Israeli ministerial committee backs bill to demote Arabic language

Israeli ministerial committee backs bill to demote Arabic language
2 min read
07 May, 2017
An Israeli cabinet committee voted on Sunday to back a controversial bill that downgrades the Arabic language and recognises Israel as a state "unique to the Jewish people".
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin headed the ministerial committee's meeting on Sunday [Anadolu]
An Israeli cabinet committee supported on Sunday a new version of the nation-state bill, which downgrades Arabic as an official language in the country.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to present the controversial "nation-state bill" that states "the right to realise self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people."

Currently, both Hebrew and Arabic are Israel's national languages.

The bill states that Hebrew would be the lone national language and downgrades Arabic to "a special status in the state" whose "speakers have the right to language-accessible state services."

It has to pass several rounds of legislation in parliament for it to become law.

The acting head of the ministerial committee, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, said "Today I decided to put an end to the foot-dragging and to affirm the nation-state law in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation,” Haaretz reported.

"For too long, we've been trying to discuss and reach a decision regarding the law – a basic law that's not clear how it hasn’t been enshrined in legislation until now – and whose simple goal is to protect Israel's status as the state of the Jewish people," he said.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List coalition of mostly Palestinian lawmakers, said the law was an example of "the tyranny of the majority" and demoted Arabs to being "second-class citizens."

Palestinian Knesset member Esawi Freige – of the opposition Meretz party – said the committee's decision "again proves that for the current government, democracy is a swear word."

If passed, the law would violate the rights of some 1.5 million Palestinians living in Israel.