"There's a limit to how much the democracy in Israel can be abused," MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu), who initiated the bill, said during the meeting.
If passed in subsequent readings, the law would allow the Finance Ministry to reduce the budgets of state-financed institutions such as local authorities and organizations if they observe Israel's Independence Day as a day of mourning, among other punishable offenses.
'Law will protect democracy'
"(Yisrael Beiteinu) has deteriorated to the lowest level," MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said. "Israel's basic interest is the freedom of expression and thought. This is yet another law that was created to show off.
"From whom will they withhold the funds? From a town on the brink of collapse, a town in poverty, because the mayor decided to make a speech on Independence Day." he said. "It brings up a subject that is decreasing in prominence within the Arab public, and turns it into an issue."
Miller responded by saying that the bill targets the local governments who use the funds to promote their personal agenda, instead of supporting single-parent families and other needy populations. "I want to see how you would respond if all the kids in one class would hold a day of mourning on one of the classmates' birthday," he added. "This is the minimum that we can do to protect the democracy."
Herzog was joined by the Arab MKs in condemning the law proposal. MK Hana Sweid (Hadash) claimed that the bill joins a long line of anti-democratic and anti-minority measures. "How many bad laws will we accumulate until the bubble bursts? This law violates the freedom of expression," he said.
Sweid said that since his father passed away on Independence Day, he wants to spend that day in mourning. "As someone who commemorates the Nakba each year, I am not the happiest on that day," he said. "But to criminally accuse me of denying the existence and independence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is slander. It is an unproven collective charge."
MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) said that the bill violates the freedom of opinion, and accused the bill's initiators of attempting to outlaw any opinion that negates theirs.
"This law will prevent the Palestinians from honoring an event that is essentially traumatic to the Palestinian people no less than the destruction of the first and the second temple," he said. "I haven't heard that the Romans prohibited the Jews from commemorating Tisha B'Av (the day marking fall of first and second temples), even though this wasn't the biggest democracy in history."
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) accused Yisrael Beitenu of McCarthyism and of establishing a "thought police."
"The Constitution Committee has turned into the anti-human rights committee, a committee that messes with international law," he said.
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