Human Rights Groups Petition High Court to Overthrow 'Nakba Law'

The Nakba Law bars public funding of entities that 'undermine the foundations of the state', and will allow the finance minister to fine anyone who marks Israeli Independence Day as a day of mourning.

Adalah, a legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel submitted a petition to the High Court Wednesday to overturn a law barring public funding of entities that "undermine the foundations of the state and contradict its values".

The law, referred to as the "Nakba Law," is specifically directed at Israel's independence day, when some Israeli-Arabs mourn their Arab ancestors who were expelled from their homes.


According to the law, Arab commemoration of this holiday this goes against the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel.

The Nakba Law will allow the minister of finance to fine anyone who marks Israeli Independence Day as a day of mourning or who holds memorial events for the Palestinian Nakba.

Adalah and the Union for Human rights submitted the petition along with the parents of students from a mixed Arab and Jewish school, a non profit alumni organization for former students at an Arab high school in Haifa and Professor Oren Yiftahel from Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva.

The petition claims that the Nakba Law will unjustly permit Israeli authorities to fine individuals for holding events commemorating the Nakba not only on Israel Independence Day, but throughout the year as well.

The drafters of the petition claim that the law is an infringement upon citizens' legal rights, compromising individuals' political, academic and artistic freedoms. They added that the law detracts from basic human entitlement to equality, education, and employment as well.

The petitioners' major allegation is that the law will harm the basic rights of Israel's Arab minority, and may detract from the budgets of many public institutions including cultural and education facilities, as well as Arab municipalities throughout Israel.

They added that the fact the minister of finance is given jurisdiction to determine if and when an institution or individual should be fined, will inevitably lead to discriminatory enforcement of the law. The petition said that this will only encourage political persecution of Israel's Arab minority, which constitutes roughly 20-percent of the population.

The petitioners have asked the High Court to issue an interim freeze on the minister of finance's right to fine perpetrators of this law until it rules on the petition.

"This is an ideological law that has been directed against the national identity of Israel's Arab citizens, and against their collective memory. It detracts from the legitimacy of their standing as citizens entitle to equal rights in the State of Israel," said Adalah lawyer Saswanzaher Zaher.

Zaher added that the law "punishes the Arab citizens of Israel because of their different, other identity and may lead to increased racism against them."

In March, the Arab Education Monitoring Committee responded defiantly to the passage of the controversial bill, announcing that it would continue to direct Arab Israeli schools to mark national Israeli Arab commemorations including Nakba Day.

Members of the Knesset have also spoken out against the law. MK Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) said the Arab population will persist in marking the Nakba without the use of government funds, adding: "We will continue activities marking Nakba Day with the aim of presenting the historical facts, which are not subject to interpretation when it comes to a people uprooted from its land, many of whose members were made refugees."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party sponsored the bill, stands behind it, saying "there is no other normal country that funds events comparing its establishment to a catastrophe."