Knesset Set to Vote on Law to Determine if a Group Is 'pro-Israel'

The Knesset will vote on two pieces of allegedly discriminatory legislation Tuesday, one of which would deprive organizations deemed anti-Israel of funding, the other would allow small towns to screen potential residents.

The Knesset is scheduled to vote Tuesday, in second and third readings, on two highly controversial bills: the first would deprive organizations of state support and fine them if they undertake activities that deny Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, and the second would allow small towns to screen applicants for residency.

The Knesset is scheduled to break for spring recess next week.

Leftist protesters in Tel Aviv on Saturday, June 5, 2010.
Nir Keidar

Critics of the first bill, the Nakba Law, which was sponsored by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu ), maintain that it infringes disproportionately on the freedom of expression and the right of Israel's Arab citizens to tell their own historic narrative.

About 20 recipients of the prestigious Israel Prize, along with distinguished intellectuals, yesterday issued a public statement expressing their opposition to the Nakba Law. "The principle of separation of powers is an essential principle of democracy," they wrote. "Neither the Knesset nor the cabinet is a judicial branch empowered to punish. Under this law, politicians would be able to judge and punish those who make statements not to their liking."

The current version of the Nakba Law is more moderate than the original version, submitted by Miller. The original version called for sentencing anyone who marks Independence Day as a day of mourning or who holds memorial events for the Palestinian "Nakba" (destruction ) to three years in prison. The amended version is not aimed at punishing individuals but would deny public funding to institutions that sponsor activities which deny Israel's status as a democratic state and as the state of the Jewish people. Under the law, public funding would also be withheld from institutions that support armed struggle or terror against the state, incite to racism or degrade the state's flag or symbol.

Critics of the second bill, the admissions committees bill - sponsored by two Kadima MKs, Shai Hermesh and Israel Hasson, along with Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem - fear that the legislation would allow small communities to bar Arabs, immigrants, single-parent families or same-sex couples.

The admissions committees law, which would apply only to communities in the Negev and the Galilee that have up to 400 families, stipulates that "the allocation of land to a person for the purpose of its acquisition as part of a communal settlement, can be done only with the approval of the admissions committee."

According to the bill, admissions committees will be comprised of five individuals - two members of the community, a representative of the relevant settlement movement, a representative of the Jewish Agency, and a representative of the regional council to which the community belongs.

The law would empower admissions committees to reject candidates for residency if they are minors, if they lack the economic means to establish a home in the community, if they have no intention of basing their home life in the community, if a professional evaluation indicates that they are ill-suited to the community's way of life, or if they do not suit the community's social-cultural fabric.

An amendment recently added to the bill stipulates that "an admissions committee will not refuse to accept a candidate purely on grounds of race, religion, nationality or physical handicap."