“Racist, Fascist” Bills

Right wing Knesset members, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his ultranationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, have proposed a bill to outlaw commemorations of the al-Nakba, the catastrophe that befell hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who were expelled from their homes by Jews in the 1948 wave of ethnic cleansing, a key moment in the construction of a Jewish Zionist state. Israel’s Arab citizens, along with Palestinians in the diaspora, recognize al-Nakba on May 15, the day following the end of the British mandate over Palestine in 1948. Arabs commemorate that day by parading through villages destroyed by Jewish colonizers. The bill, if made law, would ban these commemorative practices with a prison term of up to three years for anyone participating in them.

Bill Robinson, professor of sociology at the University of California-Santa Barbara, recently pointed out about this law “criminalizing acts of memory, of collective identity, of cultural and political expression.” “Imagine criminalizing black commemoration of slavery, or Indian commemoration of genocide in the Americas?” He said. “Or Jewish commemoration of the Holocaust?” Indeed. Can you imagine that? Yet those who commemorate the Holocaust are proposing to forbid Arabs from commemorating al-Nakba.

This isn’t the only fascistic measure. As reported in Haaretz, the Knesset plenum has given its initial approval to a bill that would make it a crime to publicly deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. This “crime” would be punishable by a prison sentence of up to a year. This means that an Arab Muslim, in an alleged democratic society, could not voice the opinion that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state. This is analogous to a law that makes punishable any public denial of the right of the German state to exist as a white non-Jewish racial state. Can you imagine a Jewish citizen of Germany being forced to keep quiet his protest of the exclusive ethnic character of his state?

Moreover, a third bill, proposed by David Rotem of the Yisrael Beiteinu, would require any persons seeking Israeli citizenship to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel. This bill reads: “those seeking citizenship will be required to declare commitment to be loyal to the state of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and its values and to serve the state as required in military service or an alternative service.” Imagine an Arab Muslim, in order to be a citizen in an alleged democratic country, swearing his allegiance to a Jewish Zionist ideal, its flag and others symbols, its values, which include its religious and ethnic character, and to serve in a compulsory fashion that state even when its policies are detrimental to Arab Muslims.

Similar bills propose amendments to the laws that governs the oath taken by Knesset members and members that includes identical language. Thus an Arab Muslim elected to the Knesset would be requires to swear his allegiance to a Jewish Zionist state. Here’s the Haaretz piece: Israeli Arab committee slams ‘racist, fascist’ bills.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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