Israeli Lawmakers Significantly Boost Penalty for Desecrating Flag

New law, like existing one for offensive behavior toward foreign flag, calls for punishment of three years in prison and $15,100 fine.

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Iraqis burning an Israeli flag in Tehran on May 15, "Nakba Day," this year.
Iraqis burning an Israeli flag in Tehran on May 15, "Nakba Day," this year.Credit: AP

The Knesset gave final approval Monday to a law that significantly stiffens the penalty for showing disrespectful behavior toward the Israeli flag.

Under the new legislation, the maximum sentence for offensive behavior will be three years in prison and a fine of 58,400 shekels ($15,100). Previously, the maximum sentence was a year in jail and a fine of 300 liras – a currency Israel hasn’t used in decades and whose value today would be near zero.

The debate preceding the vote was brief. Knesset Interior Committee Chairman David Amsalem (Likud) presented the bill, adding, “I can’t imagine who could even file an objection over this matter.” He noted that the maximum sentence for desecrating the flag of a friendly country is already three years in jail, and it’s “a disgrace” that the penalty for insulting the Israeli flag has until now been so much lower.

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) mocked the bill’s sponsor, Nava Boker (Likud), saying he was disappointed that she hadn’t brought a flag to wave when she ascended the podium. “It’s too bad I didn’t bring a flag,” she agreed, when her turn came to speak.

Boker said she sought to stiffen the punishment for offensive behavior toward the flag because “Only via effective legislation against the haters of Israel at home and abroad will we be able to maintain Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.”

None of the law’s opponents spoke during the plenary debate. Earlier, the Interior Committee had rejected an alternative proposal by Abdullah Abu Maaruf (Joint List) to reduce the maximum sentence to one day in jail and to eliminate the fine entirely.

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