Market in Tel Aviv, Israel
Market in Tel Aviv, Israel
Tamar Vidon

Language, Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "is the blood of the soul." When there is more than one language on the same land, it can also becomes a prime source of conflict.

On Sunday, an Israeli government cabinet committee approved the wording of a nation-state bill that, among other things, would downgrade the status of Arabic, the language of nearly 20% of the population. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the opposition Joint List, an alliance of four Arab-dominated parties in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, called the measure an attempt "to destroy the standing of the Arab population and exclude their culture and language."

The debate in Israel is hardly unique, and the status that nations or regions confer to a minority language is often a clear expression of the minority's standing.

An ongoing demand In Northern Ireland by Sinn Féin that Irish Gaelic be made an official language alongside English (with no mention of Ulster-Scots, the other indigenous language) has been a stumbling block in talks for restoring a power-sharing government.

A big step toward defining our identity.

Turkey has long balked at the Kurdish minority's demands that their language be fully accepted. In January, the Turkish government closed the Kurdish Institute of Istanbul, which had been teaching the Kurdish language and publishing Kurdish literature for a quarter century.

The threat to the Arabic language in Israel is part of a broader attempt to ensure that only Jewish people have the right to self-determination in the country, a proposal that has provoked widespread debate. Though it still needs to wind through several stages of Parliamentary approval, the current version of the bill would make Hebrew the only official national language, effectively demoting Arabic to what is called "a special status."

Avi Dichter, a member of Parliament with the ruling Likud party, and the sponsor of the draft law, called it a "big step toward defining our identity." No one, in any language, could argue with that — but it's an identity many Israelis reject.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Green

Inside Sweden's "100,000-Year" Solution To Bury Nuclear Waste

As experts debate whether nuclear power can become another leading renewable energy source, Sweden has adopted a first-of-its-kind underground depository for nuclear waste — and many countries are following their lead.

At Sweden's Oskarshamn nuclear power plant

Carl-Johan Karlsson

As last fall’s climate summit in Glasgow made it clear that the world is still on route for major planetary disaster, it also brought the question of nuclear power squarely back on the agenda. A growing number of experts and policymakers now argue that nuclear energy deserves many of the same considerations as wind, solar and other leading renewables.

But while staunch opponents to nuclear may be slowly shifting their opinion, and countries like France, the UK and especially China plan to expand their nuclear portfolios, one main question keeps haunting policymakers: how do we store the radioactive waste?

In Sweden, the government claims to have found a solution.

Keep reading... Show less
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ