The Israeli parliament recently passed a law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people. The law states:

“Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.” This, even though one in five citizens of Israel is an indigenous, non-Jewish Palestinian.

The new law also declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance and Jewish holidays. One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status quo to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

As I wrote in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, “Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence refers specifically to Israel as a Jewish state committed to the ingathering of Jewish exiles. Palestinians who are classified as Israeli Arabs, and non-Jews like Armenians, have citizenship rights. They can vote in election for members of the Knesset and for prime minister.

“All other rights are nationality rights based on religion and are reserved for Jews only. If you are Jewish, you have exclusive use of the land, since Israeli law states that ninety-three percent of the land in Israel belongs to the Jewish people. If you are Jewish you have privileged access to private and public employment, special educational loans, home mortgages and priority admission to all universities. Special privileges are reserved for those who serve in the military. Military service is compulsory for all Jews, male and female, except the ultra-Orthodox, who receive the special privileges anyway. Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, are not allowed to serve in the Israeli Army. The Druze, who are originally from Lebanon and who practice an offshoot of Shiite Islam, are permitted to serve in the Israeli Army.

“Israel does not define itself as a state of its citizens but as a state of all the Jews in the world. Jews from anywhere can make aliya (emigration) to Israel, declare citizenship and be granted the nationality privileges of being Jewish while these rights are denied Palestinians who have lived in Palestine for centuries.”

In passing this bill Israel has legislated annexation of all Palestinian land and has established an apartheid system. There is no longer any illusion that Israel is a democracy as it has always claimed. Palestinians, no matter where they live, are controlled by an Israeli government and military that robs them of their basic human rights and freedoms.

Adalah, a leading Palestinian human rights organization in Israel, describes how the law “affirms the principle of apartheid in housing, land and citizenship.” It concludes that “this law constitutionally sanctions institutionalized discrimination.”

This bill is a harsh reminder to all Palestinian citizens of Israel that they are not welcome in their own ancestral homeland. As non-Jews, they were already not allowed to buy or rent land on 93% of the area controlled by the Israeli state, and many communities, the Bedouins in particular, are declared “unrecognized” and bulldozed out of existence by Israeli forces.

From now on, it will not just be legal to racially discriminate against the indigenous Palestinian citizens of the state. It will be constitutionally mandated and required. If ever there was a time for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel’s system of oppression it is now. Otherwise, Israel will use its new law to make more and more Palestinians stateless and demolish more Palestinian homes. They are going to make life so difficult for Palestinians that they eventually disappear. That is their plan.

Israel’s official adoption of apartheid opens the door for the Palestinian people. They do exist as the indigenous people of this ancient land. Now is the time to rally the world to pressure the UN to activate its anti-apartheid laws and impose serious sanctions on Israel.

This was done against apartheid South Africa. It must also be done against apartheid Israel.

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