MKs decry 'empty talk' on annual Human Rights Day

Report lists more than a dozen recently passed laws that in some way "limit the rights of Israeli citizens."

colette avital 298 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
colette avital 298
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
A cloud hung over the Knesset's annual Human Rights Day - as left-wing MKs declared the event an "empty celebration" due to the number of laws that the 17th Knesset has passed that diminish rather than strengthen human rights. According to a report compiled by the Knesset's human rights lobby and presented by MKs Colette Avital (Labor), Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), and Dov Kheinin (Hadash) - the current Knesset has taken a number of steps that increase the state's power to trample human rights. The report listed more than a dozen laws that the Knesset has recently passed that in some way "limit the rights of Israeli citizens." Chief among the report's complaints was a law passed Monday that has already been nicknamed the "big brother law." The law, which passed in a vote of 35-5, grants police access to technical communication information including IP addresses, cellphone location and SIM card details. It would allow Israel to have the largest information database of any western nation. "More than any other time in our history, the rights of Israeli citizens are in danger," said Gal-On. "It is easy to safeguard the rights of Israeli citizens in times of peace. But in times of distress we make more of an effort to stand by the rights of citizens." Even efforts to reinforce the Knesset's Human Rights Day were thwarted, said Kheinin, when the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs declined to support a package of six bills pertaining to the rights of suspects and defendants that was prepared by the lobby. "The cabinet has shown yet again that it has no interest in human rights," said Kheinin. "As far as the ministerial committee is concerned, Human Rights Day in the Knesset is a day of empty talk. In lieu of legislation there is no meaning to marking theme days in the Knesset." Committee chairman Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann explained that the bills simply exceeded the quota of legislation slated for discussion. He added that the committee recommended that the bills be brought up as motions for the agenda - effectively authorizing the plenum to debate the bills without conducting a formal vote. Another bill that was singled out by the human rights lobby relates to the right of the Jerusalem city council to cancel parades or other gatherings within city limits. The bill was created by right-wing Knesset members in the wake of the yearly gay pride parade. MKs argued that the courts were forcing the city to allow the annual event, through it went against the wishes of the local population. Kheinin pointed out that the bill gave the city of Jerusalem an unprecedented ability to limit the rights of citizens to gather and demonstrate, exercising free speech. Several of the other bills singled out by the lobby took particular aim at the rights of Israeli Arabs, said Kheinin. The "JNF bill" would undermine a highly-publicized High Court decision that would force the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to sell its land to Arab as well as Jewish citizens. NU-NRP MKs created the bill, which re-affirms the right of the JNF to only sell its land to Jewish citizens. Another proposed bill would amend the current citizenship law, which allows the spouses of Israeli citizens to apply for Israeli citizenship. The new changes would single out Palestinians, making it illegal for a Palestinian to receive citizenship based on their marriage to an Israeli.