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