New bill to outlaw groups that question Israel as 'Jewish and democratic'

Wednesday, 10 November, 2010 - 12:49
London, UK
Adalah, ACRI, Knesset

On Sunday 7 November 2010, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation discussed a new private bill, entitled, ‘The Bill for Protecting the Values of the State of Israel (Legislation Amendments) 2009’.

The legislation amendments were first submitted for consideration on 1 June 2009 by Member of Knesset Uri Ariel of the extreme right-wing National Union party. Their discussion on Sunday led to a decision to modify the current draft in coordination with the Minister of Justice and to bring it back to debate in a month’s time.

The proposed amendments, if passed in their current form, will modify the existing Law of Associations and Law of Companies to refuse registration to associations or companies whose actions or aims impair, undermine or endanger ‘the values of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.’

The amendments also require that existing associations and companies acting to promote such ‘unacceptable aims’ shall be closed down by the Registrar.

Although the amendments, if passed, will apply to all associations and companies in Israel, local rights group Adalah has warned that they will especially violate the freedom of association and expression of Arab-Palestinian organizations in Israel whose aim is to achieve full political and social rights for the country’s Arab minority through democratic means.

Rights groups in Israel say the amended law will place them under constant ideological scrutiny, resulting in severe intimidation and limitation of the ability of many organizations to act.

Similar conditions apply to the registration of political parties in Israel. Section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset (1985) demands that party lists not deny the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state as a precondition for registration. According to Adalah, this legal provision has been employed in the past to seek to disqualify Arab political party lists from elections.

The bill joins a large number of bills targeting the freedom of speech and association of the Arab minority in Israel, as well as other human rights groups.

It is seen as part of a general trend in the Israeli Knesset and government to demand public expressions of loyalty to the state as ‘Jewish and democratic’ through legislation, and to criminalize any public debate on this definition.

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