General, Justice in Israel, Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin, Occupied Territories

All-time record of racist and anti-democratic legislation at Knesset

0 Comments 12 July 2017

On Wednesday (July 5 2017), the Knesset held a day marking the struggle against racism. The event was initiated by Members of Knesset Aida Touma-Suleiman (Hadash) and Michal Biran (the Zionist camp), the chairpersons of the Lobby for the Struggle Against Racism.

day against racism

The main conference was attended by Knesset members, representatives from civil society, human rights organization, and Israeli citizens. Barhoum Jaraisa presented his research on racist and anti-democratic legislation in the 20th Knesset and made it clear that its scope is unprecedented. His study summarises the 94 laws that were either passed, are in the legislative process, or were introduced during the 20th Knesset. Twenty-four of those laws were eventually passed while ten remain in the legislative process. Of those, 51 deal with the occupied Palestinians territories and the settlements.

This long list of racist and anti-democratic bills includes laws aimed at violating the basic rights that underpin democracy, with repeated attempts to silence public criticism of the government; laws intended to restrict the actions of social and political activists and especially minorities; laws targeting human rights organizations while inciting against them and delegitimizing their work; laws aimed at suppressing the political rights and freedom to protest of the Arab minority; laws violating the right to free speech, to participate in elections, and to engage politically; laws violating individual freedom; laws that ostensibly seem to reform criminal law, but apply only to Arab citizens; and laws that persecute international activists for holding political views that are in opposition to the policy of the Israeli government.

"A tsunami of racist and anti-democratic legislation"

“A tsunami of racist and anti-democratic legislation”

Barhoum Jaraisa: “One of the most significant differences over the years is that in the past, there were senior Knesset members in Likud who were able at times to prevent or at least moderate racist and anti-democratic legislation. However, now we see that over the years these individuals have been politically eliminated in their party. Even worse, there is competition among Knesset members for such legislative endeavors – for example, the amount of legislative initiatives for the Nation-State bill… ” In addition, Jaraisa addressed the party voting data and noted that the opposition is not operating like an opposition at all, citing the party Yesh Atid which opposed only 26% of legislative bills and were absent for 49% of votes.

MK Dov Hanin (Hadash – The Joint list): “We are now facing a tsunami of racist and anti-democratic legislation, where this strategy is coming directly from the Prime Minister and inevitably trickles down. There must be a broad public movement to oppose these laws.”

Knesset Member Dov Hanin added: “Zero is the number of times the Knesset presidency used its ability and duty to retract legislation promoting racist or anti-democratic values.”

Ateret Horowitz, Knesset advocate for Rabbis for Human Rights: This myriad of racist and anti-democratic legislation is part of a systematic and sophisticated strategy designed, among other things, to work on a number of different levels to restrict the work of human and civil rights organizations. Through legislation, these organisations are undermined and branded “foreign agents.” It began with laws requiring us to wear badges, and continues with legislation that harms our budgets by withholding tax exemption (Article 46) and restricts our funding, prevents us from receiving national service volunteers, and seeks to impose fines on us for Freedom of Information requests. Moreover, this surge of legislation forces us into the dilemma of where to invest our limited resources and energies. Now, we must also prioritize confronting these offensive and anti-democratic initiatives while continuing to promote our other pressing policy and legislative work.

Text and photos: Ateret Horowitz, Advocate, Rabbis for Human Rights.

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