Knesset bills spark fury of Arab MKs

Bills ban Israelis who visit enemy states from becoming MKs; Arab MKs say they'll defy 'racist laws.'

azmi bishara 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
azmi bishara 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset members who travel to enemy states without permission would be prohibited from taking part in its deliberations, according to new legislation advanced by MKs Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) and Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu) Wednesday. Two separate bills proposed by the MKs, but with almost identical wording, passed preliminary readings in the plenum. They will now be sent to committees and combined into a cohesive bill that is already being called the "Bishara Law," after former MK Azmi Bishara who fled Israel in April after police accused him of collaborating with Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. "Visiting enemy states stirs fear that sensitive security information could be relayed," said Orlev. "The Bishara episode and the incitement used by some of the Arab MKs, such as their trips to Syria and meetings with Hamas leaders, are not in the realm of free speech, but form clear encouragement of armed attacks and terrorist activities against Israel." Tartman said it was "time for Israel to open its eyes. Enough of Arab Knesset members spitting in our faces and us saying it's raining." Arab Knesset members slammed the law, with several vowing that they would continue to visit any state they saw fit. "The Knesset is filled with racists," said MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al). "Unjust MKs want a Knesset without Arabs… If I am invited [to an enemy state], I'll go despite the law. I am sure that a person who violates a law that is unjust - or whose conscience is completely clear and is willing to pay the price and be imprisoned in order to raise public awareness regarding injustice - is truly showing his respect for the highest values." During the vote, Hadash chairman MK Muhammad Barakei told MKs to "choke along with the Knesset." "If we have to choose between loyalty to our people, or serving in the Knesset, then good luck to the Knesset," he said. "We'll leave the Knesset to you, and all the racists can choke." The bills were approved by a majority of 52 in favor and 19 opposed.