Daily Israel Report

Ministers to Vote on Nakba Bill, Shalit Law

Bills before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would both strike a blow against 'Nakba Day' and pressure Hamas over Shalit captivity.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 7/19/2009, 9:42 AM

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation will vote Sunday on both the “Nakba Bill” and “Shalit Law.” Both laws face opposition; in the case of the Shalit law, the bill is reportedly opposed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

State Won't Fund Anti-State Rallies
The Nakba bill is a scaled-down version of a law proposed two months earlier by MK Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home). The law aims to prevent state funds from going towards ceremonies marking “Nakba Day,” a day on which many Israeli Arabs mourn the establishment of the modern state of Israel as a Nakba (“Disaster”).

The bill would prevent public bodies or government-funded groups from using government money to fund such ceremonies. It would also ensure that government-funded groups not incite to racism, undermine the democratic nature of the state, or harm state symbols such as the flag.

The new proposal is softer than Miller's initial bill, which would have made marking “Nakba Day” a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in jail. Unlike the current bill, Miller's proposed law would have applied to any citizen who mourned the creation of the state in a public ceremony, and not only to organizations with ties to the government.

Miller expressed confidence Sunday that the new bill would pass. “No sane government would fund incitement against itself,” he explained.

The new version of the Nakba Bill, like its predecessor, has aroused anger among Arab Members of Knesset. MK Afou Agbaria of Hadash slammed Yisrael Beiteinu as “fascists” over the bill, while MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) said the party suffered from “a strain of racism more piggish than the swine flu.”

Both Agbaria and members of Ra'am-Ta'al said Saturday that members of Israel's Arab community would continue to mark “Nakba Day.”

Hostage Holders Won't be Visited
The “Shalit Law” was proposed by MK Danny Danon of Likud, and aims to pressure terrorist groups such as Hamas by reducing the privileges extended to terrorist prisoners whose leaders mistreat Israeli hostages.

The bill would prohibit visitors to terrorists imprisoned in Israel who belong to a group holding an Israeli hostage, if the Israeli hostage has not been permitted visits. Terrorists would continue to meet with their attorneys and representatives of the Red Cross, as required by international law.

The proposed bill would affect the treatment of Hamas prisoners in Israel's prisons, due to the group's treatment of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

The law faces opposition from prison officials, who have expressed concern that revoking all non-essential visits and other privileges could lead to riots in Israel's jails. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly urged Danon to reconsider the bill.

Alternative: Revoking Privileges Case-by-Case
In light of the concerns over Danon's bill, Likud MK Yariv Levin has proposed his own bill, which would allow prison officials to revoke privileges but would not require that they do so. Under Levin's bill, privileges such as television, visits from family and higher education could be revoked from terrorists whose organization is holding an Israeli hostage on a case-by-case basis.