Weaker Nakba bill approved as government legislation

Ministerial committee on legislation okays 'Nakba Bill', civil union bill; set to discuss 'Schalit Bill'.

Alex Miller  248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Alex Miller 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israeli Arab MKs railed Sunday against the Ministerial Committee for Legislation's decision to support a bill that would allow the Finance Ministry to withhold public funds from organizations that mark Independence Day as a day of mourning. Sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MK Alex Miller, the bill is a scaled-down version of one he presented two months ago which was approved by the committee, but - in the face of criticism within the cabinet - was returned to the committee for further debate. Unlike the first version of the bill, which would send people who marked Independence Day as a catastrophe (nakba in Arabic) to jail, this version would just punish them in the pocketbook. The bill would forbid government-funded bodies or institutions to spend taxpayer money on commemorations that renounce Israel's right to exist as the democratic state of the Jewish people or support terrorism against Israel. The bill would also bar desecrating Israeli flags and other symbols of the state. Any public institution or state-sponsored body using state funds to budget events commemorating the nakba would risk heavy financial sanctions by the Finance Ministry. Miller said in a statement that "the entire political spectrum would agree that no sane country would fund incitement against itself." He said he was sure the government would support it in order to preserve its security. Israeli Arabs and organizations supporting the sector were in an uproar following the committee vote. "This is a law of cowards and petty racists that will not influence us, and will even increase raising the memory of the nakba," said Balad chairman MK Jamal Zahalka. "If the word nakba scares them, then they have a problem. This is the only state in the world that is passing a law to rewrite history." The Abraham Fund Initiatives, an organization promoting coexistence, described the bill as "worrisome, harmful and anti-democratic," adding that "it is yet another link in the destructive chain of delegitimization and exclusion of the Arab minority in Israel. "Acknowledging the fact that the establishment of the State of Israel was accompanied by a human tragedy does not challenge Israel's fundamental right to exist," the NGO argued. Some of the bill's critics within the Arab sector argued it would have very little impact, as most of the Nakba Day events were not sponsored by the municipalities. The cases in which an issue could arise are those where the local community centers - which do receive public funds - hosted the events.