Israeli Knesset members arguing in parliament..
(photo credit: KNESSET CHANNEL)
Tempers flared on Monday as Knesset members, security officials and legal scholars fought over new more aggressive anti-terrorism legislation that would stiffen prison sentences for some nonviolent supporters of terrorist groups and strengthen the ability of security officials to seize terror funds.
The bill, debated by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, comes alongside separate legislation that would expand the definition of illegal terrorist groups to include those that provide publicity and financial support for terrorist organizations but do not themselves perpetrate violent acts.
Current law already declares financial support for terrorism illegal, but the combined new legislation would stiffen prison sentences for those involved in terrorism financing and empower security officials with streamlined administrative procedures for seizing terrorism funds.
It would also create a new category of offense for the head of a terrorist group and broaden the definition of what qualifies as incitement and publicity for the organizations.
Supporting the new powers were Lt.-Col. Maurice Hirsch, chief military prosecutor in the West Bank; Defense Ministry representative Rinat Hami’iri; an Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) representative; Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri; Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky; and MK Anat Berko (Likud).
Opposing the changes were leading criminal law scholar and IDI Vice President Mordechai Kremnitzer; MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union); MK Michal Rozin (Meretz); and MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint List.) Hirsch set an aggressive tone, declaring that his office has faced nonviolent terrorism supporters such as a “group of lawyers whose purpose is to pass messages to jailed terrorists” without always having the full tools to intervene.
The hope is that the new bill will close some of these loopholes.
Echoing Hirsch’s sentiments, the Shin Bet representative stated, “I feel like the committee is comfortable only dealing with whoever fires a Kalashnikov and not with touching people who support terror. We are giving discounts to organizations that pay millions of dollars in salary to murderers, funding incitement and purchasing weapons.”
The representative implied that anything less than the new bill would be giving security forces a “handicapped law” for fighting the evolving terrorism threats now being faced.
Rosin lashed back asking rhetorically: “Are we tying the hands of the security forces? Enough of the populism from security officials and those who want power without limits. That is why there are courts and Knesset members” to limit them.
Kremnitzer, meanwhile, called the bill an overreaction.
“After the [September 11, 2001] attack on the US, America went into hysteria and there is always an overreaction when there is a disaster [such as the current wave of violence]. The bill before us is an overreaction lacking proportionality.”
There also was confusion as some legislators thought having distinct definitions for violent and nonviolent terrorist groups would help security forces, whereas the defense establishment prefers that the definition have no distinction with the only one being at the punishment stage.
The committee is expected to continue to debate the legislation in the weeks to come.
The Knesset passed the separate bill broadening the definition of incitement in its first reading on November 3.