Friday, June 05, 2009

Israeli Right Presses On

While Obama tries to lay out a vision of a more tolerant and less confrontational world, the Israeli non-democratic right ("Fascist" is such an overused word) pushes on with its agenda to ban anyone who disagrees with them. And, of course, they are claiming to do this all out of love - love for the Jewish People.

The most notorious of their proposed new laws, that all Israelis be required to swear a loyalty oath, was defeated by the Ministerial Committee on Law. This means it will not be backed by the government. But it can, and likely will, be introduced as a private members bill. It has the backing of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman and his Israel Beytenu party.

But several equally offensive, though lower profile, proposed laws have fared better so far.

A private member’s bill, proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev of the religious Zionist “Jewish Home” party (also a member of the coalition government), passed its preliminary hearing in the Knesset. It promises one year in prison to anyone who publishes “a call that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”, if the contents of the call “might cause actions of hate, contempt or disloyalty against the state or the institutions of government or the courts”.

So, advocating that Israel become a state for all its citizens, rather than one that promotes Jewish interests over those of it non Jewish citizens, would land you in jail. Of course most the 20% of Israeli citizens who are non-Jewish (as well as some of Israel's Jewish citizens) demand exactly this. The proposed law would be like declaring that anyone who wants to amend the U.S. constitution should be thrown in jail, or that all Bloc Quebecois supporters in Canada should be declared criminals. And the phrase "might cause" provides just enough vagueness that the prosecution can charge however they like (e.g. those demanding equal rights for non-Jews) while ignoring those right wingers who regularly call for settlers (and soldiers) to defy the feeble attempts of the democratic institutions to remove unauthorized settlements, or those Orthodox who deny the very right of democratic institutions to overrule God's Laws. It would also make illegal causing "contempt" for the state or the government. Half the newspaper columnists in the country could become suspect under this law.

As Uri Avnery writes:
One can foresee the next steps. A million and a half Arab citizens cannot be expected to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. They want it to be “a state of all its citizens” – Jews, Arabs and others. ...

The consequences are inevitable. The prisons will not be able to hold all those convicted of this crime. There will be a need for concentration camps all over the country to house all the deniers of Israeli [Jewish] democracy.

But that's not all. More anti-democratic laws are in the queue.

The the Ministerial Committee on Law did decide to introduce a law that would ban commemoration of the Naqba, the Palestinian dispossession that accompanied the establishment of the State of Israel. And the Minister of Justice (sic!) Yaakov Neeman (pictured above) has been giving interviews promoting it. This would be like telling American Indians that they must celebrate Columbus Day, under penalty of prison time.

And David Rotem of the Israel Beytenu party, chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, has introduced a bill that stipulates that anyone applying for Israeli citizenship must declare their loyalty to “the Jewish, Zionist and Democratic State." As Avnery points out: This would be like having someone swear loyalty to a "Capitalist" U.S. or a "Catholic" Italy.

Yet another bill waiting for its turn before the Ministerial Committee proposes changing the declaration that every new Knesset Member has to make before assuming office. Instead of loyalty “to the State of Israel and its laws”, as now, he or she will be required to declare their loyalty “to the Jewish, Zionist and Democratic State of Israel, its symbols and its values”. This would preclude most Arabs and many ultra-Orthodox from ever becoming (honestly at least) Knesset members.

None of these laws has yet passed. Hopefully they never will. But it is clear that an ill and intolerant wind is blowing through the land.


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