Israel’s parliament has passed into law a controversial bill that defines the country as an exclusively Jewish state.

The “Jewish nation state” bill downgrades Arabic as an official language and says advancing Jewish settlement is a national interest.

It also states that the “whole and united” Jerusalem is its capital.

Israeli Arab MPs condemned the legislation but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised it as a “defining moment”.

The bill, backed by the country’s right-wing government, says “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.

It was passed after a stormy session in the Knesset that lasted more than eight hours. Sixty-two MPs voted for the bill, with 55 against.

However some clauses were dropped following objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general, including a clause that would have enshrined in law the creation of Jewish-only communities.

Israeli Arabs make up about 20% of Israel’s population of about nine million people.

Arab MP Ahmed Tibi said the bill’s passing represented the “death of democracy”.

Adalah, an Arab rights non-governmental orgnisation, said the law was an attempt to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”.

Last week Mr Netanyahu defended the law, saying: “We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides.”

Source: BBC

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