Stephen Lendman | 02.05.2013
Israel's 19th Knesset
by Stephen Lendman
On January 22, Israelis elected 120 19th Knesset members. Over 80% of its members are extremist hardliners. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) assessed prospects ahead.
Israel's current body is its most extremist. Future prospects look worse. Polls suggest "we may be heading towards a more hardline" body.
Current legislators enacted numerous anti-democratic laws. Warning flags are raised. Flashing red lights signal worse times ahead.
Civil liberties and human rights are on the chopping block for elimination. Few people have a clue about what's coming. They have themselves to blame. Others more informed are dismissive.
Governments unaccountably get away with murder.
ACRI calls anti-democratic legislation "laws that risk damaging Israel's basic democratic structure."
They're game-changers. They erode or eliminate what should be constitutionally guaranteed. Anti-democratic 18th Knesset bills were outrageous.
They violated Israeli Arab rights. They delegitimized them. They eroded free expression and assembly. They weakened protest rights.
They delegitimized civil society organizations. They targeted civil and human rights for elimination. They challenged Supreme Court independence and authority. They want its rulings bypassed.
They tried delegitimizing the Justice Ministry and Attorney General's office.
Some bills were enacted. Others got Netanyahu's approval. Public and international pressure slowed their advance. Measures that didn't pass scored political gains.
Serious damage was done in the process. Past, ongoing, and prospective anti-democratic legislation are worrisome. "We expect to see" worse from the 19th Knesset.
Israel's legislative process requires completing several Knesset plenum readings. Preliminary steps include:
For government-sponsored bills:
Relevant ministries propose measures. Government ministers discuss them. If approved, they're submitted to the Knesset's Speaker. A first plenum reading follows.
If passed, a relevant committee prepares it for second and third readings.
For private bills:
One or several MKs draft them. The Speaker must approve them. A preliminary plenum reading follows. Before it's done, it's presented to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
It decides up or down on government support. If approved, it's forwarded to the relevant committee. Members discuss it. Changes are made. If approved, it moves on for first plenum reading.
The minister or MK responsible for proposing the bill presents it. Plenum members discuss it. Amendments are made. It advances for second and third readings.
The process takes time. If committee approval is achieved, plenum readings complete the process.
Second and Third Readings
Both occur in sequence. In second readings, plenum members vote on what the committee approved. Reservations, if any, are raised. If accepted, they're included in final legislation.
If final passage is achieved, it's signed by the president, prime minister, and minister in charge of its execution. It's published in Israel's law books. After publication, it becomes law.
Bills failing first readings don't advance. Relevant parties must reintroduce them. Doing so restarts the entire process.
First reading passage advances it. It picks up where it left off earlier. Sponsors must request continuity motions.
For government-sponsored bills, a relevant official requests it. A plenum vote follows. For private bills, sponsors must have been reelected. They're permitted to request continuity.
"The government has 21 days to establish its position, and then it goes to a continuity vote in the plenum."
Society and Freedom of Expression
It's officially titled "Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott." It permits filing civil lawsuits against individuals calling for boycotting settlement products.
In June 2011, it was approved. It includes sanctions targeting NGOs or companies participating in boycott activities.
On December 10, 2012, Israel's High Court issued an "order nisi." It's an order to show cause. It requires the state to justify the law's legality.
The ruling followed Adalah's petition. It's the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. ACRI joined it on behalf of eight civil society organizations.
Lawyers, lawmakers, the Knesset's legal advisor, and others harshly criticized the law. It permits aggrieved entities to demand civil court compensation from individuals and organizations unjustly. Damages don't have to be proved.
Government authorities have until April 2013 to respond to the High Court's order nisi.
Funding from Foreign State Entities:
Officially it's titled "Law on Disclosure Requirements for Recipients of Support from a Foreign State Entity." It requires NGOs supported by "foreign state entities" to submit quarterly financial reports on funds received.
If foreign state entities fund advertising campaigns, it must be explained within its framework. Promoters claim legislative provisions promote transparency. In fact, they delegitimize and curtail organizational activities. In February 2011, it passed final reading.
Bill on Foreign Funding of NGOs - Hybrid Version
It combines two NGO foreign funding bills. New provisions are added. It divides NGOs receiving funding from foreign state entities into three categories:
(1) Those banned from getting it.
(2) Those permitted to receive it by virtue of receiving Israeli government contributions.
(3) Others to be taxed at a 45% rate of income. Knesset waivers exempt it if received.
In November 2011, the bill was drafted. First reading approval didn't follow. Local and international criticism killed it. The 19th Knesset may restart the legislative process.
Libel without Proof of Damages
Two separate Anti-Defamation Law amendments were combined in one bill. It authorizes judicial authorities to order those who published libel (including media outlets) to pay punitive damages.
They total NIS (New Israeli Shekel) 300,000 - NIS 500,000 without proof of damages. Current Israeli law assesses NIS 50,000. A shekel equals about one-fourth of a US dollar.
In November 2011, the bill passed first reading. A 19th Knesset continuity motion is needed to advance it.
Pardoning Protesters of Gaza Disengagement
Originally it was introduced in the 17th Knesset. It was approved by 18th Knesset members. Those arrested and charged during 2005 anti-disengagement protests are pardoned except for the most severe offenses.
Offenders without prior criminal records qualify. Punitive easing is welcome. Legislative provisions remain problematic. They distinguish between political and ideological activists as well as various groups.
In February 2012, Israel's High Court rejected a petition against inequality provisions. In January 2010, the bill passed final reading.
Undermining the Courts
Civil Damages (State Liability) (Amendment No. 8)
In 2005, 17th Knesset members approved a Civil Damages Law amendment. It denied Palestinians the right to receive compensations for damages caused by Israeli security forces. It applies under all circumstances.
In December 2006, Israel's High Court struck down the amendment. It ruled it unconstitutional. Six months later, legislators prepared a new bill. They reintroduced the amendment.
First reading approval followed. In July 2012, final reading passage was achieved. Doing so grants authorities sweeping immunity from tort suits.
It's gotten under all circumstances pertaining to West Bank and Gaza offenses. Orphans, widows, the disabled, and impoverished Palestinians have no means of redress. Israel never says it's sorry. It's exempt from penalties for what it caused.
Restricting Public Petitions to the High Court of Justice
Proposed Basic Law Amendment:
The Judiciary seeks substantially limited human rights/social change groups' ability to petition Israel's High Court of Justice. It wants fewer sensitive public issues reaching it. It restricts public petitioners whether or not they're directly harmed.
In February 2011, the amendment was tabled. Netanyahu opposed it. So far it hasn't advanced.
The 18th Knesset saw other bills introduced to influence the High Court's composition and limit its authority. None passed. Reintroducing them may follow in the 19th Knesset.
Arab Citizens of Israel
The Prawar Plan:
In 2011, government authorities approved it. It calls for limited Bedouin villages recognition. It leaves 30,000 Bedouins vulnerable to relocation. The plan drew international rebuke.
In March 2012, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged withdrawing the discriminatory law.
Following government approval, a law memorandum was published. The 18th Knesset dissolution meant the bill wasn't presented for approval.
Renewed legislative attempts will be made. Precise details and timing may differ. Prower leaves tens of thousands of Bedouins vulnerable to relocation. Doing so violates their rights.
Acceptance to Communities Law
In March 2011, it was approved. Village and community acceptances committees may deny candidates admission. They can do so if they "fail to meet the fundamental views of the community."
Ethnic minorities are targeted. Jewish communities want religious and ethnic purity. In December 2011, nine High Court justices heard ACRI's petition against the law.
Adalah filed its own. A decision remains to be rendered.
Abu Basma Bill on Regional Council Elections
The measure includes an amendment concerning regional council elections. It lets the Interior Minister postpone democratic elections indefinitely.
It relates to Abu Basma. It's a Negev Bedouin regional council. Six years ago it was recognized. It's being administered by an appointed Interior Ministry representative. It denies community members the right to self-government.
In November 2009, it passed final reading. In February 2011, Israel's High Court ruled Abu Basma elections may be held on December 4, 2012. Interior Ministry action prevented them. ACRI continues to follow the issue closely.
The Nakba Law
In March 2011, it was enacted. It lets the Finance Minister fine public bodies benefitting from public funding. Doing so targets commemorative Nakba events or calling Israel's Independence Day a day of mourning.
Fines apply to denying "the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
ACRI and Adalah petitioned Israel's High Court for redress. In January 2012, they were denied. Justices said they couldn't rule. The law hadn't been implemented.
ACRI and Adalah responded. They said "the High Court ignored the chilling effect of this law, and missed the opportunity to tell legislators that there are limits to their anti-human rights actions. The law encourages discrimination against Arabs in Israel."
Extending Arrest of Persons Suspected of Security Offenses
The measure extended the emergency ordinance two years. Suspects in security related cases may be arrested. They can be detained longer without judicial oversight.
Doing so severely infringes due process. It violates fundamental Israeli criminal law. Fair interrogation guarantees are spurned. Mistreatment is permitted. Innocent people are vulnerable to conviction.
In December 2010, the law passed final reading. The 19th Knesset will likely extend it.
Revoking Citizenship for Persons Convicted of Terrorism and Espionage
The Interior Minister and courts may revoke citizenship unjustly. Doing so denies basic rights. The Knesset Interior Committee approved the measure.
Two amendments were added:
(1) No one may be left stateless.
(2) Citizenship revocation requires Attorney General approval.
Shin Bet opposes the measure. It denies basic citizenship rights. Other Israeli laws deal adequately with persons convicted of terrorism and espionage.
In March 2011, the bill passed final reading.
Creeping Area C Annexation
Levy Committee for the Arrangement of Outposts
Former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy's international law revisionism spurned it. He recommended legalizing illegal outposts. It said zoning officials should authorize them without further political approval.
It urged no restraints on settlement construction. He ignored occupation harshness.
He claimed Israel is entitled to all parts of Judea and Samaria it wishes. ACRI and independent jurists condemned him. The 19th Knesset may enact his recommendations into law.
Bills for Arrangement of Outposts
In June 2012, two proposed bills were scheduled for preliminary readings. At issue is authorizing illegal outposts on private Palestinian land.
They want retroactive authorization granted. Doing so spurns Palestinian rights. Passage didn't follow. Expect similar bills introduced in the 19th Knesset.
Amendment to the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law
The original law sought to advance equality. It wanted discrimination on grounds of nationality, religion, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation or political ideology prevented.
In July 2012, the Economic Affairs Committee approved first reading. It was based on place of residence. Occupied Territories were included.
Equating them with Israel is unacceptable. Preliminary reading passed. Draft approval followed. Expect 19th Knesset members to reintroduce the bill.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Law to Prevent Infiltration
In January 2012, it passed as an amendment to existing Law to Prevent Infiltration legislation. Asylum seekers, refugees, and their children entering Israel from Egypt face arrest, imprisonment without trial, and minimum three years incarceration.
For some, it could be indefinitely. Every "infiltrator" could be tried in criminal court. They could be imprisoned another five years.
Six human rights organizations petitioned Israel's High Court. They did so on behalf of themselves and five Eritrean asylum seekers. They're held indefinitely.
The Law to Prevent Infiltration "renders the right to liberty meaningless for many thousands of people," said ACRI. They're deprived of effective legal defense.
Israel's law isn't to deport. It's to make asylum seekers suffer. It's to deter others from coming. It inflicts enormous physical and emotional harm. It violates fundamental international law. It spurns Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
In March, Israel's High Court will hear petitioner arguments.
The Slavery Law: Amendment 21 of Entry into Israel Law
It limits work permits given migrant workers. It binds them to one employer. Israel's Supreme Court ruled earlier. It called doing so "a modern form of slavery."
In May 2011, the measure passed final reading.
Amendment Criminalizing Employment, Providing Shelter or Renting Accommodation and Transporting Asylum Seekers
In June 2012, two bills sought to penalize Israelis knowingly or unknowingly assisting asylum seekers by providing employment, accommodation or transportation.
Preliminary readings passed. Both measures were combined for first reading. During Knesset Internal Affairs Committee discussions, the prohibition applied only to employment.
The law becomes binding when construction of an asylum internment camp is completed. Innocent people are criminalized for acting humanely.
Racial profiling and discriminatory harshness loom. Immigrants and Israelis are affected. Israel's 19th Knesset will consider it.
Amendment Forbidding Asylum Seekers to Send Money Abroad
Last July, Israel proposed amending the Law to Prevent Infiltration. It passed first reading. Infiltrators sending money abroad face three months imprisonment.
Persons helping them face 12 months. Israel's 19th Knesset will continue the legislative process.
ACRI is justifiably concerned. It expects the worst of 18th Knesset anti-democratic measures to be exceeded ahead. Israeli democracy is more hypocrisy than real.
It's on the chopping block for elimination. It may entirely erode ahead. Hardline extremists are up to no good. They have other priorities in mind.
Israel isn't fit to live in now. Imagine how much worse ahead is planned.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.