Israeli democracy under threat
Acri, summer 2010
On July 21, the last day of the Knesset’s summer session for 2010, ACRI appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, warning of an alarming trend taking shape in the current Knesset, which flourished during the last session: the use of democratic processes by the majority, specifically legislation, to hinder freedom of expression, to harm our system of checks and balances, and to violate the rights of minority groups in Israel.
Here is ACRI’s list of the 14 worst draft bills of the season:
1) KNESSET MEMBERS DECLARATION OF ALLEGIANCE BILL (MK David Rotem, Yisrael Beitenu): Members of Knesset would be obliged to declare allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, its laws, symbols, and anthem. The bill would essentially delegitimize and exclude minority groups from participating in Israeli democracy.
2) PREVENTING HIGH COURT FROM RULING ON “CITIZENSHIP LAW” BILL (MK David Rotem and 44 additional MKs): This attempts to bypass the High Court as an independent judicial authority with regards to the Citizenship Law, which the Court has yet to abolish.
3) CONSTITUTIONAL COURT BILL (MK David Rotem): An explicit attempt to delegitimize the Supreme Court by establishing an alternative judicial authority.
4) NAKBA BILL (MK Alex Miller, Yisrael Beitenu): Anybody marking the establishment of the State as a day of mourning (“Nakba”, catastrophe in Arabic, is the term used by some Palestinian Israelis to denote the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel) will be denied public funding. Such legislation constitutes a violation of freedom of expression in which the majority is attempting to silence a particular political position.
5) PROHIBITION OF INCITEMENT BILL (MK Zevulun Orlev, Habayit Hayehudi-New National Religious Party): The existing prohibition on incitement would be expanded to include a rejection of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
6) DECLARATION OF ALLEGIANCE FOR CITIZENS BILL (MK David Rotem): Every citizen would have to declare allegiance to Israel as a Jewish, democratic, and Zionist state, and perform military or civic (national) service.
7) ACCEPTANCE TO COMMUNITIES BILL (MKs David Rotem, Israel Hasson and Shai Hermesh, Kadima): Endorsement of community admissions committees to reject candidates who do not match the community’s worldview.
8) STRING OF DRAFT BILLS PROPOSED BY THE CABINET, AIMING TO LIMIT THE OPPOSITION’S POWER IN THE KNESSET, among them: seven MKs would be able to split from a faction and form a new faction, instead of 40 (one-third of the Knesset); increase the majority needed to approve a budgetary draft bill to 55; if a prime minister cannot form a government after a vote of no-confidence, the previous, failed parliament would once again be instated; and more. 2
9) FOREIGN STATE FUNDING BILL (MK Zeev Elkin, Likud, and additional MKs): A number of strict measures would be taken to limit foreign funding of Israeli non-profit organizations. The bill was strategically designed to target certain organizations of a certain political bent and human rights organizations in an attempt to control the actions of Israeli civil society.
10) PARDON FOR DISENGAGEMENT PROTESTERS BILL (MK Reuven Rivlin, Likud, and additional MKs): Though legislation acknowledging the right to political protest is welcome, this particular bill, granting pardons to individuals who were prosecuted for various protest acts against the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, favors a specific political-ideological group because of the Knesset majority’s need to placate its constituents. Instead legislation should be general for all cases in which pardons for political activity are acceptable.
11) PREVENTION OF INFILTRATION BILL (Cabinet): Among other clauses, this draft law would render infiltration punishable with 5-7 years of imprisonment including those who assist the infiltrator. The bill aims to delegitimize civil society and refugee aid associations.
12) BOYCOTT PROHIBITION BILL (MK Zeev Elkin and additional MKs): Anyone who initiates, advances or publicizes material which serves as a basis for a boycott of Israel would be prosecuted for a criminal offense and would be forced to pay damages to those who suffered from the boycott. Any foreigner who does so will be prohibited from entering Israel for 10 years.
13) REVOCATION OF CITIZENSHIP FOR INDIVIDUALS FOUND GUILTY OF TREASON OR TERRORISM BILL (MK David Rotem): Citizenship is a basic right and revoking it in such cases would consequently violate other related rights. Israel’s legal system has ample laws aimed at dealing with individuals found guilty of terrorism or treason.
14) FILM BILL (MK MICHAEL BEN ARI, ICHUD LEUMI): Public funding of films would be conditioned on a declaration of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state by the film’s entire staff.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel www.acri.org.il