Rising Disorder Prompts Livni to Seek Harder Line Against Incitement to Violence

The justice minister hopes to make it easier to indict while not significantly eroding freedom of expression.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in May.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in May.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni says she aims to tweak the definition of incitement to violence in order to come down harder on extremists and make it easier for prosecutors and police to get indictments filed.

Currently, for such an indictment there must be significant proof that a call for violence could actually lead to violence. The evidence threshold is very high, making it difficult for law-enforcement agencies to open investigations, Livni said.

She said she wants a harder line without significantly undermining freedom of expression, and that she made her call amid the increasing violence in Israeli society.

Recent days have seen their share of violence, whether the attack on a player at a soccer game or the attempt to kill a right-wing activist in Jerusalem.

“Amid the violent, explosive and dangerous situation in Israeli society today, we cannot remain feinschmeckers,” Livni said, borrowing a Yiddish word often used to mean overly fastidious people or bleeding-heart liberals.

“The current wording of the law enables violence under the protection of the law and gives extremists permission to be violent. In the past, and recently as well, we have paid overly high prices, and at present it’s clear we have the obligation and responsibility to act before it’s too late.”

Livni said that this week, the 19th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israelis had been reminded “of how words can turn into a finger on the trigger.”

“Although education has a vital and decisive role in preventing violence, it’s not enough,” she said. “Therefore the law-enforcement agencies must be given effective tools to deal with the phenomenon, to protect us as a society and to protect democracy while preserving the principle of legitimate freedom of expression.”

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