POSITIONEN & THEMEN
June 10, 2002
It is our sad duty to bring to your attention a set of very serious and
dangerous developments on the Israeli parliamentary scene.
The ruling coalition, headed by the Likud and the Labor Party, has
given its support to a set of recently adopted draconic measures. These new
laws are cynically aimed at canceling 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
organizations 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
Furthermore, the amendment also expands the circumstances for prosecution.
Previously, according to the Supreme Court deccision, 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 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
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 organization against the state of
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 criminalizing 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.
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 trrror'. 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
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 organization 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
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 dire consequences of this new
It is our firm belief that protests and criticism from abroad can
be very effective in either repealing these acts or neutralizing their effect.
We are, of course, willing to answer any questions or comments that you
We thank Reuven Kaminer for preparing this document.