Israeli law makers move to outlaw free speech: The noose tightens

This just in. Its, unfortunately, of a piece with other similar efforts to censor speech in Israel.   In the recent past there have been, on a number of fronts, attempts to silence Palestinian Israeli voices, both in the political arena and at the individual level.   The almost annual attempts to ban Arab Knesset members and political parties who do not pledge allegiance to the Jewish state of Israel have been well documented.  Now we have something new, the beginning of an attempt to ban any official commemoration of the Nakba, this kind of “noose tightening” or muzzling of an alternative narrative, the freedom to express oneself is ominous for any healthy democracy.  Such efforts to silence voices that disrupt a triumphalist national narrative hearkens back to another time and era, and I do not mean this in a salutary manner.  Not only do the Palestinians have to live with the brute facts of settler colonial dispossession, on-going racism and second-class citizenship, but they are increasingly limited in how they may express their disapproval/outrage/counter-narrative.  The extremely strange Haaretz headline “Israel moves closer to banning mourning of its independence” speaks volumes.  Indeed, other questions are also raised regarding the limits of free speech when discussing the “reality” of the Palestinian predicament.

Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, gave preliminary approval to a bill that would mandate a year jail term for anyone who speaks against Israel’s status as a Jewish state on Wednesday morning.

The bill, which still needs final approval before coming law, passed after a heated debate with a vote of 47 to 34 and one abstention. The measure was originally introduced by Zevulun Orlev, a member of a right-wing religious nationalist party, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home).

The bill’s passage comes three days after lawmakers advanced a bill that would ban all commemorations of Nakba Day, on which Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, remember their expulsion of 1948.

According to news reports, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, was removed from the auditorium during an argument after the vote.

During the debate preceding the vote, Chaim Oron, the chair of the left-wing Zionist party Meretz, decried the bill, according to the Ynet news agency: “Have you lost your confidence in the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? This crazy government – what exactly are you doing? Thought Police? Have you lost it?”

Jamal Zahalka said, also according to Ynet’s report, “Many intellectuals in the academia who talk about a country belonging to all its citizens belong in prison, according to MK Orlev. Arab and Jewish leaders who seek real democracy in Israel also belong in jail, according to Orlev… He wants to put anyone who doesn’t agree with him in jail.”