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Revised Bill to Stifle Public Discussion of the Nakba in Israel Proposed in the Knesset

February 28, 2014 at 11:38 am

Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right-wing Yisrael Beitinu party, at the Knesset on 29 June.

Israel’s right-wing Yisrael Beitinu party proposed a bill this past May that would outlaw the public commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, or remembrance of the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948 when Israel was created. Members of the Knesset created a small window of hope for those with a more inclusive vision of society when they rejected this proposed legislation.

However, this week a revised version of this bill was passed by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, from where it will go to the full plenary. While the new proposal does not outlaw public commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, it outlaws the government’s financial support of any organization that acknowledges this moment—and ongoing struggle—in Palestinian history. In effect, there is little difference between the bill proposed in May and the most recent legislation, in that both reject the importance of acknowledging the non-Zionist narrative and supporting a wider understanding of this part of Palestinian—and Israeli—history.

As Haaretz reports, only MK Shalom Simhon of the Labor Party voted against the bill at the ministerial meeting, while Labor Party Minister Avishay Braverman was among one of the only MKs to discuss the detrimental effects of the bill. “To my sorrow, instead of acting to strengthen the connection with the Arab citizens of Israel and acting to grant them equal rights, there are people today who for political reasons adopt bills that might strengthen them amongst the voting public, but at the same time harm the fragile fabric of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and also defame Israel in the world,” Braverman stated.

The newly passed bill will mean that organizations working towards acknowledgment of the Israeli and Palestinian narratives will receive no support from the state. In a recent AIC interview with Zochrot, an Israeli organization that educates Israeli citizens about the Nakba, Director Eitan Bronstein noted that getting Jewish Israelis to understand the Palestinian perspective of 1948 is crucial to reconciliation efforts. While high-level negotiators may reach an agreement on a two-state solution, there can not be true peace without this mutual understanding.

Yet the government’s approval of the new Nakba bill underscores their disregard for the importance of mutual understanding in achieving peace. What is more, it raises a large question mark about the government’s own confidence in the morality of the 1948 war. Regardless of how the Israeli government chooses to promote the Jewish and Zionist history of the region, the fact remains that an entire population has its own collective memory that is distinct from that of most Jewish Israelis. By not supporting the endeavors of groups that attempt to incorporate this memory into Israeli consciousness, the government is showing its own discomfort with what public discussion of the Nakba may reveal. Indeed, the Knesset’s approval of the bill raises questions about how seriously the government takes its responsibility of giving its sizeable non-Jewish minority a public voice, a central characteristic of democracy and egalitarianism.

The Alternative Information Center (AIC)