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Israeli Arabs post their ‘second-class’ photos

Hundreds of Israeli Arabs are protesting a proposed law which seeks to define Israel as a Jewish state

Published: Updated:

Hundreds of Israeli Arabs stamped their Facebook profile photos with “second–class citizen” in Hebrew to protest their possible ostracism after a proposed law which defines Israel as a Jewish state.

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On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his government’s support for the proposal even after criticism from President Reuven Rivlin.

Critics say the move - backed by the cabinet on Sunday - will come at the expense of democracy and institutionalize discrimination against minorities, including Arabs.

Sana Jamalia, a graphic designer in Haifa, was behind the protest campaign.

“We joked that now with the new law, we are officially second–class citizens and thought we should do something,” she told the Israeli Haaretz newspaper.

After coming up with the idea to stamp their profile pictures with an official-looking “second-class citizen” stamp in Hebrew, hundreds of others were eager to follow.

“It was a totally crazy day. I sent pictures to over 200 people and my inbox is overflowing...it has gotten out of control. We didn’t expect this to happen,” she added.

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While Jamalia lamented that Israeli Arabs were never first-class citizens and that there was nothing “new,” expect for making it official, others asked why the stamp is in Hebrew.

“Many asked us why the stamp is actually in Hebrew, and were angry about that,” Jamalia said. “But that’s only because Israel is officially the state of the Jewish people. So Arabic is not an official language — it is just another language.”

“I’m laughing because they have turned it into something official. It’s funny, since what’s new here?

To his defense, Netanyahu said: “The aim of this law is to guarantee the future of the Jewish people on its land,” hitting back at “those who want to question the national right of the Jewish people (to live on) this land.”

On Tuesday, President Rivlin, who also hails from Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party, said he did “not understand the interest of this law.”

“Placing the state’s Jewish character before its democratic character puts into question its principles in the declaration of independence, which stated Israel’s Judaism and democracy were values of equal importance,” Rivlin said during a speech in the southern port city of Eilat.

Israel’s identity is already contained in its 1948 declaration of independence, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, which said the new proposal fails to emphasize “commitment to the equality of all its citizens.”

Netanyahu insists the law would balance Israel’s Jewish and democratic characteristics.

Haneen Majadli, a student at Tel Aviv University, who also stamped her profile picture with the “second-class citizen” logo, did not find the law surprising.

She told Haaretz that “after all, this law is based on the Declaration of Independence of the state. That means this country is racist towards me since it was founded.” She added: “this is our protest, not against this law but against the continued policy since 1948.”

The country’s parliament, the Knesset, is to vote on the proposal on Dec. 3.

(With AFP)