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Israeli right wing takes advantage of “weak government” to try and pass slew of racist laws

Jerusalem24 – A series of controversial bills have been making their way to the Israeli Knesset, some of which are to be voted on today. Most of these bills have been pushed forward by the more extreme elements of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.

We asked lawyer, political analyst, activist, and former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization Diana Buttu which of these bills are worth keeping an eye on, why so many proposals finding themselves on the Knesset table are triggering outrage these days, and what might be the consequences if they do become law.

1. Why are we seeing a lot of bills making (both local and international) headlines these days?

For a few reasons. This is the extreme right wing’s opportunity to push forward as many of the racist bills as they want to put through. And they’ve been using this opportunity because they believe that this is a weak coalition (I don’t think it is).

It’s important to remember that these are not new: these have been tried in the past. But they’re hoping that with each and every passing year, that finally there will be government that will push it through – and they’re hoping that it’s this one.

2. Yesterday, Israel tabled a proposed law that would have imposed a 65% tax on foreign aid to Palestinian and Israeli NGOs after it was sharply criticized by the international community. You suggested to us earlier this week that this bill “would never pass”. Why submit a bill at all if you know there are slim chances it will pass?

Because it just might pass. If you look back at each and every one of the racist laws that has been passed, it’s been year after year after year that they come forward to the Knesset in the hopes that eventually they will pass.

This law is also not new, it was attempted back in 2008, 2009 and then again in 2014. They’re hoping that it will actually pass, they’re pushing for it. It becomes a war of attrition: let’ see who’s stronger, let’s see who gives in first.

3. One of the bills scheduled to be presented to the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs is an amendment to the law on “national parks” and “nature reserves” in the occupied West Bank that aims to impose Israeli civil law on these sites. What does this mean in terms of sovereignty over the West Bank?

It’s “six of one and half a dozen of the other” as we would say – in other words, the effect will be the exact same when it comes to Palestinians.

They’re trying to pursue annexation through a step-by-step approach. What’s annexation? It’s that it’s no longer governed by military rule, by a military commander, but instead it is the regular civilian government making decisions.

We’ve seen different types of annexation bills in the past. When there was one major bill that was attempting to annex the West Bank, that’s when we saw the major international uproar. But when it comes to these smaller bills, we don’t see the same international outrage because they don’t understand what the implications are.

And the implications are the slow, incremental method of transferring over authority from the military commander into Israel’s civilian government, thereby making sure there are two systems of law – apartheid – for the people who are living on the land.

For Palestinians the effects are the exact same. It doesn’t matter if it’s done by the Minister of Defense or the Cabinet itself. The impact is the same. But the point of it is to try to show that the West Bank belongs entirely to Israel and that it cannot be undone.

4. Another far-right MK is set to propose a resolution that will require ministers to “adhere to the values of the Nation-State law in all their decisions”. What exactly are we looking at here? What might be the consequences?

The Israeli Supreme Court (that people are now rushing to defend) has never been a court that is based on the idea of the rule of law. Instead, what the court has always decided when faced with the question    of whether it is a democracy or whether it is a Jewish state, it has chosen to be a Jewish state. It is an institution that has formalized apartheid.

Now what they’re asking these ministers to do is for them to formalize the apartheid on their own. Why? Because they know the Supreme Court is just going to rubber stamp it. Again, they want to see more and more pieces of law that are formalizing apartheid – rather that the way it used to be, where there’s apartheid, but you have to scratch the surface to figure it out.

Israel feels so strong now – even though it’s not – but it feels so strong and so empowered that it is pushing for this type of introduction to legislation so that it cannot be taken down, it cannot be overturned by the Supreme Court.

5. Yitzah Wasserlauf of the Jewish Power party who proposed the resolution said that “This resolution will allow us to give priority to IDF soldiers and veterans, establish the link of the Jewish people to its land, and strengthen the Negev, the Galilee”, and the West Bank. But all of these are already areas of priority for Israel.  So would any of the above laws – individually or collectively – actually change anything in practice for the Palestinians?

They will in the long-term. In terms of the short term no, because in the short term we see that Israel is effectively doing whatever it is that it wants to do. But in the long term the answer is yes.

All you have to do is look at how Jerusalem has been treated over time. The international community, with the passage of time, has pretty much come to accept that East Jerusalem is never going to be liberated. It’s never going to be given back. The longer that this goes on, the more reluctant the international community is to step in.

6. Another bill proposed by the far-right Jewish Power MK Limor Son Har-Melech aims to amend students’ rights, allowing for the expulsion (and the five-year suspension of recognition of foreign degrees) of students “who support terrorism”, as well as the “dissolution of “terror-supporting cells”. The Knesset also advanced in a preliminary reading another bill that would ban the public display of flags of a “hostile entity” under penalty of imprisonment. Will any of these bills pass?

They might. Look, right now it’s not illegal to fly the flag. They’re trying to make it illegal because – again – they’re as flimsy as a spider’s web.

It’s a fear factor. They want to silence people. They want to silence Palestinians. What are they talking about when they say “a flag of a hostile entity”? They’re talking about the Palestinian flag, the people who are the owners of the land. What are they talking about when they’re taking about “disbanding groups”? They’re talking about groups such as Jabha (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) or Tajamoa (the National Democratic Union) that are in universities. And it’s because they really don’t want to see any dissent.

Will it eventually pass? It might. Will it be overturned? Probably. But that’s not the point. The point is that they’re always trying to silence dissent by making any form of rejection of Zionism illegal.

7. Also approved last week in a preliminary reading was a bill doubling the punishment for sexual harassment if the motive for the offense is determined to be nationalist. This bill is couched in language suggesting, without saying so explicitly, that it targets harassment of Jewish women by Arab men. It provides for victim compensation of up to 240,000 shekels “without a need to prove injury”. Why is it they feel the need to protect Jewish women?

There’s long been a movement of trying to stop Jewish women from marrying Palestinian men or non-Jewish men because of the lineage: when a child is born to a Jewish mother, the child is Jewish. So they’ve long tried to stop this attempt to “weaken the bloodline” as they would put it.

It’s very interesting. In all racist, paternalistic societies, those who are the ones who have to be “protected” are women – both the ones who need to be protected from men, but also the targets of their racism as well. And this case is absolutely no different.

There has long been a campaign on the part of these lawmakers – who, before they were lawmakers, were activists – who have been trying to stop Jewish women from marrying Arab men. This is just another line of this, is that somehow women need to be protected from Arab men.

Listen to the full interview on Wake Up Palestine.

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