'Nakba Law prevents free expression'

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 24, 2011
MK Horowitz attacked the new law

MK Horowitz attacked the new law

On Tuesday the Knesset passed two laws: one to protect Israel's Zionist history, and another allowing small towns to prevent certain families from becoming residents.

Both laws have been attacked by left-wing parties and human rights groups as being targeted at Israel's Arab minority.

The "Nakba Law" allows the government to deduct funds from organisations that question the "Jewish or democratic" nature of the state of Israel.

The law as originally proposed by MK Alex Miller, of Yisrael Beiteinu, prohibited the commemoration of the Palestinian "Nakba", the displacement in the 1948 War of Independence. But it was toned down only to prohibit government-funded bodies from "questioning the state's fundamental beliefs".

MK Nitzan Horowitz, of Meretz, attacked it, saying "the law talks about opposing the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, but are you democrats? No, this is a law that prevents freedom of expression."

Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, who backed the law, said: "A normal country would need such a law? A normal country would not give money to organisations that seek to destroy it."

The second law, proposed by members of the centrist
opposition party, Kadima, allows small villages of up to 400 families in the Galilee and Negev to decide which new families to accept into their communities. The law sets out the regulations by which "entrance committees" can deny applicants the right to buy their homes and has been attacked by left-wing groups as a way to block Arabs, single parents, gay couples and immigrants from buying homes.

MK Uri Ariel of the National Union party, who backed the law, denied it was racist, saying that "as a religious person, a secular community can deny me a home in their midst and I think that is legitimate".

While the legislation is proceeding, more practical steps have been taken by the Israeli intelligence community. In recent months, the intelligence branch of the IDF has begun collecting information on international organisations working to promote delegitimisation of Israel and legal action against Israeli officers and officials.

This is a departure from the military intelligence's normal mandate, and was decided upon after the operation against the Gaza flotilla last year, in which nine Turkish activists were killed and seven commandos wounded.

The flotilla episode highlighted intelligence shortcomings in the IDF's ability to deal with events initiated by anti-Israel NGOs. While some government departments have criticised the IDF's move, saying that this kind of intelligence work should be the role of the Foreign Ministry and Mossad, the IDF has responded with the claim that much of the NGOs' actions are directed against the IDF and its senior officers, who are unable to travel to countries like Britain out of fear of arrest warrants.

Last updated: 12:56pm, March 24 2011