Tens of thousands are protesting in Tel Aviv against "nation-state" law that prioritized Jewish values in Israel and has been criticized as discriminating sparking local and global condemnation.
Israel's Druze community has strongly criticised the legislation as they are subject to compulsory service in the military or police alongside Jewish Israelis.
Besides officially designating Israel as a "state" exclusively for the Jews, the law defines occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as the "capital" of Israel, downgrades the status of the Arabic language and encourages the promotion of the regime's settlements - which have been built on occupied land and thus viewed as unlawful by the world community. The government says the bill merely enshrines the country's existing character, but critics say it undercuts Israel's democratic values and marginalizes the country's non-Jewish minorities.
While addressing the protesters, Israeli Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif said that the argued that the new legislation makes them second-class citizens.
The Druze are followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam, a religious minority spread across Israel, Lebanon and Syria. In Israel, they have been fiercely loyal to the state and have risen to high office in the military and politics.
"We see it as a discriminatory law which doesn't give expression to our citizenship, doesn't give expression to our sense of belonging", stated Rafik Halabi, head of the local Israeli-Druze Council.
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"The prime minister has chose to rank the citizens of Israel: Jewish are first-class, Druze are second-class, Arabs and LGBT are fourth-class", Zandberg stated incisively, alluding to the passage of another law recently passed that precludes the gay community from surrogacy parenthood. According to Israeli media, Netanyahu abruptly ended a meeting with Druze officials this week and lawmaker Avi Dichter, a co-sponsor of the law, was heckled by Druze in attendance at another.
The law, which had been in the works since 2011, has sparked a wave of protests, which spilled over the Israeli border and angered the influential Jewish diaspora in the US.
Several Druze military officers recently said they would stop serving in response to it, sparking fears of widespread insubordination.
Israeli Druze leaders say their alliance with Jews dates back long before they helped them win independence in 1948. "From this rally, with joint hands and hearts, we go forward for many more years of joint life in Israel in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence".
Following the Druze outcry over the law, passed two weeks ago, a number of politicians who voted for the law have said it needs to be addressed in some way to acknowledge the Druze contribution to Israel.