Israel’s Most Racist Knesset: No to Palestinian Presence

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

It is right to say that the current Israeli Knesset (Parliament) has proved the most racist with unprecedented laws aimed at the exclusion of Palestinians (including those who are Israeli citizens), thus instituting fascism. It has passed laws that could be ‘distinguished’ from previous ones characterized by their general strategic goal such as regulation of Palestinian land seizure, the Law of Return (exclusively for Jews) and Jerusalem and Golan annexation laws!! The current Knesset -directly or indirectly- sought in formulating its legislations to target details in the life of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and in the 1948 Palestinian lands. Others appeared as amendments to criminal laws approved following political developments relating to Israel’s racial discrimination policy, war, occupation and Jewish colonization of Palestinian lands (“settlement”/ colonies building).

Since March, 2015 up to last July, the Knesset debated 72 draft laws targeting Palestinians’ presence on their national land. Twenty two of them are under discussion, eight others were passed, while six were approved in first reading and eight have been introduced for debate.  Three of the laws passed approved forced feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, tougher penalties of up to 20 years against minor Palestinians who throw stones at Israeli soldiers, exempting police of recording interrogation with detainees. Another bill allowed detention of ‘convicted’ Palestinian children as young as 12 years and transferring them to jail at the age of 14.

A law approved in the first reading drew a line between incitement of terrorism and that of violence which aimed to separate Palestinian popular resistance from acts of terrorism committed by Jewish settlers/ colonizers in a bid to ease their impact, as well as any judicial procedures. Another draft law would impose large financial fines on social networks if they reject Israeli government requests to remove publications which the Zionist state may deem as inciting terrorism.

Other draft laws listed for debate include ten on annexation of the West Bank to the so-called Israeli sovereignty with drafts dealing separately with each of its regions.  A draft bill has again been listed for debate on death penalty for Palestinian attackers, after being rejected in earlier voting by the government. A bill proposal on ‘Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people’ (nationality law) has not been voted due to differences among members of the Israeli government coalition on internal issues such as the relation between religion and the state and the definition of a Jew. Two other draft laws deal with a proposal to ban ‘azan’ (call for Moslem prayers) from minarets and permitting Jews to pray at the famous Islamic Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

A recently approved bill in the series of racist legislations is the so-called “suspension bill” which allows the Knesset to suspend or depose a serving member by a majority of 90 votes in an act that targets Palestinian Arab Knesset members. Haaretz criticised the law saying the legislature will now turn into a judicial power. The newspaper said that “In Israel there are criminal offenses related to incitement of racism and support of terrorism that are not covered by parliamentary immunity. If a Knesset member is accused by a court of such irregularities, the membership in the Knesset will stop immediately”. Haaretz indicated that law will transfer this capability into the hands of the Knesset, who will turn now to be an investigating authority with judicial and executive powers.” Under such circumstance, Haaretz said, Knesset members motivated mostly by political, electoral and populist considerations will gain excessive judicial ability, while lacking the means to determine facts and reach judicial conclusions. The newspaper concluded that the law will be Eden’s garden for extremists who will be haggling amongst themselves and with other Knesset members to lead news headlines, adding “it is a law that will turn Knesset members against each other”.

Lawyer Debbi Gild-Hayo noted that a relentless campaign of incitement has been going on in recent years to delegitimize those who do not agree with the position of the political majority including Knesset members, senior cabinet ministers, Head of state, the army’s commander-in-chief, the “defense” minister, artists, intellectuals, academics, media and journalists among others. Gild, director of Policy Advocacy of the Association for Civil Rights, said the result will be a heavy price which the society will pay on top of which will be gagged mouths.

The deep-rooted racist mentality in the Israeli society was the result of the Zionist ideology itself and the policies of Israeli subsequent governments that managed to widen the circle of hostility against Palestinians.  Resort to incitement with a racist discourse in the media were bound at the end to bring to Israel’s life political and military leaders vying amongst themselves for who would be more vocally racist. Thus, it is normal now to witness extremists such as the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his “Defense” Minister Avigdor Lieberman dominating the political scene in Israel.