‘Racist state’ or ‘vibrant democracy’? Israel’s nation-state law sparks debate live on On Events (VIDEO)

Israeli and Palestinian pundits clashed live on whether Israel – which recently passed a controversial Jewish nation-state law – is a “vibrant Mideast democracy” or a “racist chauvinist” regime much worse than that of apartheid.

The new law, passed in July, refers to Israel as the homeland of Jews, giving them a “unique” right to self-determination there, and makes Hebrew the only official language, downgrading Arabic to the status of locally-spoken language. Massive protests unfolded after the law was adopted, as non-Jews fear being stigmatized and discriminated against in Israel.

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A pair of experts asked to provide their takes on the law engaged in a heated argument. “This law doesn’t change anything for the citizens of Israel, it does not discriminate or take any rights from anyone, nor does it give special rights to anyone,” Ran Bar-Yoshafat, the deputy director of Israeli think tank Kohelet Policy Forum, said when asked how non-Jews in Israel could fail to feel marginalized under the new nation-state law.

He insisted the law is non-discriminatory and wondered why Arab protesters were using “terrorist flags” during demonstrations, referring to the official banner of the Palestinian Administration.

“He is right saying this law didn’t change much because Israel is actually a racist country and nationalist chauvinist state that is practicing apartheid,” Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, replied. He also said Israel’s version of segregation is “much worse than the South African system of apartheid.”

“Israel is the most vibrant democracy in the Middle East,” Bar-Yoshafat claimed before being interrupted by his Palestinian interlocutor “How can you be a democracy if you’re conducting apartheid?” Barghouti asked.

Watch the full debate here.

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