Israel's Knesset considers 'loyalty' law

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Israel's Knesset building.
Image: Beny Shlevich.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has initially voted in favor of two bills, the "Loyalty Oath Law" and the "Nakba Law", both of which have sparked major controversy and are aimed at Palestinians living in Israel who are critical of Israeli policies in the occupied territories.

The first law, the 'Loyalty Oath Law', makes any "call to negate Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, where the content of such publication would have a reasonable possibility of causing an act of hatred, disdain or disloyalty" a criminal offense punishable with imprisonment of up to one year. Naomi Chazan, president of the liberal New Israel Fund called the bill an "attempt to trample on the feelings of pain of Israeli Arabs".

The second law, the 'Nakba Law', makes marking the Nakba illegal. The Nakba is commemorated in the Arab world as marking the day when Palestinians were dispossessed of their lands for the creation of the Israeli state.

Another law proposed this week, by the Yisrael Beiteinu party, requires a citation of a loyalty oath to Israel in order to gain a compulsory identification card.

During the debate on the initial Loyalty Oath Law in the Knesset its proponents faced serious attacks from the opposition. Ronnie Bar-On of Kadima asserted existing law sufficed, and disdained the new legislation, saying, "You want to punish people for talking? Soon, will you want to punish for thoughts?"

The bills have all passed initial readings, but have to be further voted upon and passed to a committee review before taking effect as legislation.