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Vol. 74/No. 43      November 15, 2010

6,000 protest loyalty pledge
to Israel as Jewish state
Some 6,000 people marched in Tel Aviv October 16 to protest a proposal by the cabinet to require non-Jews seeking to become naturalized citizens to pledge loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.”

Under the slogan “Together against racism—Arab and Jewish March for Democracy,” many demonstrators carried signs that combined the Israeli and Palestinian flags. Both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel were on the speakers’ platform.

“Arabs constitute 20 percent of the population, yet make up roughly 6.5 percent of all public service employees,” wrote Ahmad Tibi in Yedioth Aronoth, a major Israeli newspaper. “There is almost no area of life here where equality between Arabs and Jews prevails.” Tibi is a deputy speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and chairman of the United Arab List.

The Israeli cabinet approved the amendment to the citizenship law by a vote of 22 to 8 at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Three members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party voted against the measure as did five Labor Party ministers who are part of the coalition government.

The amendment still has to be voted on in the Knesset.

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, explained that the loyalty oath bill “specifically targets Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.” Arab citizens of Israel often marry Arabs from Israeli-occupied territories or other Arab countries and face obstacles getting permission for their spouse to move to Israel, much less be granted rights of citizenship.

In a transparent maneuver to blunt criticism that the loyalty proposal is racist, Netanyahu said he would modify the bill to require anyone seeking to become a naturalized citizen, including Jews from around the world, to sign the oath.  
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