Summary – Knesset's Summer Session
ACRI offers the following summary of the central issues that we addressed during the Knesset’s summer session that concluded in mid-July 2018. An additional update will be provided at the beginning of the winter session in mid-October 2018.
The trend of shrinking democratic space reached yet another peak during the current session, upon the passing of the Nation-State Law. Throughout the session, additional legislation that violates Israeli democracy and human rights was discussed, including an amendment to the State Education Law, which prohibits the entry of certain organizations into schools (nicknamed, the ‘Breaking the Silence Law’).
The Nation-State Law: The law passed in the Knesset on July 18, 2018. ACRI opposed the bill (see here, position papers from the various stages of legislation). The debate over the various clauses of the law created a smokescreen that raised the true problem — this is a nationalistic and racist law that declares all non-Jews to be second-class citizens in the State of Israel. The general message that emerges from the law is that the state solely belongs to Jews, while flagrantly violating the rights of minorities. The law, which is an introduction of sorts to a future constitution, does not address democracy or human rights obligations, and in fact grossly violates the balance determined in defining the state as Jewish and democratic. Read more here.
The ‘Breaking the Silence Law’: The law passed in the Knesset on July 16, 2018. The bill was created with the intention of preventing the organization Breaking the Silence from entering schools, but the law permits the minister of education to censor content and disqualify any opinion, body, or activity that is inconsistent with his political views. The law is contrary to the educational goals defined in the State Education Law, which include education for critical thinking, human rights, and active citizenship. It harms pluralistic and critical education, and is the right and duty of school principals to allow their students free and informed discussion of controversial issues to expose them to different contradictory positions. Read more here.
The Legal Advisors Bill: The bill seeks to change the manner in which legal advisors are appointed to government ministries, so that instead of being selected through public tenders, as is the case with all other civil servants, they will be appointed by an entirely political search committee. The proposed bill may undermine the independence and professionalism of civil service, as well as defense of the rule of law and the struggle against government corruption. The proposal was brought before the Constitution Committee, despite widespread opposition on behalf of senior jurists, retired government legal advisors, the current attorney general, various organizations, and others. Read more here.
Amendment to the ‘Boycott Law’: The amendment seeks to stipulate that anyone who calls for a systematic boycott, will be compelled to provide compensation amounting to NIS 100,000, without proof of damage. The bill was brought before the Constitution Committee in preparation for its first reading, despite the objection of the Attorney General, and contrary to the government’s decision according to which an amended version must be prepared before the proposal is advanced. The bill was approved by the committee though has yet to be brought before the plenum for its first reading.
ACRI objects to the proposed amendment. As a partner in a petition submitted to the Supreme Court against the ‘Boycott Law,’ ACRI claimed that the bill was unconstitutional due to its violation of freedom of expression. The High Court of Justice rejected the claims almost in their entirety, stating that there was no harm done to the core of freedom of expression, and that it was legitimate to prevent those calling for a boycott from receiving benefits from the state. However, the nine justices unanimously ruled out Section 2(c) of the Law, which called for compensation without proof of damage, on the grounds that this clause goes too far in disproportionately violating freedom of expression, and even generates a chilling effect in harming both freedom of expression and political freedom. Nevertheless, the government is currently advancing a private bill that seeks to re-enact the aforementioned clause.
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Among the other topics we addressed are:
The ongoing trend of de facto annexation of the occupied territories. In this context, the legislation of a law that transfers the hearing of petitions relating to the occupied territories to the Jerusalem Administrative Court was completed. Read more here.
The Medical Tourism Law passed second and third readings on July 17, 2018. Our position, along with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the Adva Center, is that medical tourism should not be permitted in a health system that lacks resources (lines, doctors, medical devices, etc.). This is due to the fact that each treatment of a medical tourist will necessarily come at the expense of Israeli citizens, residents, and other persons entitled to medical treatment in Israel. We demanded that at least some restrictions be introduced in the law to minimize damages, but unfortunately, due to political and economic pressure, with the exception of certain reporting and monitoring tools, our demands were not accepted: the scope of tourist patients remained unlimited; doctors’ wages remain equal but with an opening for determining exceptions; and the Ministry of Health was granted the authority to transfer funds to other hospitals, if no obligation or quota was established. We will continue to track the implementation of the law, especially with regard to hospitals’ reporting.