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Thousands protest at Israeli citizenship bill

Several thousand Jewish and Arab Israelis protested peacefully against a bill requiring non-Jewish new citizens to swear allegiance to the country as a Jewish state, an AFP reporter witnessed.

world Updated: Oct 17, 2010 07:57 IST

Several thousand Jewish and Arab Israelis protested peacefully against a bill requiring non-Jewish new citizens to swear allegiance to the country as a Jewish state, an AFP reporter witnessed.

The rally, organised by left-wing opposition parties and human rights organisations yesterday, came six days after the mainly right-wing government voted overwhelmingly in favour of the controversial legislation.

The measure has been widely condemned as racist by Israel's Arab minority but appeared designed to placate hardline ministers ahead of a decision to extend a settlement moratorium seen as key to US-backed peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Demonstrators marched through central Tel Aviv to the defence ministry, brandishing banners that read "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies" and "No to hatred", criticising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

An original proposal by Lieberman's ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party would have required even Arabs born in Israel to make the pledge and promise to serve in the military or perform other national service but it was toned down.

The 30-member coalition cabinet endorsed the draft amendment by 22-eight and it has to be approved by parliament before becoming law.

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