(JTA) – Jewish Federations of North America and The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, two organizations that provide major funding to projects in Israel, joined the criticism of Israel’s new nation-state law.
Jewish Federations, which annually donates many millions of dollars to Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, focused its criticism on dissatisfaction with the law among some members of the Druze minority, an Arabic-speaking community where most men serve in the Israeli army.
In a statement Thursday that a spokesperson posted on Facebook, the umbrella group for federations across North America said it stands “shoulder to shoulder with the Druze community” and urges Israeli legislators “to work with the community as soon as possible to address their very real concerns.”
“As strong supporters of Israel, we were disappointed that the government passed legislation which was effectively a step back for all minorities.”
The law, which enshrines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and has quasi-constitutional status, identifies Arabic as a language with “special status.” It says that “the realization of the right to national self-determination is unique to the Jewish People” and “the state will work to ensure the wellbeing of the members of the Jewish People and of its citizens who are in trouble and captivity for their Judaism or citizenship.”
Amal Asad, a Druze leader, and several other prominent members of the community have objected to the new law along with Israel’s Arab lawmakers and many Jewish opposition lawmakers. Asad said it reduces Druze Israelis to “second-class citizens.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly ended a meeting Thursday with Asad and other Druze leaders, reportedly over Asad’s allegation on Facebook that Netanyahu was turning Israel into an “apartheid” state.
Advocates of the law say it merely states de facto realities in Israel – including its purpose, flag and national anthem – without replacing or undermining other laws with the same status that guarantee equality for all Israelis.
Also Thursday, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in a statement urged Israel’s government to amend the new law “so that it includes ‘equality’ for Druze and other minorities.”
The Anti-Defamation League last week expressed “strong concern” over the law, calling for a “reformulation of elements in the bill that could undermine Israel’s cherished democratic character, exacerbate relations between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs as well as those between Israel and Diaspora Jews, and indeed, impair Israel’s international reputation.”