Israeli Parliament OKs Bill to Outlaw Denial of Israel as ‘Jewish State’

Latest in a Series of Laws Aimed at Silencing Arab Citizens

by Jason Ditz, May 27, 2009

In a vote of 47 to 34, the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) has given initial approval to a new bill that would criminalize opposing Israel’s status as a “Jewish state,” punishable by up to a year in prison. The bill is aimed at Israeli Arabs who object to their status as second-class citizens in the nation.

The bill was criticized by parts of the Israeli left, with Meretz Party MP Haim Oron saying he disagrees with people who believe Israel should not be a Jewish state, but feels the law is “insane” and creates “thought police.”

It was the third bill this week targeting Israel’s Arab minority. On Sunday a committee approved a bill that would jail any Arabs caught commemorating Israel’s Independence Day as the Nakba, or day of catastrophe. Advocates of the bill said the Nakba protest marches were a threat to Israel’s existence.

The very next day, Yisrael Beiteinu made good on its campaign pledge to introduce a bill requiring all Arabs to swear loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish, Zionist” state, revoking the citizenship of all that refused. Such bills are not unheard of in Israel’s history, but the election of a far right government this year seems to have spawned several ambitious bills curtailing the Israeli Arabs’ rights to criticize the government.

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