Netanyahu's cabinet seeks to downgrade status of Arabic

Proposed law to strip Arabic of official-language status and define Israel as 'the national home of the Jewish people'.

    The law has to go through further drafting by the justice ministry [Bernat Armangue/AP]
    The law has to go through further drafting by the justice ministry [Bernat Armangue/AP]

    Israeli ministers have approved a controversial bill that will downgrade Arabic as an official language and define the country as the "national home of the Jewish people".

    The Haaretz newspaper reported on Sunday that if the bill were to become law, Arabic would no longer be an official language and would instead be defined as having special status.

    In the bill, Hebrew is defined as the "national language", which would become part of the country's so-called basic law, which is similar to a constitution, it said.

    The legislation still has to go through further drafting by the justice ministry and pass several votes in parliament.

    Critics have described the proposed legislation, which also declares that the "right to self-determination" in Israel is "unique to the Jewish people", as impinging on the rights of its Arab minority, who make up some 20 percent of the 8.7 million population.

    Defining Israel as the "national home of the Jewish people" has also raised concerns among rights activists and others worried over discrimination and attempts to further mix religion and state.

    Ayman Odeh, a parliament member who heads the mainly Arab Joint List alliance, said approving the bill would mean trampling on minority rights, adding it would "legally transform us into second-class citizens".

    The bill was sponsored by Avi Dichter, a member of the Likud party of Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it was necessary to "set in law our national identity while remaining a democratic state".

    Palestinian citizens of Israel allege widespread discrimination by Netanyahu's government.

    SOURCE: News agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.