Feeling sidelined, Israel’s Druze protest Jewish nation bill

Source: Associated Press

By ILAN BEN ZION

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Tens of thousands of members of Israel’s Druze minority and their Jewish supporters, some chanting “equality,” packed a central Tel Aviv square Saturday night to rally against a contentious new law that critics say sidelines Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

800 (12)

It marked the first time in recent memory that the Druze — followers of a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam who are considered fiercely loyal to the state — staged a large public protest. Hundreds of brightly colored Druze flags, rarely seen outside the community, fluttered in the square along Israel’s national banners. Nearby City Hall was also lit up in Druze colors.

The rally marked the biggest backlash yet against the recently passed law that enshrines Israel’s Jewish character and downgrades the standing of Arabic from an official to a “special” language.

The law has outraged Israel’s Arabic-speaking minority which includes the Druze and makes up about 20 percent of the population. Critics say the law undermines the country’s democratic values.

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