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Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation state’ law as Arab MPs tear bill in protest

Israel’s Knesset has passed a controversial new law which declares the country is an exclusively Jewish nation state, as Arab lawmakers were thrown out of the parliament in protest.

The bill states that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it” and that a "united Jerusalem" is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language.

Arabic, which was an official language, has been downgraded to a language with “special status”. An earlier version of the bill which endorsed the creation of Jewish-only communities was dropped but the bill that was passed included a clause that said "the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation".

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the passage of the bill, saying “today we have made a law in stone”. “This is our country. This is our language. This is our anthem and this is our flag. Long live the state of Israel.”

The bill was passed by 62 votes to 55, and saw Arab lawmakers decrying it as an “apartheid law”. They were thrown out from the Knesset as they tore copies of the bill in protest.

Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, released a statement after the law was passed saying Israel has "declared it does not want us here".

“This is an evil law,” said the Arab MP. “Today, I will have to tell my children, along with all the children of Palestinian Arab towns in the country, that the state has declared that it does not want us here. It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”

Fellow parliamentarian Ayeda Touma-Souliman said to the Israeli prime minister as he left the Knesset, "You passed an apartheid law, a racist law".

See more from Haaretz here, the BBC here and the Guardian here.