UN Official Frank La Rue and Rvilin _311.
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank William La Rue,
expressed concern on Thursday over a series of recently proposed bills in a
meeting with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who defended Israeli democracy and
expressed skepticism that the bills would passed.
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La Rue specifically
criticized the bill that would limit foreign government donations to NGOs, Basic
Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, the bill prohibiting loud
muezzin calls, and the bill increasing the penalty for libel sixfold – each of
which is at a different stage in the legislative process.
mentioned the Anti-Boycott Law, which passed in July
The UN official
explained that his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority was meant to
examine use of laws that are supposed to protect national security to
“disproportionately” limit freedom of expression and the press. He added that
the way to protect national security is by strengthening democracy.
Rue said that the bills he mentioned were likely to hurt Israel’s image in the
international community, and called for a Basic Law protecting freedom of
In response, Rivlin said that the security situation in
Israel is much more complex than that in Europe, and that many feel that they
must defend the country against threats via legislation. He added that the lack
of a constitution often leads politicians to attempt to tip the balance and
checks between the branches of government.
The Knesset Speaker explained
the reasoning behind the different bills, reassuring La Rue that many of them
will not pass.
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“These bills are declaratory, and are not going to become
real laws,” Rivlin said. “They’re submitted for political
The Knesset speaker added that he does not support many of the
bills limiting personal freedoms; however, he will make sure that they undergo a
fair legislative process, regardless of whether they are likely to pass or
“Democracy is the rule of the majority, but its true responsibility
is to allow everyone, especially the minority, to express itself,” Rivlin said.
“Israel is a stable democracy, and being a democracy is more important than any
of these bills.”
Rivlin and La Rue agreed that the UN official would
prepare a report, which would be passed on to MKs.
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