22:17 GMT +306 December 2019
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    The opening session of the Knesset

    Israeli Parliament Approves Law Targeting Arab Lawmakers

    © AP Photo / Ariel Schalit
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    In a move that some see as targeting Arab legislators, the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, passed a law on Wednesday giving itself the power to impeach members for racism, incitement to violence, or supporting armed resistance against the state.

    Israel’s Jewish majority was not pleased when Arab parliamentarians met with the families of Palestinians who have been killed in recent street attacks against Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the new law will end an "absurd situation" in which people who "support terror against the State of Israel and its citizens" have a seat in the Knesset. 

    Since October 2015, 33 Israelis have been killed in gun, knife and vehicle-ramming attacks. Since that time over 200 Palestinians have been killed in response. 

    According to the Palestinian Health Ministry,12-year-old Muhey al-Tabakhi died on Tuesday because of a wound caused by a projectile that hit the West Bank town of Al-Ram. The projectile struck his chest and caused heart failure.

    The law passed with a 62-47 vote, and is being interpreted as the latest attempt by Netanyahu and Israel’s right-wing government to legally roll back free speech. Debbie Gilad-Hayo, of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, said, "This is one of the most serious legislative proposals in recent years and it harms the very building blocks of democracy — the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to representation." 

    Gilad-Hayo remarked in a statement that "Arab (lawmakers) whose actions and remarks do not find favor with the political majority will be the first people harmed by the bill, however, it is a slippery slope and the bill has potential to affect all."  

    The law could prove to be more symbolic than substantive, however, as an impeachment vote could only pass if 90 of the parliament’s 120 members are in favor. Given how divided the Knesset typically is, a majority of that size seems improbable.

    Arab citizens, who chiefly identify as Palestinian, comprise roughly 20% of Israel’s population. There 18 Arab parliamentarians, and 16 are opposed to the measure. 

    Last week the Knesset voted to compel NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from abroad to furnish details about the donations they accept. This measure could have a considerable impact on anti-settlement groups like Breaking the Silence, which conduct interviews with soldiers about the treatment of Palestinians, and Peace Now.

    Netanyahu claims the law was enacted to prevent foreign-born activists from participating in Israel’s national affairs.

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    Knesset, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestine, Israel
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