High Court Rejects Petition Against Israel's Controversial 'Nakba Law'

Arab, Jewish citizens submit petition against law granting finance minister power to reduce budget of state-funded bodies that reject Israel as Jewish state or mark the Palestinian Nakba.

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Israel's High Court on Thursday rejected a petition against the controversial Nakba Law passed by the Knesset in March, which fines bodies who openly reject Israel as a Jewish state or mark the Israel's Independence Day as a day of mourning.

The High Court justices recognized that the petition against the law raised complex questions that had public significance, but ultimately decided that at this stage the court could not make a judicial ruling on the matter.

A boy marking Nakba Day in Ramallah with a symbolic “key” to his home. Credit: AP

The justices, headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, said that the petition was not yet "ripe," citing the absence of the concrete factual foundation necessary to back the claims raised in the petition.

Those who filed the petition are graduates of the Arab Orthodox high school in Haifa, a number Jewish and Arab citizens, as well as Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel.

United Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi expressed regret over the High Court's decision to reject the petition.

"The ruling relied on procedural considerations and feared to get into the thick of this law that discriminates against an entire Arab collective," Tibi said.

In October, Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon ruled that the controversial Nakba Law was constitutional.

The law, which was proposed by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) grants the finance minister the power to reduce the budget of state-funded bodies that openly reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or that mark the state’s Independence Day as a day of mourning.

According to Yinon and his aides, the law itself does not in any way prevent individual freedom of speech, nor does it forbid individuals from commemorating what Israeli Arabs and Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba” (“the Catastrophe” in Arabic), a term used to describe the 700,000 Arabs who lost their homes in the war that led to the establishment of the state of Israel. Yinon and his aides claim that the purpose of the law is to ensure that the state does not fund organizations or actions that undermine its existence.

Furthermore, they claim that according to the law, any reduction in funds for state-funded bodies will be done in a highly-scrutinized manner, and only after consultation with experts.