Arab MKs slam Knesset approval of 'Bishara law'

Law states visitors to enemy states could face Knesset ban; Arab MKs: Law is unconstitutional.

Tibi 298.88 (photo credit: )
Tibi 298.88
(photo credit: )
Israeli parliamentarians who visit enemy states face a ban from serving in the Knesset, under the terms of a new law that passed on Monday. Arab MKs immediately denounced the new law, calling it unconstitutional, and said it would be challenged and beaten in the Supreme Court. But the legislation, which passed by a 52-24 vote, was hailed by its sponsors as a guarantee that "Trojan horses" and "enemies" would no longer be allowed to sit in the Knesset. "This law will return some of our trampled honor as a nation and will give us a good reason to stand upright," said MK Estherina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu), who - together with MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) - submitted the bill. "From now on, Israeli citizens can be calm - enemies will no longer sit in the legislature. As in every normal, enlightened, democratic state, anyone who disregards national security will know that he won't be able to be elected to the Knesset." The bill is also known as the Bishara Law, because it was submitted after the publication of the case of former Balad MK Azmi Bishara, who made numerous trips to Lebanon and Syria and is currently wanted for questioning by the Israel Police under suspicion of treason for allegedly aiding Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. "From today onward, Arab MKs will have to decide - the Syrian parliament or the Israeli parliament. The law will put the brakes on the infiltration of Trojan horses into the Knesset," said Orlev. "We must demand of the Arab leadership unconditional loyalty to the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state just as every democratic state asks of its elected officials." The legislation is based on clause 7A of the Basic Law: Knesset, which states that "a list of candidates or a candidate can be elected as long as their goals or their actions, literally or interpretively, do not negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, [express] incitement to racism or support of the armed struggle of an enemy state or a terror organization against the state of Israel." The new law now adds that "anyone who has illegally visited an enemy state in the seven years preceding the [submission of his name on the party list] will be seen as a supporter of armed struggle, unless they prove otherwise." The law does not apply retroactively. Arab MKs, who look likely to be directly harmed by the law due to their visits to Lebanon and Syria, said the law would be overruled by the Supreme Court. On Monday, MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List) said that because the bill had failed to be approved by a simple majority of all MKs - 61 votes - it could not be considered approved as an amendment to a Basic Law, and would not withstand the test of the Supreme Court because it impinged on equality. MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) said that "it is a law of terror by any other name. It aims to impose a rule of terror in thought and political opinion. It is an unconstitutional law - you can't call visits by relatives and visits for the promotion [of] peace support for terror." Balad MK Jamal Zahalka said he planned on appealing the law to the Supreme Court as well, arguing that Arab MKs should have the right to visit Arab countries.