Why Israel Is Moving To Downgrade The Arabic Language

In Israel, Arabic has long been taught in schools, spoken in the parliament and posted on road signs. It is not the official language, but neither is Hebrew, the mother tongue of most of the country. Instead, a law on the books since the British ruled the territory has mandated that all official correspondences be published in Arabic, English and Hebrew. (Israeli leaders removed English from that list after the country’s independence in 1948.)

Yet Arabic may soon get a tacit demotion. On May 7, Israeli lawmakers approved the wording of a long-discussed bill that would define Hebrew as Israel’s “national language.” Days later, after a rowdy debate in the parliament, a majority of lawmakers voted for it. The legislation now faces two more hurdles before it officially becomes law, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling right-wing coalition strongly support it.

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