The Guardian July 3, 2002


Dangerous developments on parliamentary scene.
Communist Party of Israel calls for solidarity

The ruling coalition, headed by the Likud and the Labor Party, has given 
its support to new, draconian restrictions on democratic rights in Israel. 
The Communist Party of Israel reports on the new laws.

These new laws are cynically aimed at cancelling the representation our 
faction, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality and that of the Arab 
lists, which together hold ten seats in the 120-member Israeli Knesset.

It will come as no surprise to our friends and to enlightened public 
opinion abroad that the sordid method adopted by the ruling coalition and 
its right-wing allies to this end is to redefine legitimate political 
positions and arguments as acts of terror or acts condoning or assisting 
terror.

Israel already has on the books a very wide ranging set of laws pertaining 
to terror, most of which have been adopted with little or no change from 
the period of the colonial British Mandate.

This, previously existing "anti-terror" legislation, has been described by 
distinguished jurists and civil rights organisations as a blot on Israeli 
democracy.

Now, in the wake of new crises and contradictions in the Israeli political 
arena, further dangerous steps have been taken by the Sharon-Peres 
Government to eliminate the parliamentary representation of Israel's 
Palestinian Arab population, a fifth of the total Israeli population, and 
of left peace lovers, including Communists.

This step came in the form of four anti-democratic laws adopted on May 15, 
2002 by the Knesset.

The first of the new laws is general in nature and comes in the form of an 
amendment to Article 144 of the Criminal Code and a change in the Ordinance 
for the Prevention of Terror (1948).

The amendment, in addition to the ban on calls for acts of violence or 
terror, also prohibits "words of admiration, sympathy or encouragement, 
support for or identification with such acts".

This amendment involves a serious restriction of the right to free speech 
and will affect the activity of elected representatives, journalists and 
citizens.

Furthermore, the amendment also expands the circumstances for prosecution. 
Previously, according to the Supreme Court decision, it was necessary that 
such a call would "almost certainly" result in an act of terror violence. 
But with the new wording it is sufficient that there is a "real 
possibility" that the call would have such an effect.

The new law, therefore, widens the grounds for the prosecution of whosoever 
supports and identifies with the struggle of the Palestinian people against 
occupation and whosoever supports Palestinian resistance to incursions by 
the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] into Palestinian held territory.

The law is especially though not exclusively aimed at the Arab community, 
where such positions and opinions are almost universal. It is also aimed 
against broad sections of the Israeli peace movement, which wage a 
consistent political struggle against the occupation and its effects.

In short, declarations well within the framework of free speech and genuine 
discourse that would not have been illegal or would have not supported 
prosecution in the past, have now become dangerous and a possible basis for 
prosecution.

Parliamentary applications

On the basis of the change in the Criminal Code, the legislature proceeded 
to apply the new measure to the Knesset in a new set of acts.

a) Change in the Basic Law  Knesset

The Basic Law for the Knesset elections previously provided that a list 
might be banned if it negates the existence of Israel as a Jewish and 
democratic state, or if it supports racism (Article 7).

The new amendment allows for banning a list that expresses either 
explicitly or implicitly "support for armed struggle by an enemy state or a 
terrorist organisation against the state of Israel".

The definition and the interpretation of the aforementioned, highly 
sensitive categories is, of course, in the hands of the government, which 
has the majority in the Central Elections Committee.

A third of this body can initiate a motion to ban a list or a party, and a 
decision by the Committee to ban a list is subject to approval by the High 
Court of Justice.

b) Change in the Law of Political Parties

The Law of Political Parties is amended to ban the registration of any 
party that expresses either explicitly or implicitly "support for armed 
struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist organization against the state of 
Israel"

c) Change in the Election Law

The Election Law is amended so that the Declaration of Agreement to be a 
Candidate is amended to include a binding commitment to desist from 
violating any prohibition in the aforementioned Article 7 of the Basic Law 
of the Knesset.

An additional amendment enables a third of the members of the Central 
Elections Committee to initiate the ban on any single candidate, with a ban 
by the Committee subject to approval by the High Court of Justice.

The Political Background

These laws are part of an attempt by the political establishment to impose 
anti-democratic restrictions on public debate and on the criticism of 
current Israeli policies.

This attempt is implemented by criminalising perfectly open, valid and 
legitimate views, including views widely held by at least a fifth of 
Israeli citizens, both Arabs and Jews.

There are widely held views among a large section of the public, that the 
occupation is illegal and detrimental to Israeli interests, and that 
resistance to the occupation is both natural and inevitable.

The new laws convert these opinions and positions into a criminal act under 
Israeli law. During the debate on the laws, the right-wing legislators 
openly asserted that the law is aimed at the Arab and Jewish Left members 
of the Knesset.

Knesset Member (MK) Muhammed Baraka (Democratic Front for Peace and 
Equality  DFPE) defined the new laws as the basis for Israeli Apartheid.

The plan is to block the way to the Knesset for those Arabs and Jews, who 
for their firm support of the struggle against Israeli occupation are 
accused of "supporting violence and terror".

It should be marked, that it will be the right-wing Knesset members who 
will decide as to how to define the categories of "supporting violence and 
terror".

Baraka stressed that no anti-democratic law will cause the DFPE to hesitate 
in its support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people against the 
occupation and for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

MK Issam Mahul (DFPE) declared, that the aim of the laws is the ethnic 
cleansing of the Knesset and the political transfer of the Arab population 
to outside the boundaries of Israeli democracy and its political and party 
discourse.

MK Tamar Gozansky (DFPE) noted, that the battle against the changes in the 
law is aimed at saving Israeli society from falling into the black hole of 
suppression of free speech and organisation and all democratic 
institutions.

It has become clear, that the government cannot maintain an external 
occupation regime against the Palestinians without an internal occupation 
regime against democracy.

Friends

The members of the Parliamentary faction of the DFPE in the Israeli 
Knesset, all of them also members of the leadership of the Communist Party 
of Israel, request that you alert democratic parliamentarians and the media 
in your country, and everywhere possible, to the direct consequences of 
this new anti-democratic legislation.

It is our firm belief that protests and criticism from abroad can be very 
effective in either repealing these acts or neutralising their effect. We 
are, of course, willing to answer any questions or comments that you have.

We thank Reuven Kaminer for preparing this document.

* * *
The Communist Party of Israel can be found at: http://www.maki.org.il/English/english.html
Contact email address is: info@maki.org.il

Back to index page