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A Tsunami of Anti-Democratic and Racist Bills

On May 28, 2023, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation was flooded by a tsunami of racist, anti-democratic bills brought for government approval. Three of the bills target Arab-Palestinian society, labeling them as an enemy and a security threat while enabling a witch hunt against them as well as human rights violations under the guise of legality (details below). Another bill, aiming to tax donations to civil society organizations, was also set to be discussed. If approved, this bill would significantly curtail the ability of human rights organizations to fight the dark anti-democratic wave washing over us.

Thanks to opposition from the public, civil society organizations, the democratic camp and international actors, some of the bills were ultimately not promoted. However, some were either approved or remain on the agenda:

  • Bill to tax donations to civil society organizations - taken off the agenda.

  • Bill regarding school and teacher supervision - approved for preliminary reading.

  • Discussion of a bill concerning student freedom of expression and academic freedom - postponed (not clear if it will resume).

  • A draft resolution on Zionism as a guiding principle was referred for discussion by coalition leaders and so remains on the agenda.

These bills and proposals are just a small part of an organized plan by the government and coalition parties to reduce democratic space and curtail human rights. This plan is much broader than the “judicial reform” that targets the independence of the judiciary. For a list of all government and Knesset anti-democratic initiatives click here (Hebrew).

Further details on the bills:

School Supervision Bill (Amendment - Prohibition on Employment of Convicted Terrorists and Terrorism Supporters and Supervision of Curricula to Prevent Incitement), 5783-2023:

The bill purports to increase supervision over education professionals suspected, accused or convicted of a terrorism offense. The bill further seeks to deny licenses to educational facilities where the curriculum does not conform to the “foundational guidelines of the Israeli curriculum, as determined in a Director General Circular.”

ACRI’s position: This bill is harmful and entirely redundant. It does not contribute in any way to the oversight of curricula and teaching staff. Existing law gives the Ministry of Education sufficient and appropriate tools for addressing curricula and staff that have a negative, harmful impact on students on an individual basis. The sole purpose of this bill is to police and control the Arab Palestinian education system, mandate surveillance of teaching staff and foster suspicious, racist, divisive and combative attitudes toward Palestinian society as a whole. For more (Hebrew)

Student Rights Bill (Amendment - Expulsion of Terrorism Supporting Students from Academic Institutions and Disbanding of Terrorism Supporting Student Unions) 5783-2023:

This bill seeks to compel academic institutions to suspend or expel students over statements considered to be supportive of terrorism and to withhold recognition of foreign degrees awarded to such students. The bill also seeks to ban the display of the Palestinian flag in academic institutions and punish individuals who do so.

ACRI’s position: This bill deals a fatal blow to students’ constitutional rights to freedom of expression, dignity and identity, while ignoring the strong protections the law affords to freedom of expression. The bill is redundant as Israeli law already forbids support for and incitement to terrorism. The bill’s explanatory notes clearly indicate the authors’ intent is to erase Palestinian identity from public academic space and hound anyone who is not associated with the Zionist ethos, as perceived by the right wing, whether Jews or Arabs. The bill also impinges on academic freedom and curtails the autonomy of Israel’s academic institutions to an extent unparalleled in the laws of the country. For more (Hebrew)

Draft Resolution: Zionism as a guiding principle for government action:

The draft resolution seeks to compel government ministries and all other government agencies to adopt the values of Zionism, as expressed in the “Nationality Law” as guiding, decisive considerations in public policy making.

ACRI’s position: If approved, this proposal would turn discrimination against Arab society into a guiding principle government ministries must fulfill. Civil servants would be required to design and apply policies and programs that prefer Jewish citizens and discriminate against Arabs. Beyond the declarative damage such a decision would cause, once again pegging Arabs as second-class citizens, it is tantamount to greenlighting, even instructing discrimination against Arab society and preference for Jewish citizens in every area of life. The draft resolution is unconstitutional in that it denies equality as a guiding principle in public policy-making and defying the jurisprudence of the High Court of Justice. For more (Hebrew)

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