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Mass protest in Tel Aviv against new nationality law

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By Mark Armstrong
Mass protest in Tel Aviv against new nationality law

Tens of thousands of members of Israel's Druze minority and held a rally in central Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest against a contentious new nationality law that seeks to enshrine the Jewish character of Israel.

The Druze serve in the military, unlike most of the country's Arab citizens, who overwhelmingly follow Sunni Islam and have close family ties with Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.

Over the years, members of the Druze community have risen to prominence in the military and in politics. They are considered to be fiercely loyal to Israel.

"We gathered here all of the Israeli citizens to change the bad law for the Israeli country, for the state of Israel, for the Jewish people, and for all the minorities, Brigadier General reservist Amal Assad told the protesters. "It's a bad law and we are all equal, Jews, Arabs, Druze, everybody. We are brothers, we defend this country and we'll build it and we will continue to live here together."

Critics say the new law undermines the country's democratic values by downgrading non-Jewish minorities. For instance, Arabic has been reclassed as a special language whereas before it was official.

The Arabic speaking community, which includes the Druze, makes up around 20 percent of the population.