Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and his deputies rejected on Monday a bill proposed by MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) to forbid government funding of any organization that denies the “Nakba,” the catastrophe, what the Arab world calls the founding of the State of Israel.

This was the first time in seven years that the forum, consisting of the Knesset speaker and his deputies, rejected a bill. Only Tibi and MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) approved the bill, with five other deputy Knesset speakers voting against it. MK Ruhama Avraham- Balila (Kadima) and MK Majallie Whbee (Kadima), who was out of the country, abstained.

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Tibi said it was “a dark day for democracy” after the forum rejected his bill, a response to the Israel Beiteinu “Nakba Bill” opposing funding of those who recognize the Nakba.

“I stood in front of you with a challenge, and you failed,” he told the group. “This is a blow to freedom of expression and democratic values.”

Tibi added that the bill was meant to raise awareness of “the suffering of the Palestinian people in 1948. Whoever denies it is taking an inhuman stance.”

Tibi also said that he plans to consult with his party’s legal advisers as to whether he could take the bill to the High Court of Justice and petition against the forum’s decision.

“This bill is clearly defiant and provokes the State of Israel, and therefore, its place is not on the Knesset’s table,” Rivlin explained, adding that he voted against the bill because it rejects the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

“This bill says the State of Israel is the reason for the Palestinian tragedy,” Rivlin said. “If the Nakba is a tragedy, then the establishment of the State of Israel is a tragedy. The Palestinians experienced a catastrophe that was brought on by their leaders, but the establishment of the State of Israel is not the reason for it.”

MK Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu), who proposed the bill forbidding funding for institutions recognizing the Nakba, said Tibi’s initiative is “bizarre and aims to harm anyone who does not want to mark Independence Day as a day of mourning or refuses to recognize the myth that undermines the Jewish People’s right to their own state in the Land of Israel.”

“There is no reason to allow this anarchic circus that Tibi and his friends want to hold in the Knesset,” Miller concluded. “There’s a limit to our masochism.”

Coalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) implied that the bill was a gimmick by Tibi.

“It’s clear to me that Tibi benefitted most from the fact that the bill was rejected,” said Elkin, who was present during the meeting.

“If it was tabled, I’m not even sure he would bring it to a vote.”

Under law, the Knesset speaker and deputies can reject a bill that is racist or rejects Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. This is the first time a bill was rejected for the second reason.

The last bill that the Knesset speaker and deputies rejected was proposed by MK Arye Eldad (National Union) in 2004, suggesting that for every Jewish settlement dismantled in the Gaza disengagement, an Arab settlement should be dismantled. The forum voted against the bill on the grounds that it was racist.

The last time the High Court reversed such a decision by the Knesset speaker and deputies was in 1984, when then-MK Meir Kahane (Kach) proposed that all government programs promoting integration between Arabs and Jews be canceled.

The court ruled that the law was racist, but that if the Knesset allowed Kahane to run on a racist platform, it does not have the right to reject his bills.

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