MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) presented a petition to the High Court of Justice Thursday against Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin’s rejection of his bill to prohibit government funding for organizations that deny the “Nakba.”
“Nakba,” or catastrophe, is the name given by the Arab world to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
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The petition was submitted on Tibi’s behalf by Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
Tibi’s bill proposed empowering the Minister of Finance to cut state funding to organizations that “deny publicly that Nakba Day was a historical, real event that constitutes a disaster for the Palestinian people.”
The bill was a response to an Israel Beiteinu “Nakba Bill,” which called for cutting government funding to organizations that recognize the Nakba.
Tibi dubbed the rejection of his bill “a dark day for democracy.”
The High Court petition claims Tibi presented the bill to open a Knesset discussion about the Nakba, in order that he might convince MKs that the Nakba Bill was “an injustice to the Palestinian minority in Israel.”
The petition also argues Israel Beiteinu’s bill denies Arab citizens their history, which it claims is inconsistent with the principle of equal citizenship.
In rejecting the bill earlier this month, Rivlin explained he had voted against the legislation because it rejects the State of Israel as a Jewish state.
“This bill is clearly defiant and provokes the State of Israel, and therefore, its place is not on the Knesset’s table,” Rivlin said.
“This bill says the State of Israel is the reason for the Palestinian tragedy. 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.”
The petition also criticizes the decision of the Knesset speaker to reject Tibi’s bill on the grounds that it denies Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The rejection of the bill was the first time in Israel’s history that a bill proposed by an Arab MK was rejected for this reason.
“Indeed, MK Ahmed Tibi is opposed to the definition of the state as a Jewish state, and he espouses the idea of a ‘multinational’ state – and he has made a declaration to that effect before the court in a different case,” the petition reads.
“However, the bill in question does not concern this issue. It is concerned with the historical narrative of the Arab minority in Israel.”
Lawyer Hassan Jabareen, director-general of Adalah, said the Knesset’s rejection of the bill severely affects the rights of the parliamentary minority, including parliamentary freedom of expression and equality between MKs.
“The debate over the Nakba already took place in the ‘Nakba Bill,’ and in that debate there were those in favor and those who opposed it,” Jabareen noted. “There was no claim then that raising the subject in the assembly raised any sort of problems that prohibited parliamentary debate.”
Jabareen also said MK Tibi wanted to challenge the “Nakba Bill” on the grounds of a paragraph that he deemed to be racist.
“The decision that prevented [Tibi] from raising a subject that the coalition itself already raised and debated before the committees and before the assembly is discriminatory and one that is tainted with extraneous motives and considerations,” said Jabareen.
After filing the petition, Tibi admitted that had the bill not been rejected, it would not have stood a chance of approval had it been brought to the vote.
“However, part of my role as an elected public official is to always raise the issue of the Nakba and the historical narrative of those who elected me,” he said. “So, challenging the dominant discourse of the majority in Israel, which denies the narrative of the Nakba, is a necessary part of the historical process for official recognition of that narrative and for promoting historic reconciliation between two peoples.”
Tibi compared his efforts to have the Nakba officially recognized to those of Native Americans and Indigenous Australians to have their rights recognized after the founding of the USA and Australia.
MK Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu), who proposed the original “Nakba Bill,” forbidding state funding of Nakba Day events, spoke out against Tibi’s move.
“Unfortunately, once again we are witnessing an attempt by a member of
Israel’s parliament, who tries again and again to cancel the State of
Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature,” Miller said.
“I believe that the High Court will not take part in Tibi’s absurdist
theater and cancel his petition immediately, as the Knesset Speaker and
his deputies did.”
Likud MK Danny Danon said that how“just like Tibi’s bill was thrown out
of the Knesset, so will his petition be thrown out and erased from the
Referring to his bill to investigate foreign funding of left wing NGOs,
Danon called for “a thorough investigation of the sources of MK Tibi’s
funding, including the organizations aiding him in his legal
Danon’s NGO probe bill was rejected in Knesset Wednesday.