Knesset Roundup | 14 March 2011


February 21 – March 17 2011


Recent Anti-Democratic Legislation


February 21 | Funding from Foreign State Entities

On February 21, this bill passed its second-third (i.e. final) reading in the Knesset plenum and is now officially enacted as a law. After extensive work by ACRI and other NGOs, the version that passed was a somewhat softened version. The two main changes to the previous legal situation are that NGOs will be required to report funding from foreign state entities every quarter, instead of annually; and that if monetary support from a foreign state entity is designated for a special advertising campaign, this support shall be noted within the framework of that campaign.
It is important to note that even though the “softer” version of the bill was enacted, and despite the fact that the reality has not changed much, this law marks human rights organizations as “agents” of foreign governments that wish to interfere with Israeli policies – so in the public sense, the damage is done.
Furthermore, MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), who promoted this bill, already promised that he will continue to promote legislation to curtail the work of human rights NGOs, including canceling tax benefits on donations. In fact, Elkin has recently publicly stated that he will promote amendments to the just-enacted Funding from Foreign State Entities Law, in order to cancel tax benefits to NGOs.
Following many questions ACRI received from our international contacts, we translated the final version of the enacted law to English. To read it, please click here.

March 7 | Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill

On March 7, the Knesset plenum approved the Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill in its first reading (32 MKs for, 12 against). This bill is meant primarily to prevent those opposing the Israeli occupation from advancing boycotts against Israeli settlements and products manufactured there. According to the bill, Israeli citizens and residents who initiate, promote, provide information, or publish material that might serve as grounds for imposing a boycott against Israel and the territories under its control would be committing a crime. They may be ordered to compensate parties economically affected by that boycott, including fixed reparations of 30,000 NIS (approximately $7,000), without an obligation of the plaintiffs to prove damages.
Prior to this vote, 53 Israeli human rights and civil society organizations sent a letter to MK Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of the Knesset, and to MK David Rotem, Chair of the Constitution, Legislation, and Law Committee, expressing their strong opposition to this dangerous bill. The signatory organizations work on a wide range of human rights issues, and include the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B’Tselem, Gisha, Amnesty Israel, Physicians for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, Yesh Din, New Israel Fund, and Hotline for Migrant Workers.
To read ACRI’s full position on this bill, click here.

March 7 | Citizenship Law – Amendment (Revocation of Citizenship for Persons Convicted of Terrorism or Espionage)

On 10 January 2010, this bill was approved by the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee with two proposed amendments. First, that it will not be permissible to leave a person without a citizenship. Second, that the decision to revoke citizenship will require the approval of the Attorney-General. However, the amended version was later rejected by committee.
On March 7 2011, the original version of the bill passed its first reading in the plenum (24 MKs for, 12 against). The bill is expected to be discussed in the Internal Affairs Committee on March 15, in preparation for its second-third (final) vote in the plenum.

Upcoming Anti-Democratic Legislation


March 14 | “The Nakba Law”

This bill (officially titled: “Budget Principles Law (Amendment 39) – Reducing Budgetary Support for Activities Contrary to the Principles of the State”) was discussed today in the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, and approved for its second-third (final) reading in the plenum.
ACRI is strongly opposed to this bill, first and foremost for its severe violation of freedom of speech and its anti-democratic character, and for its part in a political campaign that aims to persecute and delegitimize an entire population of Israel’s citizenry.
In a position paper sent by to the members of the committee, ACRI attorneys noted that this proposed bill would severely affect freedom of political expression, artistic freedom, and the right to demonstrate. Additionally, the bill seeks to single out and mark Israel’s Arab citizens as dangerous and disloyal to the state, in seeking to express their own narrative and interpretation of historical events. The bill completely ignores the state’s duty to recognize ethnic-national minority groups, their culture, and their narrative, as part of their right to cultural independence.
To read ACRI’s full position paper on the Nakba Law, click here.

March 16 | Parliamentary Committees of Inquiry

The Knesset House Committee has approved the establishment of two separate but related parliamentary committees of inquiry: a parliamentary committee of inquiry to look into the funding of Israeli organizations “accused of working to prosecute IDF soldiers and officers abroad;” and a second committee to look into “the involvement of foreign governments and bodies in funding actions against the state and in attempts to purchase lands.”
The letters of appointment for these committees were supposed to return to the plenum for final approval on February 28, but the votes were canceled, apparently because the promoters realized they cannot achieve a majority in the plenum.
However, this dangerous initiative did not disappear, and the votes are scheduled to take place this Wednesday, March 16. According to a recent count, the situation is nearly tied, with 61 MKs in favor and 59 MKs against the establishment of these dangerous committees. We will keep you updated on any developments.

March 17 | Binding Migrant Workers in the Nursing Industry to Employers

On March 17, the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee will discuss a government bill that is intended to bind migrant workers who provide nursing care – to their employers and to a specific geographical region. According to this bill, the Minister of Interior will determine how many employers can the migrant workers replace, as well as limit the worker’s permitted geographical region. If a migrant worker would be forced to leave employers (e.g. due to sexual assault, abusive work conditions, death of the employer, etc.), the worker will be deported from Israel.
In a position paper sent to the members of the committee by attorneys from ACRI, Kav LaOved, and Hotline for Migrant Workers, the attorneys stated that this proposed bill infringes on basic rights and freedoms of migrant workers, and that previous attempts to do so were severely criticized by the High Court of Justice.

Recently Tabled Anti-Democratic Legislation

The current Knesset presents an unprecedented flood of anti-democratic legislation. Below are two anti-democratic bills that have just recently been tabled.
1. Law of Associations – Amendment

Israeli associations must support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (as opposed to only democratic, according to the current law). Tabled on March 7 by MK Miri Regev (Likud) and MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beitenu).
2. Legal Immunity for Rabbis

Certified rabbis will not be held legally accountable or be subjected to any legal proceedings for expressing their opinions, orally or in writing, on matters “relating to the Torah.” This bill is a response to charges of incitement that were submitted against various rabbis, for their statements against Arab citizens of Israel and other groups. Tabled on March 7 by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) et al.

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Citizenship and Residency, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Freedom of Expression, Migrant Workers

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