Labor ministers lodge appeal on 'Nakba' bill

Argue bill strengthens radical elements, harms freedom; Arab MK compares Israel to Nazi Germany

nakba rally 248 88 (photo credit: )
nakba rally 248 88
(photo credit: )
Labor ministers Isaac Herzog, Shalom Shimhon and Avishai Braverman submitted on Monday an appeal to the proposed 'Nakba bill' advanced by Israel Beiteinu, which would make it illegal to mark Israel's Independence Day as a day of mourning - a common practice among Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs. "A proposal of this kind harms freedom of speech and freedom to demonstrate - basic rights in a democratic country. This bill will increase the isolation and alienation felt by the Israeli Arab community and will strengthen radical elements within it," the appeal read. MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) told Army Radio on Monday that "the string of proposals brought forth by Israel Beiteinu is intended to cause unrest within the Israeli-Arab community and will lead Israel into a confrontation that will see waves of hate and violence that Israel Beiteinu thrives on. Labor's presence in this coalition with Israel Beiteinu lends legitimization and support to the racist proceedings that hurt the ability of Israeli society to move forward." Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon rebutted claims Monday afternoon that this bill would strengthen the extremists. "The radicalization of Israeli Arabs did not start with this law," he told Israel Radio, "It started long before that." According to Ayalon, "There are people who act against the state, people who call for the extermination of the state. This is already happening. Any other country in the world would not stand by while its celebrations of independence are turned into a memorial service." An Arab MK on Sunday compared Israel to Nazi Germany following a decision by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to approve the bill. The proposed bill "is no less severe than the laws enacted by the Third Reich," MK Afo Agbaria (Hadash) said. "The State of Israel has declared jihad on the Arab population. Israel is gradually becoming an apartheid state. I won't be surprised if in the future the Netanyahu-Lieberman government imposes additional restrictions on Arab citizens, including forbidding the use of the Arabic language." The bill, sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MK Alex Miller, prohibits holding events or activities that aim to mark the day of Israel's independence as a time of mourning or sorrow. Those who violate the law could get up to three years in prison. The proposed legislation must pass three Knesset readings before it would become law, and it is likely to face heavy opposition, including from some coalition members. Palestinians refer to the events of 1948 - when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven from their homes - as the nakba, which in Arabic means catastrophe. The nakba commemorations are usually held on the civil date of the founding of the State of Israel - May 14 - while Independence Day celebrations are held on the Hebrew anniversary. Balad Chairman MK Jamal Zahalka called the proposed legislation a "crazy bill by a crazy government. If anyone was still in doubt, the government has successfully passed the insanity test." Zahalka insisted that Israeli Arabs will "find a way to mark nakba day, whether the crazies of the Lieberman-Netanyahu government like it or not. They drove away our people and destroyed 500 villages and now they want to deny us even our cry of pain. This is record-breaking Israeli hutzpa." The Association for Civil Rights in Israel also blasted the bill, arguing that "commemorating the nakba does not threaten Israel's security, and it is a legitimate basic right for every person, group or people to express their pain at a tragedy. "This is not just a question of rights for the Arab minority, but it is a crossing of all boundaries on a sure path of cruel suppression of freedom of expression for us all," the organization continued, in a statement released Sunday evening. Elie Leshem and Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report