokes the status of Arabic as an official language.

“[The law] removes the Arab population from the path of equality in Israel,” he told Israeli TV network Reshet.

The bill passed on 19 July, provoking anger from Israel’s Arab minority.

Arab members of the Knesset tore up copies of the bill and shouted their disgust, before some were thrown out of the chamber.

“I am resigning from the Knesset,” Mr Bahloul, a member of the opposition Zionist Union party, said on Saturday.

“Should I sit on the fence? Should I give legitimacy to this destructive, racist, extremist parliament?”

He added that he could not face telling his grandson that he had kept his seat in the Knesset.

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Media captionIsraeli Arab MPs protest and rip copies of the bill after Knesset passes nation state law

After the bill was passed, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised it as a “defining moment” in the country’s history.

“A hundred and twenty-two years after [the founder of modern Zionism Theodore] Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence,” he said.

Called The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People, the legislation essentially defines Israel first and foremost as a Jewish state.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Israeli Arabs have long complained of discrimination

It was created because some Israeli Jewish politicians consider the founding principles of Israel’s creation, as a state for Jews in their ancient homeland, to be under threat.

But Israeli Arabs, who comprise about 20% of the country’s population, see it as evidence that Israel is downgrading their status.

They have equal rights under the law but have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens and say they face discrimination and worse provisions than Israeli Jews.

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