Knesset adopts ‘Nakba Law’

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Communities or groups that hold events mourning the creation of the nation could be fined under a measure passed by Israel’s Knesset.

With the "Nakba Law" passed late Tuesday, the state would be able to fine local communities and other state-funded groups for holding events that mark what the Arab community calls the Nakba, which means catastrophe, referring to the creation of the Jewish state of Israel. Fines, deducted from a group’s operating budget, would equal up to three times the event’s sponsorship cost; repeat violations would double the fines.

The law, which was enacted by a vote of 37 to 25, also applies to activities which deny that Israel is a Jewish state as well as the country’s democratic character, and support armed struggle against the state or terror acts against Israel.

It is a softened version of the bill approved in July 2009 by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which made participation in Nakba Day events punishable by up to three years in prison.

Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said of the Nakba Law "severely damages freedom of political expression, freedom of artistic expression, and freedom of protest, which are all basic rights and are essential to the very existence of a democracy.”

The Knesset late Tuesday also passed the Admissions Committee Law allowing Negev and Galilee Jewish communities with fewer than 400 families to vet possible residents with an admission committee. Potential residents could be rejected if they do not fit into the community’s social or cultural way of life.

Israeli rights groups called the laws discriminatory and an attack against Israeli Arabs.

The measure passed by a vote of 35 to 20.

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