On July 21, on the last day of the current Knesset session, ACRI appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, warning of an alarming trend taking shape in the current Knesset, which flourished during the last session: the use of democratic processes, specifically legislation, to hinder freedom of expression, to harm our system of checks and balances, and to violate the rights of minority groups in Israel.
These draft bills come amid a growing trend in Israel of silencing free speech, delegitimizing elements in civil society deemed “disloyal” to the state, and the conditioning of rights based on individuals’ ideologies’, backgrounds, socio-economic background, and more.
In the letter, ACRI detailed how the current Knesset advanced numerous draft bills which threaten to violate the fundamental principles of Israel’s democracy and the rights of all individuals in Israeli society, especially those belonging to the political minority. This trend was especially rife in the summer session.
Among the draft bills ACRI lists as dangerous: a bill requiring all Israeli citizens or “only” Knesset Members to declare their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State; a bill threatening imprisonment or financial sanctions (in its revised version) for marking the “Nakba”, (the Arabic term, “catastrophe”, to describe Israel’s War of Independence); the conditioning of public funding of films on a declaration of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state by the film’s entire staff; and a draft bill criminalizing the initiation or advancement of boycotts against Israel.
“The Knesset is supposed to be a bastion of democracy, and one of its roles is advancing public debate on controversial issues, encouraging a plurality of voices,” Attorney Debbie Gild-Hayo, ACRI’s Director of Policy Advocacy. “Unfortunately, in this Knesset it seems that an increasing number of Members of Knesset believe that their jobs are to silence those who do not share their views.”
Read the full Hebrew letter here.