Israeli Bill Seeks to Impose Sanctions on Institutions Marking Nakba

Bill would cut funds for universities that allow Israel's Independence Day to be marked as a day of mourning on their campuses

Arab Israeli protesters march to commemorate Nakba Day, Rahat, Israel, May 12, 2016.
Ammar Awad/Reuters

Yisrael Beiteinu proposes stiffening the controversial “Nakba Law” to add sanctions against institutions of higher learning that hold events to mark the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), which many Arab citizens commemorate on Israel’s Independence Day to mark their losses in the 1948 war.

The proposed amendment would allow the chairman of the Council for Higher Education – the education minister – to impose sanctions on those institutions that deface or insult the flag and other national symbols, or hold events to mark the Nakba on their campuses. The proposed law, sponsored by MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu), has received the support of MKs from Likud, Shas and Habayit Hayehudi.

The original Nakba Law, passed in 2011, already authorizes the finance minister to cut the budgets of any institution that receives government funds, including the universities, that mark Nakba Day. But the amendment’s sponsors believe the finance minister wants to avoid confronting the universities and will not implement the existing law. The bill intends to bypass the finance minister and require the CHE to impose sanctions.

The proposed law would require the Council for Higher Education to issue regulations including the financial sanctions to be imposed on institutions that hold such events. The bill includes a list of events that will lead to a partial loss of funding: Activities that deny Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic country; actions inciting to racism, violence and terrorism; activities that support terrorist organizations and acts of terror against Israel; marking Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning; and defacing the Israeli flag and other national symbols.

The bill does not state what the sanctions to be imposed on the educational institutions are, but requires the chairman of the CHE to set them and publish them. The CHE will also be required to ensure these fines are imposed.

“The time has come to stop the rampage of incitement against Israel under the auspices of academia The cynical use made of the freedom of expression in the end provides legitimacy to those who call to exterminate us,” said Forer.

“The proposed law is intended to decry the songs of praise for murderers and the terrible tragedy they claim is the establishment of the State of Israel, using taxpayers’ money,” added Forer.