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Two Bills Seeking to Curb Racism in Politics and Public Affairs Pass on First Reading in the Knesset

The Knesset passed on first reading Tuesday night two government-sponsored bills that would curb racism in politics and public affairs. One of the bills concerns eligibility for Knesset representation. The other makes racial incitement a specific offense. Racism was not singled out in the existing general law against incitement.

Parliamentary and legal experts said the measures would prevent Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach Party from running in future Knesset elections. But it would also bar the Progressive List for Peace, a coalition of leftist Jews and Arab nationalists. Kach advocates the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel, by force if necessary.

The Progressive List for Peace, led by Gen. (Res.) Mattityahu Peled and Muhammad Meiari, would fall into the category of parties that reject the principle of Israel being a Jewish state. It calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Kahane abstained in the voting. Labor MK Shevach Weiss, an expert on constitutional law, declined to vote at all. He said that he would have abstained but did not want to be cast in the same role as Kahane. Negative votes were registered by the Progressive List, the Hadash Communist Party and Muhammad Watad of Mapam.

Justice Minister Moshe Nissim, who introduced the bills, said they were intended to combat “Kahanism” which he declared was “contrary to Jewish tradition. ” He noted that “Love of human beings in Jewish law includes love of gentiles. Yes, they hate us. But let us not hate them. Let us hate hatred,” he said.

Nissim said the main purpose of the bills was educational rather than preventive. He conceded that racism “will not be eradicated merely by the arrest of a few people,” a possible reference to the 15 West Bank Jews convicted yesterday of crimes of violence against Arabs.

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