New discriminatory legislation being considered by Knesset ‘narrows the meaning of democracy’ in Israel

Israel/Palestine
on 4 Comments

Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has released a new report (PDF) on discriminatory and anti-democratic legislation being considered by the Israeli Knesset. “We are being introduced to new laws and bills that in some way are narrowing the meaning of democracy here,” Adalah legal advocate Nadeem Shehadeh said in a telephone interview.

Categorized into two sections, the report lists five bills and five laws which further erode the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of the occupied Palestinian territory, and would impact everyone from Palestinian children to members of Knesset. The first section relates to the escalation in violence since September 2015, and the second targets human rights non-governmental organizations and advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

This batch of legislation being pushed under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration, the most right-wing in Israeli history, would continue to shed Israel’s remaining facades of democracy.

Of particular note is the “Anti-boycott bill,” which allows the government to ban foreigners who advocate boycott from entering Israeli-controlled borders. This would include foreigners with Jewish ancestry, who would otherwise be eligible for Israel’s 1950 Law of Return. This would only continue to alienate young Jews from the US, most of whom do not think Israel is a democracy.

Relying on intentionally vague definitions, the list of legislation expands the state’s ability to collectively punish and marginalize Palestinians citizens of Israel and residents of the occupied Palestinian territory. For example, a bill aimed at criminalizing stone throwing now says that throwing stones without intent to cause harm is punishable, which “broadens the definition of stone-throwing,” Shehadeh said.

The bills employ vague definitions of terrorism, which Shehadeh sees as intentional, in part to prevent a contradiction with another bill currently being discussed in the Knesset that would define terrorism. “If you look at the bill, there’s a very broad definition of what a terrorist act is, and what constitutes a terrorist organization,” he said. “I’m familiar with the bill so I can tell you it’s very broad and dangerous.” The definitions are intentionally vague in order to prevent current laws from contradicting the upcoming anti-terrorism bill, according to Shehadeh.

Overall, Shehadeh identifies a tendency to subvert democratic expression. “[The Israeli government] is unable to tolerate any different opinions of this reality. I think it is what’s most dangerous.”

You can read the whole Adalah report here.

About Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen is an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Palestine. He tweets at @dancohen3000.

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4 Responses

  1. James Michie
    March 9, 2016, 8:38 am

    “. . continue to shed Israel’s remaining facades of democracy”? Oh come on, Dan, are you going “Zionist-light” on us, along with Mondoweiss? Zionist Israel, from its very beginning, strives to morph all of Palestine (most of it stolen at gunpoint by Zionists, beginning in 1947) into an ethnic theocracy and, therefore, never was and never can be a “democracy”. “Remaining facades of democracy”? Really” Tell that to the Palestinians who have suffered immeasurably under the brutal, racist, genocidal, ethnic cleansing, fascist rule of Zionist Israel for six decades!

    • rugal_b
      March 9, 2016, 10:50 am

      James, that was the marketed Zionist goal. Their true goal was to establish a racialist state, similar to the US, where the white Jews occupy the top strata of society, while brown and black jews progressively lower on the hierarchy help prop up the system. An ethnic theocracy is not that bad compared to what Israel actually is. Plus Israeli Jews come from many ethnicities that can be highly alien relative to each other, such as the white American Jews, black Ethiopian Jews, etc. Even when we isolate their religious identity as the common denominator, there would still be considerable theological and practical differences between the Judaism practiced by each group, to the extent that in vacuum, these can be classified as different religions entirely.

      • James Michie
        March 9, 2016, 5:35 pm

        Dear Rugal, are you suggesting that the different sects/races of Judaism do not practice and hold with the definition of Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31:a?

        Again, I will make the point that Zionist Israel can never be a “democracy”, unless and until it converts from the political Zionism to Judaism. Thank you.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 10, 2016, 9:41 pm

      Oh come on, Dan, are you going “Zionist-light” on us, along with Mondoweiss? Zionist Israel, from its very beginning, strives to morph all of Palestine (most of it stolen at gunpoint by Zionists, beginning in 1947) into an ethnic theocracy and, therefore, never was and never can be a “democracy”.

      james, maybe you are unfamiliar with what the word facade mean? don’t confuse “facades of democracy” with democracy. why don’t you try rereading what dan wrote while using your noggin’ and climbing down from your high horse all at the same time. or is multitasking something you’re unfamiliar with too?

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