Article 4 of the Nation State Law (NSL), entitled 'Languages', stipulates that Hebrew is the language of the state (Article 4(a)); the Arabic language has a special status in the state and regulating the use of Arabic in or by state institutions will be set in law (Article 4(b)); and this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before the law came into effect (Article 4(c), the 'validity of laws' clause). The question is whether, how, and to what extent these provisions hinder the present legal status of the Arabic language in Israel. The legal status of Arabic had never been determined decisively before enactment of the NSL. The High Court of Israel has always been divided on this matter, particularly between judges who perceived Arabic as an official language and judges who deemed it solely as having been granted its acknowledged 'special legal status'. Furthermore, the judges who perceived Arabic as an official language of the state were also in dispute among themselves as to the meaning, the scope and the consequences of such recognition. Considering these circumstances, my view is that the NSL perpetuates the legal status of Arabic as prescribed in the laws and case law that already existed, and that the validity of laws clause, coupled with the special status granted to Arabic in a basic law, suggests that the door is still open for the Court to further endorse the legal status of Arabic in Israel.
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Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press in association with the Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- Arab minority
- King's Order in Council
- Nation State Law
- official language
- special status
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