Knesset Roundup | 28 March 2011

March 22 – March 30 2011


Recent Anti-Democratic Legislation


March 22 | Acceptance to Communities Bill

On March 22, this bill passed its second-third (i.e. final) reading in the Knesset plenum and is now officially enacted as a law. ACRI is strongly opposed to this bill, which will anchor discrimination and separatism in Israeli law by creating acceptance committees to villages of up to 400 family units in the Negev and Galilee regions.
The following day, ACRI – together with the Abraham Fund Initiatives and residents of communal villages who oppose the bill – filed a petition to the High Court of Justice, demanding to disqualify the “Acceptance to Communities” law on the grounds that it provides a “license to discriminate” against “unwanted” communities, who are rejected by acceptance committees in communal villages and in kibbutz expansions. This law legalizes a common discriminatory practice, which has already been criticized by the HCJ.
In the petition, ACRI Attorney Gil Gan-Mor notes that despite their title, in the majority of these communal villages life is not “communal” and they have no unique characteristics; and yet the law will enable discrimination in acceptance to these villages based on the vague criteria of “fitting with the life of the community” or “fitting with the social fabric.” Based on these criteria, the committees currently reject “unwanted” communities that wish to live in the village – such as Arabs, single parents, disabled persons, same-sex couples, Mizrachi Jews, religious people, and so on.
To read ACRI’s full position on this bill, click here.
To read more about ACRI’s petition to the High Court of Justice, click here.

March 22 | The Nakba Law

Together with the Acceptance to Communities Bill, another anti-democratic bill passed its final reading in the plenum on March 22. The Nakba Law, officially titled “Budget Principles Law (Amendment 39) – Reducing Budgetary Support for Activities Contrary to the Principles of the State,” will enable a committee of bureaucrats from the Ministry of Finance to fine municipalities, public institutions, or publicly supported organizations – if they believe that these bodies oppose the interpretation of the term “Jewish and democratic State,” express feelings of mourning related to the Israeli Independence Day or the Nakba, or violate the symbols of the State.
Attorney Dan Yakir, ACRI’s Chief Legal Counsel, has sent a letter to Members of Knesset, urging them to oppose the Nakba Law. Attorney Yakir stated that the law will limit specific forms of expression, while attempting to dictate one ideological and historical truth: “This bill severely damages freedom of political expression, freedom of artistic expression, and freedom of protest, which are all basic rights and are essential to the very existence of a democracy.”
To read ACRI’s full position on this bill, click here.

Upcoming Anti-Democratic Legislation


March 28 | Citizenship Law – Amendment (Revocation of Citizenship for Persons Convicted of Terrorism or Espionage)

This bill will be brought today to the Knesset plenum for its final reading. ACRI is unequivocally opposed to this bill; however, there have been two important amendments to the bill, which ACRI has played a key role in advancing behind the scenes. First, it will not be permissible to leave a person without a citizenship. Second, the decision to revoke citizenship will require the approval of the Attorney-General.

March 28 | 4 Bills for Using Palestinian Prisoners as Leverage in Negotiations

The Knesset Internal Affairs Committee will discuss four private bills, which aim to use Palestinian prisoners held in Israel as leverage in negotiations for the release of Israeli soldiers that are held captive:

  1. Amendment to the Prisons Ordinance (Preventing Visits), submitted by MK Danny Danon (Likud) and 18 other MKs – Stipulates that prisoners who are, or were at the time of their arrest, members of a “terrorist organization” (as defined in Israeli law) will not be allowed to have visitors, other than a visit by a representative of the International Red Cross every 3 months.
  2. Bill for the Release of Prisoners and Captives, submitted by MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) – Stipulates that if the release of a certain prisoner is presented as a condition for the release of an Israeli captive or prisoner, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defense will have the power to place said prisoner in complete isolation, including revocation of any rights such as books and communications, and including prevention of visits by family members, lawyers, and representatives of international relief organizations.
  3. Amendment to the Prisons Ordinance (Limiting Visits to Security Prisoners), submitted by MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) – Stipulates that if an Israeli prisoner held captive by a certain terrorist group or organization is not allowed to receive visits from family members, Israeli government officials, or representatives of international relief organizations – then the minister may order to prevent visitors from any prisoner, held in Israeli prisons, who is a member of that group or organization (including attorney visits).
  4. Bill for the Incarceration of Demanded Prisoners, submitted by MK Yariv Levin (Likud) et al. Stipulates that any prisoner or detainee, whose release is demanded as a condition for the release of an Israeli prisoner or captive, or any other prisoner that the GSS believes is a member of a “terrorist organization” – shall be deemed a “demanded prisoner.” As such, any rights can be revoked from him, including any visitation rights. Furthermore, “demanded prisoners” shall be held in custody even after they finished serving their sentence, for as long as the Head of the GSS deems them “demanded prisoners.”

None of these proposed bills is likely to be approved in their current versions during today’s committee discussion. ACRI is opposed to all four bills, which are unconstitutional and violate Israel’s commitment to International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.

March 29 | The Slavery Law and Other Bills Targeting Foreign Residents

Tomorrow, the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee is expected to discuss the “Slavery Law,” a government-sponsored which aims to set various limitations on migrant workers in the nursing professions. According to this bill, the Minister of Interior will have the power to bind migrant caretakers to their employers; to subsections of nursing services (e.g.  to only work with the elderly, the severely handicapped, or minors); to a set number of employers they may switch; and to a specific geographic location in which they may work.
This bill constitutes an attempt to restore the previous arrangement that bound migrant workers to their employers, and which the Supreme Court has already criticized in 2006 as “a type of modern slavery” that infringes on a wide range of protected human rights, primarily the right to personal dignity and freedom.
The Internal Affairs Committee is currently discussing two other government-sponsored bills, which aim to restrict the legal status of non-Jews in Israel. One bill stipulates that persons who stayed in Israel illegally will be able to acquire any legal status only after a 1-10 year “cooling period” outside the country. The other seeks to establish a tribunal for immigration and status matters within the Ministry of Justice. Once this tribunal is established, all the executive, legislative, and judicial powers pertaining to the immigration and status of non-Jews will be in the hands of the Ministries of Justice and Interior.
If enacted, these  bills will severely harm the basic rights of many individuals and introduce a far-reaching reform to Israel’s immigration policy.
To read more about all 3 bills, click here.

March 29 | The Terrorism Law

Tomorrow, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation has will discuss the Terrorism Law. This government-sponsored bill, promoted by the Ministry of Justice, will grant the Israeli police and security forces wide powers, some of them dangerous and draconian. ACRI warns that this bill will enable the revocation of basic human rights without due process. The authorities certainly need effective tools for dealing with terrorism, but at the same time must maintain the basic principles of due process. This bill will enable security forces to place Israeli citizens and residents in administrative detention with no time limits, without a fair trial, and without disclosing to the suspects the nature of the accusations and evidence against them.
Following ACRI’s position, submitted to the Ministry of Justice, two important changes were made to the current version of the bill. First, the original version applied to “surrounding” organizations (e.g. a welfare organization or a hospital that are operated by a branch of a terrorist organization), in a manner that threatens freedom of assembly; in the revised version, a “surrounding” organization shall be deemed a terrorist organization only if it is declared so in and of itself. Second, the revised version now includes the possibility of a preliminary hearing before an organization is permanently declared as a terrorist organization. According to ACRI, these two revisions are important but not sufficient.

March 30 | Last Day of Current Knesset Seat

This coming Wednesday will be the last day of the current Knesset seat; the next seat will open in approximately 2 months. During this period, we will halt ACRI’s regular Legislative Roundup updates. However, there are always new legislative developments, even when the Knesset is on hiatus, and we will occasionally update on them.

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Citizenship and Residency, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Due Process, Freedom of Expression, Housing Rights, Labor Rights, Migrant Workers, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers, Social and Economic Rights, The Right to Equality

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