Druze and Jewish Israelis take part in a rally to protest against the nation-state law in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 4, 2018. REUTERS/Corinna Kern.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Israel’s Rabin Square on Saturday night in solidarity with Israel’s Druze community to protest Israel’s “nation-state law.”

The law enshrines Israel’s Jewish character as a quasi-constitutional Basic Law. Supporters claim it simply codifies the existing status quo. Critics, in particular the Druze community, believe it reduces Israel’s non-Jewish minorities to second-class citizens.

Israel’s Channel Two reports that at the rally, Druze leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif addressed the crowd, saying, “I speak tonight in the name of those whose love for the land and the state is absolute and unequivocal. The cry of the members of the Druze community following the passage of the nation-state bill comes from real pain and expresses great disappointment, it seeks to take from them their Israeliness — we are Israeli brothers.”

Tarif added that the Druze “never undermined the Jewish identity of the state, but we believed that an important part of the Jewish ethos is that there will be full equality and respect for the non-Jewish citizens of the state.”

Israeli news site Walla reports the Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai saying, “The nation-state law in its current form does not recognize all Israeli citizens as equals. In the name of the love of the nation I stand here before you and call on all of us to repeal or change the Basic Law that leaves the other outside the circle, and wipe out this ugly stain from the face of our State of Israel.”

Rafik Halabi, Mayor of the Druze town Dalyat al-Carmel, said, “In Rabin Square we will build anew our civil identity. Equality is not a reward, it is an obligation of the state toward its citizens. This is a battle for the Israeli consciousness, and our victory is certain.”

The former head of Israel’s Shabak intelligence agency Yuval Diskin also spoke, saying, “This is a protest by all citizens of the State of Israel who understand that Israel is the state of the Jewish nation, but also understand that it will not exist if it is not democratic.”

The Druze who are protesting the law, he added, are engaged in “the struggle for equality on behalf of all of us.”

Moshe Lador, Israel’s former State Attorney, told the crowd that the nation-state law creates different classes of citizens based on their “community and religions. Our law book has been stained by a Basic Law that deeply and despairingly harms minorities and all Israeli citizens. The deed is done, but it is possible to take it back. The moral justice of this cries out and we are all obligated to bring about its repeal.”

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