Thousands of Druze protest against Israel's Jewish nation law

An estimated 150,000 expected to take part in demonstrations calling for equal rights for all Israeli citizens.

    A rally against a "discriminatory" law that declares Israel the exclusive homeland of Jewish people has gotten under way in Tel Aviv.

    Druze community members, who organised the event, estimate 150,000 people will take part in Saturday's protest, held under the motto, "Equal rights for all citizens".

    The Druze are an Arabic-speaking group with their own distinct religious and cultural traditions.

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    They make up two percent of Israel's 8.8 million population and are found mainly in the northern regions of Galilee and Carmel.

    The Druze have had special status since the 1950s, when they were drafted into the military, unlike Israel's Muslim and Christian populations.

    Salma Zeidan is a minority Druze whose two sons were killed during military service for Israel.

    "If this law doesn't change, I will get your bodies exhumed from this military cemetery and bury you in your grandfathers' land," Zeidan said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

    Critics say the new legislation makes Israel's non-Jewish minorities into second-class citizens, further marginalising some 1.8 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and other smaller minorities, including the Druze. 

    The Basic Law, which has standing similar to a constitution, gives only Jews the right to self-determination. 

    The new law also strips Arabic of its official language designation, downgrading it to a "special status".

    Reporting from Tel Aviv, Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons said one of the main issues of controversy has to do with military service.

    "[There's] massive unrest about people who have served in the army now not having full citizenship according to the campaigners," Simmons said. 

    About six out of 10 Druze men have served in the Israeli army. 

    Talks between members of the Druze community and the government have so far yielded no concrete results. 

    "[Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will guarantee minorities the situation whereby they will get more subsidies and better conditions if they serve in the military," Simmons said. 

    "There's no real clarity to this. It's a bit of a haze."

    Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the country's population, have also heavily criticised the law and are planning a series of actions in a bid to cancel it.

    "It's an attempt at destroying the entire rhetoric of historic Palestine," Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, told Al Jazeera.

    "It stands against an entire people."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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