A shouting match erupted at a joint Knesset session for the Knesset's House and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committees on Thursday when MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) implied that the proposed nationality bill was comparable to the silence of Polish citizens in the face of Holocaust atrocities.
“History has forced us not to remain silent in the face of injustice and to maintain a democracy that allows freedom of expression at all times, and we have learned in Majdanek not to remain silent in the face of injustice—any injustice,” said German.
"This bill violates all the guarantees we have had since I was born, and to all of the generations to follow me. It harms the gay community and Reform Judaism, why do we even want to pass a legislation that hurts so many people?"
MK Avi Dichter (Likud) responded angrily, "How dare you make such a harsh comparison? Pay attention to what you are saying, to draw a parallel between the Polish silence during the Holocaust and this bill? You cannot say such a thing, these are very harsh words. I ask you to withdraw your statement."
"Either you have no idea what occurred during the Holocaust or you have no clue about basic human decency in general," Dichter added. "Believe me, these are despicable and disrespectful things that are inappropriate for a member of Israel's Knesset to say here in the context of a nationality bill, regardless of how controversial. If I were you, I would look in the mirror and feel ashamed."
German countered saying that it is Dichter who should feel ashamed for proposing the controversial bill to begin with.
The committee convened Thursday to discuss the bill, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to bring to the Knesset next week. In order to pass it, a majority of 61 MKs is required, so all the coalition factions were notified not to be absent until the end of next week, the last week of the Knesset's summer session.
Another argument broke out between MK Dichter and MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) who sarcastically proposed that the bill be titled “Basic Law: Apartheid.”
“Call a spade a spade,” Jabareen continued. “The same rational could be used by MK Dichter to enact (discriminatory) separation in hospitals, public transportation and perhaps in bathrooms as well.”
Dichter suggested the bill be viewed from a wider perspective. “We are living as a small minority of Jews among 350 million Arabs, and the Muslim world is more than 1.5 billion,” he said. “Take the bird’s eye view of the bill, it can be better viewed from there.”
“The title ‘Israel is the National Home of the Jewish People’ is unacceptable to the members of the Joint List Party. On that matter you are firmly in the minority,” Dichter added.
Dichter then returned to criticizing MK German’s comparison of the bill to the Holocaust. “An MK, Jewish or not, cannot make such comparisons. Had somebody in Poland or Hungary said such a thing, we would have denounced him. This is a statement that contradicts the root of Judaism and humanity.”
Josh Schwartz, Secretary-General of the Jewish Agency, expressed his own reservations about the bill: "The recent amendments to the bill have caused great concern in the Diaspora and especially in North America. Two issues concern us, the elimination of Arabic as an official language and the matter of settlements.
“We in the Diaspora are aware of a very strong BDS movement that does anything to harm the State of Israel and the Jews. This bill is ammunition for the BDS movement. In the Diaspora, we do not understand what benefit is there to eliminating Arabic as an official language."
The Knesset’s Legal Adviser Attorney Eyal Yinon, joined by Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri, came out against the bill this week, recommending the joint committee not to approve article 7b of the legislation.
They recommended the committee to consider adopting alternative wording "which allows the establishment of a separate community with a social and cultural designation, but it would not be possible to exclude citizens from it in a sweeping manner based on their nationality, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics, as long as their acceptance will not hurt the social and cultural nature of the community."
President Reuven Rivlin also criticized the clause.