Knesset session, May 3, 2010
Knesset session, May 3, 2010 Photo by Archive
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The marathon vote on 60 bills in the Knesset the very day before its summer recess reflects clearly the 18th Knesset's character - populistic, declamatory, irresponsible and saturated with racism.

Members of this Knesset have so far submitted 2,500 bills. A small portion of them will pass in second and third readings, and they seem aimed entirely at sparking furor in the media and public controversy. Some - like banning sexual relations under the age of 16 - seem like meaningless, redundant media stunts. Others, like the bill on admission committees for small communities, which passed in its first reading on Wednesday, cast a dark shadow.

This bill is a typical example of the troubling cooperation between Kadima, National Union, Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud MKs - especially conspicuous in view of the opposition's silence. Such proposed legislation, while portrayed as so-called patriotic rallying, is in fact ethnocratic and racist. The clause in this specific bill that stipulates "the committee will not reject a candidate only on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality or disability" purports to be in line with the High Court of Justice ruling in the Ka'adan case (more than a decade ago the High Court overruled the rejection of the Arab Ka'adan family on the part of the Katzir community's admission committee ). But another clause in the bill bypasses this ruling, offering the misleading argument that committees can reject a candidate due to "lack of suitability to the community's cultural-social fabric."

The blatant flouting of basic laws and civil rights is a common theme running through every recent bill: the loyalty bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu's David Rotem, intended to deny citizenship to those who are not "loyal to the state;" the bill to deny the Islamic Movement's legal status, sponsored by Likud's Ofir Akunis; legislation seeking to deny support to "unpatriotic" filmmakers, sponsored by Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) and Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ); the conversion bill, the Nakba bill and many others like them mock the principles of equality and freedom in Israel's Declaration of Independence.

No other Knesset has submitted so many bills under the guise of "preserving state security" that show open preference to Jews over Arabs in all walks of life.

The Knesset members' conduct has been improper too. Especially reprehensible are those who have assailed Arab MKs and threatened to expel them from the Knesset. No less reprehensible are those who took part in or cooperated with the racist incitement and wacky debates among various Knesset committees over singer Harel Skaat's participation in the Eurovision singing competition.

But the most disappointing and outrageous of all are the Kadima and Labor lawmakers, who spoke loftily about their values, but at the moment of truth slipped out to evade the vote - leaving the extremists to stain the law book.

Revoking the rights of Arab MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ) was the culmination of this shameful process. In both words and actions the MKs are undermining democracy's fundamental values, making cynical, cheap use of parliamentary tools, dragging Israeli society to sectorial disputes and separatism, and isolating Israel from the world. They are harming the parliament's credibility and subverting society. This is how the 18th Knesset will be remembered: shallow, destructive and bad.