A bill put forth by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party to ban Nakba commemorations came closer to becoming law today, as the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the proposal. The bill must now be brought to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) for a vote.
In 1948, the Arab-Israeli War ended with the establishment of the State of Israel in territories captured in the conflict. May 14, 1948 is celebrated as Israel’s independence day. Its celebration date varies on Western calenders, but was May 3 this year.
But for the roughly 700,000 Palestinians displaced during the conflict, and for many Israeli Arabs who had relatives displaced or killed during the war, the date is a day of mourning called al-Nakba (day of catastrophe). The day is commemorated on May 15, and rallies are held across the Arab world. Israeli Arabs often march to the sites where former Arab villages stood. The protests are harshly criticized by Israeli officials.
The bill would make it illegal to hold Nakba events, and those caught observing the day of a day of mourning or sorrow would be subject to up to three years in prison. Israeli-Arab MPs condemned the bill as “crazy,” insisting that Nakba commemorations were not a threat to Israel’s existence, and saying that Arabs in the nation would find ways to mark the day even if forbidden by the government.
The attempt to ban the Nakba’s observance is in keeping with Yisrael Beiteinu’s demands for absolute loyalty to the state by all of Israel’s citizens. The party attempted to have the nation’s Arab parties banned ahead of this year’s elections, but the ban (which was initially passed) was ultimately overturned by the nation’s High Court of Justice.