"Ajami" depicts the brutal life of drugs, violence and poverty in a mixed, Jewish-Arab neighborhood in the Mediterranean city of Jaffa.
Copti said he was overjoyed about the nomination and said he hoped the film would help spread awareness about Israel's Arab minority, which makes up about one-fifth of Israel's population of 7 million.
"Maybe with the nomination, people will have a chance to understand what a Palestinian living in Israel is," Copti told The AP in a phone interview from Dubai. "It will put us on the map."
'Ajami'. Continuing tradition (Photo: Boaz Yehonatan Yaacov)
Mosh Danon, the film's producer, received the news about the film's nomination from Ynet. "I tried not to deal with it. In fact, I'm in the middle of a meeting," Danon said, with enthusiastic shouting in the background, coming from outside the office.
"I can't believe it. People are screaming here up to heaven. What's happening here is insane. I am very happy that this film managed to bring us to this place. I am happy for the directors, for the film itself and for everyone who took part in it."
"Ajami" will be competing in the best foreign-language film category against "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" from Argentina, "The Milk of Sorrow" from Peru, "Un Prophete" from France, and "The White Ribbon" from Germany.
"Ajami" is the ninth Israeli movie to be nominated for an Oscar in the foreign-language film category. The first was Ephraim Kishon's "Sallah Shabati" (1965), which was followed by Kishon's "The Policeman" (1972), "I Love You Rosa" (1973) by Moshe Mizrahi, Mizrahi's "The House on Chelouche Street" (1974), "Entebbe: Operation Thunderbolt" (1978) by Menachem Golan, "Beyond the Law" (1983) by Uri Barabash, "Beaufort" (2008) by Joseph Cedar, and Ari Folman's "Waltz with Bashir" (2009).
Despite the many nominations, none of the Israeli films got to take the award home. The only Israeli director to win an Academy Award was Moshe Mizrahi for French film "Madame Rosa" in 1978.
The science-fiction sensation "Avatar" and the Iraq war thriller "The Hurt Locker" lead the Academy Awards with nine nominations each, including best picture and director for former spouses James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow.
For the first time since 1943 the Oscars feature 10 best-picture contenders instead of the usual five.
Also nominated for best-picture Tuesday: "District 9"; the animated comedy "Up"; the World War II saga "Inglourious Basterds"; the football drama "The Blind Side"; the recession tale "Up in The Air," the 1960s drama "A Serious Man," and the teen tales "An Education" and "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' By Sapphire."
Acting nominees include the four stars who have dominated early awards shows: lead players Sandra Bullock for the American football drama "The Blind Side" and Jeff Bridges for the country-music tale "Crazy Heart" and supporting performers Mo'Nique for "Precious" and Austrian actor Christoph Waltz for "Inglourious Basterds."
The 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony will take place on March 7 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. It will be hosted by actors Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.