(Back to Israel, and to blogging as usual)
The Knesset voted yesterday in favor of Israel Beitenu’s “Nakba Bill”, which authorizes the finance minister to hold funds from institutions or groups who question the nature of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or who mark the Palestinian Nakba on Israel’s Independence Day.
The goal of this bill – as stated by MK Alex Miller, who initiated it – is to prevent Palestinians from commemorating the national disaster they suffered in 1948, when most of the Arabs in (then) Palestine were expelled or fled from their homes. The original version of MK Miller’s bill made marking the Nakba a criminal offense, liable to up to three years in prison. Political pressure from Labor forced him to introduce the” softer” version, which was approved yesterday.
The bill still needs to pass two votes in the parliament for it to become a state law.
I hope all those praising “The only democracy in the middle East” pay close attention to what’s going on in Israel right now, and most notably to this law. This is no less than an organized attack – and a very successful one – on freedom of speech in this country, just like the effort to ban movies and books which are considered unpatriotic. The new bill’s mandate is so broad, that it actually gives the government authority to withdrawal funds and ultimately close universities and colleges who would teach what might be viewed as “anti-Zionist” classes.
From a morale point of view, this law is even more despicable: not only that Israel refuses to recognize its part in the national catastrophe that the Palestinian people suffered – this is not new – now it doesn’t even allow them to mention it. If an Arab school teaches Palestinian history to its kids, it risks being closed. In the tradition of totalitarian regimes across the globe, instead of making minorities part of our broad national narrative, we try to erase their history and than demand they celebrate on our Independence Day.
I wonder what Allan Dershowitz, who still views himself as a liberal and a defender of freedom of speech, would have to say about this law.
And this also happened this week: the office of the minister of education forbade distributing a booklet for kids about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it didn’t like two articles in the declaration, as well as some of the illustration in the booklet.