A recent court case in Israel has brought into focus the implications of the country’s “Nation-State Law”, passed in 2018 by (then and now) prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite huge protests.
The law implied downgrading the rights of the large non-Jewish (mainly Palestinian Arab) minorities in Israel.
On 30 November, a judge cited that law when dismissing a court case brought by Palestinian Arab parents in Carmiel, an Israeli city with a Jewish majority but a 6% Arab minority. The parents wanted an Arabic-language school in Carmiel, or failing that funding for students to travel to Arabic-language schools outside the city.
A few dual-language schools have started in Israel in recent years, but very few. Only a few Jewish children go to Arabic-language schools or Arab children to Hebrew-language schools. 152 Arab children in Carmiel go to Hebrew-language schools there, and 326 to Arabic-language schools outside.
As well as making technical objections, the judge said that Arabic provision would “damage the city’s character”.
Further legal action is likely. On 22 December Israel’s High Court will hear several complaints seeking to have the Nation-State Law struck down as contradicting the country’s Basic Law. Benny Gantz, now Alternate Prime Minister in a coalition government, has promised new legislation to counterweigh the Nation-State Law, but has failed to deliver.