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Knesset Passes Law Pardoning Expulsion Protesters

By a vote of 51 to 9, Knesset passes law that would expunge records of about 400 citizens. MK Ben-Ari: the law is an illusion.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 1/25/2010, 7:56 PM / Last Update: 1/25/2010, 7:49 PM

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On Monday, the Knesset plenum passed the law which ends all criminal proceedings against citizens who participated in protests against the Expulsion of 2005 (Disengagement from the Katif Bloc) for offenses committed in the protests, and expunges from their criminal records all past proceedings for these offenses. The law passed by a vote of 51 to 9 in the second and third readings.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said: “I believe that the 'pardon law' will contribute to a healing of... a deep wound in Israeli society, which formed following the implementation of the Disengagement Plan, and which is still bleeding.”

"There are times in which a democracy needs to forgive, and leave the animosities of the past behind,” Rivlin added. “The Disengagement was a national trauma and it cannot be compared to any other social crisis. I believe that the ratification of the law will help heal the rift in Israeli society and correct the injustice that the evacuees suffered, in paying the price of democracy in such a grave way.”

Healing the scar
The law will apply to about 400 citizens out of 482 who had police files opened against them in the Disengagement. Most of them were charged with light offenses. Some have already served their sentences.

The Chairman of the Jewish Home party, Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, voiced his pleasure at the vote. “The scar that the Disengagement left behind has not healed for many, but the sign of Cain in the form of criminal records must be erased for those who did not endanger human life and did not engage in serious violence during the protest.”

"The opponents and supporters of the Disengagement need to unite and bridge the rift that uprooting communities created in the nation,” he added.

MK Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union was less enthusiastic about the law, which he said was “an illusion.” Ben-Ari said that “the government legal department, headed by [Deputy Chief Prosecutor Shai Nitzan], succeeded in changing many items [in the law] and people charged with blocking a road will not be pardoned. It is apparent yet again that the legal department rules and dictates the tone in the Legislature.”