not alone: The Knesset on Wednesday morning approved in a preliminary reading a bill introducing one year in prison for anyone speaking against Israel's
existence as a Jewish and democratic state, should the call contain a reasonable possibility "that it may lead to acts of hatred, scorn or lack of loyalty to the State or its government authorities or law systems which have been established legally."
Forty-seven Knesset members voted in favor of the motion, 34 voted against it, and one MK abstained. The bill was initiated by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi),
chairman of the Knesset's Education Committee.
Orlev explained the bill by saying that "the Azmi Bishara affair
teaches us that statements can quickly turn into actions."
Following the vote, a harsh argument erupted between MKs Jamal Zahalka (Balad)
and Arie Eldad (National Union),
leading to Zahalka's removal from the auditorium.
A heated discussion erupted at the Knesset before the vote. Meretz
Chairman Chaim Oron slammed the government, saying, "Have you lost your confidence in the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? This crazy government – what exactly are you doing? Thought Police? Have you lost it?
"Israel's citizens have the right to say that they believe Jewish and democratic is an incorrect wording. I think they are wrong, but what does this have to do with the criminals area? Enough with this story." MK Orlev replied, "You used very shallow demagogy."
MK Zahalka said before the vote, "Many intellectuals in the academia who talk about a country belonging to all its citizens belong in prison, according to MK Orlev. Arab and Jewish leaders who seek real democracy in Israel also belong in jail, according to Orlev… He wants to put anyone who doesn’t agree with him in jail.
"This is the proposal: Whoever says 'death to the Arabs' should not be put in prison, but whoever says 'a country of all its citizens' should not be put in prison. This is a crazy law aimed at managing the political discourse according to laws."
Knesset Member Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima)
said that his movement opposed the bill in principle for the simple reason that "a democratic Jewish state is performed, not talked about. We want to do this, and you with your remarks are thwarting the matter once and again.
Turning to Orlev, Bar-On asked, "What is there in your proposal that it not covered in Basic Law: The Knesset or in the Penal Law? You want to punish people for speaking? Soon you'll want to punish people for thinking."
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al)
said in response to the bill, "We will not recognize a Jewish and Zionist Israel despite the draconian law, even if we pay a personal price. This coalition will soon propose a low banning 'expressing shock over the occupation' and calling for a penalty of five years in prison for anyone expressing such shock."