Israel's Nation-State Law Explained

Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s parliament passed a bill that officially declared Israel a Jewish state in July 2018. The “nation-state” legislation defines things like Israel’s national holidays, symbols, and the state’s connection to Jewish heritage.

Supporters of the bill say at worst, it’s a symbolic nod toward Jewish unity that won’t actually impact the lives of citizens day-to-day and, at best, it’s a “defining moment” for Zionism.

Critics, including many international Jewish groups, say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing majority coalition are bolstering “tribalism” or, even more severely, “apartheid.”

But what does this mean for the near quarter of Israel’s population that isn’t Jewish?

The controversial “Nation-State” bill declared Jewish settlement a  “national value” and made the right to national self-determination in Israel “unique to the Jewish people.” Key contentious clauses were removed late in the game, including one that would “authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community.” Basically: legal segregation based on religion or ethnicity.

Despite the ones that were removed, plenty of controversial sections also stayed put.

For example, the bill revokes the 70-year status Arabic had as an “official” state language, downgrading it to a “special status” and making Hebrew the state’s only official language.  

We sat down with Aida Touma-Sliman, an Arab Israeli member of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, for her take.