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Human Rights in the Knesset, January-February 2024

ACRI's position on issues on the Knesset's agenda in the field of human rights and democracy: stricter conditions for release on bail, supervision of teachers and schools, the composition of planning committees, a request to remove MK Ofer Cassif, sanctions on teachers and schools for suspicion of identification with terrorism, amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Law.


Stricter conditions for release on bail

Proposed Criminal Procedure Law (Powers of Enforcement – Arrests) (Amendment – Tightening Conditions of Release)

Bail), 2023–2023

National Security Committee, January 8, 2024

 

The bill seeks to allow the police to impose severe restrictions on a detainee as a condition for his release from detention for an extended period. Thus, for example, the officer in charge may condition the release on the detainees to remain under house arrest for 15 days, instead of 5 days as currently stipulated and the detainee to refrain from contacting certain persons for 90 days, instead of 30 days as currently mandated.

 

ACRI's position: The proposal severely and disproportionately violates detainees' rights, liberty and freedom of movement, while they still enjoy the presumption of innocence. Most of the detainees will eventually be released without charge. In other words, in most cases these are innocent civilians. In addition, given the timing of the proposal, amidst widespread protest against the Judicial Overhaul, there is concern that the amendment is intended to limit the freedom of demonstration. Legal Correspondence (Hebrew)


Supervision of teachers and schools

School Supervision Law (Amendment – Prohibition on the Employment of Convicts and Supporters of Terrorism and Supervision of Curriculum to Prevent Incitement), 5773-2023

Education Committee, January 15, 2024


The bill aims to increase supervision of a teaching employees who are suspected, accused or convicted of a terrorist offense. It also seeks to prevent the granting of an operating license to educational institutions whose curriculum does not conform to "the basic guidelines of the Israeli curriculum, as determined in the Director General's Circular."


ACRI's position: This is a completely harmful and unnecessary bill that does not contribute to supervision of teaching programs and educational staff. The existing law provides the Ministry of Education with appropriate and sufficient tools for dealing with curricula and with teachers whose impact on students is negative and harmful, while exercising individual discretion in each case. This bill seeks to police and control the Arab and Palestinian education system, require monitoring of teachers' and attitudes towards Palestinian society as a whole.


Composition of planning committees

Planning and Building Report (Amendments 140, 141)

Committee of the Interior and Environmental Protection, 29.1.2024

 

The purpose of the amendment is to change the composition of the planning committees so that the number of government representatives on the various committees will be increased. The background to these amendments is the coalition agreements and the transfer of powers between the ministers.

 

The position of ACRI (together with Sikkuy-Ofok and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights): The organizations oppose the amendment because of the severe and disproportionate harm that would cause the right to equality and planning rights. Increasing the share of government representatives in planning institutions would radically upset the balances that barely exist between the various entities in the planning institutions, in light of the central government's control over those institutions today. In order to minimize the harm, representatives of social organizations and local authorities should be added to the committees against every additional representative of a government ministry.


In addition, we believe that important changes should be included in the legislative amendments that are necessary to ensure representation for those who lack representation on committees:

  1. It must be ensured that among the representatives of the local authorities in each committee there will be a representative or representative of an Arab authority.

  2. Proper representation of Arab society must be ensured on all planning committees – an issue that the memorandum does not address at all.

  3. The social representative should be on all committees and also be excluded from the temporary order, that is, becoming permanent.

  4. The appointment of a representative should be independent, without the intervention of a Minister.


Request to oust MK Ofer Cassif

Knesset Committee, 22.1.2024


On January 10, 2024, a request was submitted to the Speaker of the Knesset to terminate the term of MK Ofer Cassif, claiming that he supports an armed struggle against the State of Israel. The motion for impeachment focuses on Cassif's signature on a petition addressing the International Criminal Court in The Hague, stating that Israel's actions in Gaza violate international law, and calling for the court's intervention to "immediately stop the war."


ACRI's position: MK Cassif's signature on the petition does not support an armed struggle against the State of Israel, since the petition does not call for armed struggle, but calls on the International Court of Justice in The Hague to use legal means to stop what the MK sees as a violation of international law. Support for international proceedings against Israel does not constitute support for an armed struggle by Israel's enemies against it. Presenting it as such blurs the line between violence and diplomacy,  and between peaceful struggle and armed struggle.


Sanctions on teachers and schools for suspected identification with terrorism

Education Committee, February 14, 2024

 

The bill seeks to grant the Minister of Education and the Director General of the Ministry of Education or anyone acting on their behalf, broad authority to fire teachers, refuse to grant or revoke a teaching license, and to suspend, cut, and revoke budgets from schools through an administrative process, due to suspicion of identification with and support for terrorism.

 

ACRI's position: This is a harmful and unnecessary bill. Under the auspices of concern for students, the proposal aims to police the school discourse and harm teachers whose statements and worldview do not coincide with those of the heads of the Ministry of Education.

 

The heads of the Ministry have no training to discuss the interpretation of expressions, to decide whether they meet the vague definition of "identification" and "support," especially when they are heard or presented in Arabic. The authority to dismiss teachers and deny budgets to educational institutions already exists in law and regulations. There is no need for additional and biased legislation which seek to negate the existing balances in the law applicable to expression offenses.

 

The proposal, which is aimed at Arab society, is intended to intimidate teachers and principals of Arab schools, especially in East Jerusalem, by marking them, making them targets for surveillance, and preventing them from fulfilling their duties. To the extent that the proposal matures into legislation, it will severely infringe the rights to expression, employment, and pedagogical autonomy of teachers and principals. Legal Correspondence (Hebrew)


Amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Law

Combating Terrorism (Amendment – Preventing Identification with a Terrorist Organization) Bill, 5723-2023 (S.I. 2227/25); Combating Terrorism (Amendment – Identification with the Perpetrator of a Terrorist Offence of the Type of Euthanasia), 5723-2023 (S.I. 3157/25)

Law, Constitution and Justice Committee, February 14, 2024


The bills seek to amend section 24 of the Anti-Terrorism Law and expand the criminal prohibitions imposed on speech that supports a terrorist organization or act of terrorism, as well as incitement to an act of terrorism.


ACRI's position: We strongly appose the bill, which disproportionately restricts freedom of expression. The expansions proposed in the bills are extreme (for example, applying the prohibition to speech in the private sphere and not only in public; abolishing the probability test that speech will lead to an act of terrorism). This will lead to severe infringement of freedom of expression, criminalization of expression that does not pose a danger to protected social values,  and even to expressions that are important to express. The proposals are private bills that are not based on security opinions. It seems that no basis was laid before the committee for the argument that there is a need to change the law and that the offenses existing in the law today are insufficient. Legal Correspondence (Hebrew)


Raising the health tax to cover war expenses

Chapter 4 (National Health Insurance) of the Balancing Plan Law (Legislative Amendments to Achieve Budget Targets for Fiscal Year 2024), 5774-2024

Health Committee, February 19, 2024


To cover the deficit created by the war, the government is seeking, among other things, to raise the health tax by 0.15% from the beginning of 2025.


The position of ACRI (together with Physicians for Human Rights): We oppose the proposal. The increase in health insurance premiums should be done only to include additional health services in the health care plan, and not to cover war expenses or current health system expenses. The increase in health insurance premiums should be canceled, and the deficit should be budgeted from other sources.


Over the years, Physicians for Human Rights and the ACRI, along with other organizations, have proposed raising the health tax in order to finance services that are not included in the health care plan for historical reasons, such as dental care and long-term care. As part of our proposals, which were repealed, the public would have been required to pay more tax, resulting in less out of pocket on health service expenses, thanks to the expansion of the health care plan. On the other hand, in the current proposal, the public will pay more tax for the same services, but out-of-pocket expenses will not decrease – quite the opposite: out-of-pocket expenses will increase due to the addition of a mental health deductible. The public is required to pay double, both in tax and in deductibles, for the same services that were already included in the current health care plan. For more information.



Erasure of criminal records for Ethiopian-Israeli demonstrators

Proposed Law on Termination of Proceedings and Deletion of Records on Protests against Police Violence against Ethiopian Immigrants, 5774-2023

Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, February 26, 2024


The bill seeks to promote the erasure of criminal records for Ethiopian immigrants who have been criminally prosecuted for offenses they committed as part of the protests against police violence in 2019.


ACRI's position: Freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate are basic constitutional rights that deserve broad protection. Therefore, the state must exercise its authority sparingly and cautiously to prosecute people who commit offenses in the framework of protest, and the prosecution should adopt a lenient policy in dealing with offenses motivated by protest, and refrain from making excessive use of criminal sanctions.


ACRI supports the erasure of criminal records for those who committed offenses in the context of political protest, but the bill should be expanded to apply to anyone who committed similar offenses in the context of protests, and not only to Ethiopian immigrants. Principled and uniform criteria should be set that will apply to anyone who has been investigated or indicted for participating in protests.


Banning the denial of the October 7 massacre

Prohibition of the October 7 Massacre Denial Bill, 2023

Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, February 26, 2024


The bill proposes imposing a five-year prison sentence for statements that deny or downplay the October 7th massacre, or for statements expressing praise, sympathy and solidarity for the acts committed on that terrible day.


ACRI's position: Opposes the bill. On October 7, 2023, Hamas carried out a terrible massacre on Israeli citizens. Denying the massacre is unacceptable and regrettable, but the criminal tool is not the right tool to deal with the denial of the massacre, and its harm outweighs its usefulness.


In general, there is a real difficulty in criminally prohibiting speech, especially those that do not directly call for an act of violence or that raise a tangible danger with a high degree of certainty of harm. The default is that speech, even those that arouse disgust, is permissible, with the understanding that the right means of dealing with them are through discussion, education and presenting counter-arguments, and not through deprivation of liberty. Where the sentence should come into play is only when the expression becomes incitement, or when it establishes a reality in which terrorism and racism are permitted.


The bill is not based on research attesting to the extent of the phenomenon of denial of the massacre in Israel, and to the effectiveness of less draconian measures to deal with it (such as education, public relations, assistance in removing content from social networks, etc.). In the absence of this data, it is difficult to justify deprivation of liberty for years because of expression, however insensitive. In addition, the bill is disproportionate and does not include mechanisms to ensure that only particularly serious speech is incriminated, preventing over-criminalization.


 

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