MK petitions against Bishara Law

Balad MK Said Nafa petitioned the High Court of Justice on Tuesday against the so-called Bishara Law according to which anyone who visits an enemy country without permission will be prohibited from running for the Knesset for seven years from the day of the visit. The law was approved by the plenum on Monday by a vote of 52 to 24. The legislation is not retroactive, but will begin to apply after being published in the government Gazette. In other words, Arab MKs or anyone else who wants to run in the next election and who has visited countries in the past defined by Israel as enemies will be allowed to run for election on condition that they do not visit any of these states from now on. In the petition, Nafa's lawyer, Samir Zidan, wrote that the law "contradicts the aim of the Basic Law: Knesset and the basic rights protected and embedded in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom." He also charged that the law violated minority rights and was aimed at the Arab population. "Members of the Israeli Arab minority visited Syria in recent years," Zidan continued. "The aim of most of these visits was to meet with first-degree family members." The right to meet with relatives was a fundamental human right, he argued. Nafa and Zidan argued that the principles of an MK's activities, immunity and freedom of movement were all violated "in a grave and unprecedented way" by the new law. Furthermore, "a law that protects the right of citizens to elect and be elected on the one hand, and, at the same time, applies sanctions that contradict the essence of the law and prevents MKs or others from being elected just because they visited one country or another, is a sweeping provision that violates the very law within which it lives and breathes." Nafa asked the court to issue an interim injunction suspending implementation of the law until it rules on the demand to overturn it altogether. However, the court did not seem in a hurry. It ordered the state to respond to the petition within 60 days.