The new law introduced by conservative legislators makes it a crime for anyone to “call to negate Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, where the content of such publication would have a reasonable possibility of causing an act of hatred, disdain or disloyalty” to Israel. The vote was 47-34 to approve the bill.
MK Zevulun Orlev with the right-wing Bayit Hayehudi party introduced the bill.
Citing a controversy over former MK Azmi Bishara’s flight from the country after visiting Syria and Lebanon (where he praised Hezbollah), Orlev insisted that words “very quickly leads to actions.” It is the traditional excuse for cracking down on free speech: free speech can lead to criminal conduct.
The bill is particularly problematic for Arabs who live as law-binding citizens but continue to challenge the right of Israel to exist. Journalists, academics, activists, and politicians would all be subject to the law, which is clearly designed to chill and silence critics. Israel’s right to exist should be defended by logic and history, not preserved through state censures or prosecutions. What is astonishing is that the law will only succeed in forcing the debate underground and confirm the view of some critics that there must be something illegitimate about the status of Israel to justify such draconian measures. Free speech and free press are the inherently the best defense for any free nation.
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