“Nakba Law” to be approved, raises questions on Israel’s commitment to democratic values

Posted: July 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation has approved today the “soft” version of Israel Beitenu’s “Nakba Law”, aimed at preventing events or ceremonies marking the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948.

According to the old version of the law, commemorating the Nakba would have become a criminal offense, leading up to three years in prison. International criticism, as well as doubts over the consequences of trying to uphold such a law, led to the new version, which was presented before the ministerial committee today. Haaretz reports that

The new bill prohibits funding of activities that reject the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state or deny the democratic character of the state.

It also outlaws funding for activities that fall within the definition of armed struggle or terrorist activities – by an enemy state or a terror organization – against Israel.

Additionally, the bill prohibits funding for activities that could harm the honor of the flag, the state or state symbols. 

Judging from the public support for both versions of the bill, I believe there is a good chance the new version will become a state law in a matter of a year or so, possibly even less.

One has to understand the political reality in Israel to fully appreciate why this new law is no less than a direct attack on the core principles of the democratic system, and most notably, on the rights of the large Israeli-Palestinian minority.

Basically, to outlaw funds equals to outlaw an activity altogether. From now on, if an Arab city or village conducts for example a remembrance ceremony for the members of their community that died in 1948, it will stand the risk of losing all public support for the municipality – something no one, especially the poor Arab population, can afford.

Furthermore, most major conference halls or public arenas accept public funds, one way or the other. One wonders what would become of courses and lectures in the Israeli universities that are discussing the “state for all its citizens” idea. According to the new bill, they would be outlawed as well. Technically, if a university conducts even a one time public debate over a book such as “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” (by Israeli historian, and now right-wing man, Bennie Morris) it stands in danger of losing government support, since someone might rise the idea of a Palestinian right of return in such a debate. Given the fact that all universities and most colleges in Israel are funded by the state, they are not very likely to take that risk. And even if they do, the fear of the consequences will probably affect the nature of such debates and courses.

It seems that when it comes to the Arabs, Israelis have totally forgotten the meaning of freedom of speech. It is almost embarrassing to remind that this idea involves the freedom to express opinions that we don’t agree with, by people we don’t necessarily like. The kind of “freedom of speech” the Israeli government is now promoting – to the cheers of the ever growing nationalistic crowd – exist in every regime on earth, democratic or not. Ask any Chinese or Iranian official and he will tell you they have freedom of speech as well, only that some dangerous ideas are currently forbidden. Is this the model Israelis are looking up to?

The irony is that this law will enable to revoke government funding from many religious colleges, or “Yeshivot”, as well, since they might be seen as holding religious laws superior to state laws. But this is something that obviously wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – happen.

More importantly, this law could serve as a good argument for those supporting the boycott on Israel: since Israel doesn’t allow the Palestinians’ self expression, why should the world allow Israel’s?

As if only to support this logic, the government has also decided today to prolong the extremely problematic Citizenship and Entry into Israel Temporary Order.

One Comment on ““Nakba Law” to be approved, raises questions on Israel’s commitment to democratic values”

  1. 1 By the Power of Truth! said at 3:42 am on July 24th, 2009:

    Israel is getting desperate, but even this shenanigan won’t work. You can’t, no matter how you try, suppress truth.