More than 50,000 people took part in an unprecedented march at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night – chanting “We want equality!” – in protest against the contentious Nation-State Law.
Among the organisers of the event were leaders of the Druze community, whose spiritual leader, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, told the assembled: “Despite our unlimited loyalty to the state, the state doesn’t consider us equals.”
Former Labor MK Shachiv Shnaan, a member of the Druze community who lost his son Kamil Shnaan, in a terror attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, told the crowd: “At the Temple Mount in holy Jerusalem, my beloved son Kamil gave back his soul to the creator of the world, and I began a new life filled with mountains of pain and rivers of tears. When the law was approved, I understood that I have become a second-class citizen, and that my son has become a second-class fallen [fighter].”
The law – which for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” – has sparked criticism in Israel, internationally and from Jewish groups abroad.
Speaking to Hadashot TV, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan implied that people with an anti-government political agenda were “stirring divisions” in Israel over the legislation. Saying the government appreciates the Druze community, he said: “We agree with all the Druze demands…[but] This rally has nothing to do with the nation-state law…there is not a word in this law that hurts the Druze community or any other community.”
However, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo was of a different opinion, saying how he emphathised with the anger shown by Israeli minorities, while former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi spoke of his support for the Druze community, saying: “I’m here to tell them I’m with them, I’ve known them for decades, we have fought alongside each other, and have died together.
“What has been done is an injustice to 20 percent of Israel’s population, and first and foremost to the Druze who have faithfully served the state from the day of its establishment, this is not about right or left. This is not an issue of which party you vote for. It’s a matter of values.”