Fascism or just a sad joke? marking the Nakba to become illegal

Posted: May 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: culture, In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The government of Israel has decided to make life easier for those who claim it is an Apartheid state (or just a Fascist one). Haaretz reports:

The Ministerial Committee on Law and Constitution on Sunday approved a preliminary proposal which would make it illegal to hold events or ceremonies marking Israel’s Independence Day as a “Nakba,” or catastrophe (…) According to the bill, those found in violation could face up to three years in prison.

The ministerial approval is only a preliminary step and has no legal bearing yet. Before the proposal could become a law, it must first undergo Knesset approval and cabinet consideration.

I won’t go into explaining why this offer is both bad and stupid. If you don’t understand that freedom of speech is meant to allow expressing such views – even if most Israelis find them offensive – look for your first lesson on democracy somewhere else. And if you think that you can prevent people from remembering their national heritage just because you don’t like what it says about yourself – you better learn some history as well, and start with Jewish history.

Obviously, someone will stop this initiative – maybe the cabinet, maybe some MKs from the coalition who would like to build a reputation for themselves as civil right fighters. Maybe they will bury it in some legislative comity. If not, the Supreme Court will probably save the country from another embarrassment.

Even if this law is passed somehow, it will be almost impossible to enforce. Just imagine what will happen on the first Nakba Day, when hundreds of thousands will take part in demonstrations because of this law. One can expect many Jews – like myself – to take part in these events, since this will become a freedom of speech issue. I find it hard to believe the government will be foolish enough to walk into such a trap.

I believe most politicians adjust their opinions according to what they perceive to be the zeitgeist. They are not totally cinical – they just do, almost all the time, what they think their constituency expects of them. It is a very human thing. And right now, Israeli politicians think the public expects them to crack down hard on Arabs. To be a little more racists, even to suspend some civil and human rights.

This is how it works in real life: a right-wing clown like Alex Miller from Israel Beitenu – this is someone who once proposed that all MK’s will be forced to wear a pin stating that they are, in fact, Knesset Members, so that the public would know and respect them, and luckily lost the Knesset vote on the issue – comes up with a new idea: why not make it illegal for people to say things I don’t like to hear? Finally he has found a way to make the public remember him even without the pins. Then the issue is brought to The Ministerial Committee on Law and Constitution, where almost no one wants to appear unpatriotic (even the minister of education, Gidon Saar, supported this offer), so suddenly we have the Israeli government behind this sad joke. Most of its members are savvy enough to understand the risks involved – but they hope someone else (the High Court? Labor ministers?) will end up drawing fire for opposing this law. Sometimes there is such a person, sometimes not.

It all sounds very stupid and harmless, but we should remember that the worst crimes in history happened not because they were supported by many, but because nobody had the courage to stand up against them until it was too late.

I will follow this issue in the comming months. To end up on a positive note, here is a link to a great blog (in Hebrew), dealing mainly with the Nakba.

2 Comments on “Fascism or just a sad joke? marking the Nakba to become illegal”

  1. 1 Shaul Hanuka said at 1:45 pm on May 25th, 2009:

    This is not only a political question. The fact that Racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia are the fastest way for an unknown politician to the mind and heart of voters show’s Gidon Saar as the minister of education has more things to do than fighting for a bigger budget.

  2. 2 Ami Kaufman said at 9:59 pm on May 25th, 2009:

    This is a simple issue of freedom of speech, and should be treated the same way Americans have treated attempts by conservatives to ban flag burning. Over the years, Congress and the Supreme Court have continuosly allowed flag burning, as it is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Like you said Noam, just because you don’t like to hear it or see it, doesn’t mean you should – or can – ban it.