By Roni Sofer, YNetNews.com – 23 March 2011
The Knesset passed two controversial bills late Tuesday night, infuriating many MKs from Arab and left-wing parties, who claim the bills are racist and run counter to democratic values. The “Nakba bill”, proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu, requires the state to fine local authorities and other state-funded bodies for holding events marking the Palestinian Nakba Day by supporting armed resistance or racism against Israel, or desecrating the state flag or national symbols.On Nakba Day Palestinians mark the “catastrophe” of Israel’s inception in 1948.
The bill, which was reworked before its final passing, states that the finance minister will be charged with deciding when to withdraw funds from various groups after considering the opinions of the attorney general and a professional team comprised of members of the ministries of finance and justice. Thirty-seven MKs supported the bill in its final form, while 25 opposed it.
‘Thought police in Israel’
MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) was among the supporters. “I am not ashamed for wanting to protect this state as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said. “You are concerned about democracy, but if your way triumphs there won’t be a state.”
But critique against the bill was harsh. “On this day the thought police is being established in Israel,” said Isaac Herzog (Labor). Herzog added that the bill had been formulated in contrast with the attorney general’s recommendations. “It will exacerbate tension in Israel,” he said.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) called it “another dark night”, adding that “this bill will greatly contribute to Israel’s de-legitimization in the world”.
MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) was also outraged. “You are creating a monstrous state that will enter the thoughts and emotions of citizens. Is accepting my history considered incitement?” she asked. “The Nakba is a historic truth, not a position or freedom of expression.”
ACRI: Bill sanctions discrimination
The second bill, which passed by a majority of 35 to 20, formalizes the establishment of admission committees to review potential residents of Negev and Galilee communities that have fewer than 400 families. It was passed after 2 am.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel immediately filed a petition against the bill, claiming that it sanctions discrimination against Arabs, haredim, Mizrahi Jews, and even single mothers.
The petition gives a long list of court cases in which plaintiffs were rejected by admissions committees, including a handicapped IDF veteran, Arab and immigrant families, and Jews with Mizrahi roots. The committees turned them down with explanations about “suitability for community life”, according to the petition.
After the passing of the bill the Knesset erupted in riots as MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al), refusing to limit himself to the comparison of the bill to South Africa’s apartheid,mentioned the Wannsee Conference in which the Nazis decided on the Holocaust’s “final solution” – or the gassing of Jews.
Arab and left-wing MKs claim the bill, which was proposed by MKs from Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima, is aimed at preventing Arabs from residing in the communities that choose to adopt admission committees.But its initiators claim in their explanation of the bill that it is “a balanced bill and not racist, and does not intend to harm the Arabs or the weaker members of society”.
‘We will make sure world boycotts towns’
MK Taleb El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta’al) said the bill’s initiators should be ashamed. “How can a country determine for its citizens where to live and die?” he asked.
“The Knesset is broadcasting a message that was received by the rabbis in Safed, who prevent Arab students from residing there. Imagine if Britain or France had made a law preventing Jews from living in certain communities,” El-Sana added. “This is a racist law, a law against Arabs.” MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash) announced “the clinical death of the State of Israel.” He added that although the law prohibits denying anyone residence based on his race, it was still possible to do so on cultural grounds. “We will make sure the towns, local authorities, and communities that adopt the law are boycotted in the world,” he said.
MK Tibi: Read Jewish history
But the Knesset truly erupted in violence when MK Tibi took the stand. “You must read Jewish history well and learn which laws you suffered from. Do you remember anything about the prohibition of interracial marriage? Do you need an Arab on the stand to remind you of your history?” he asked.
“When 14 representatives gathered in Berlin, they discussed which policy to use against the Jews. It was then they discussed pushing them aside and limiting their living space…”
At this point MKs from other parties interrupted Tibi, yelling at him to leave the podium. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) refused to let him continue, yelling out, “Go back to Ramallah.” Tibi was eventually allowed to continue, and said Arabs felt as though they were being pushed aside. He said he was not comparing the law to the final solution, but that he had brought it up in order to stress the level of hatred.