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Israel bans events commemorating Nakba

March 23, 2011 4:01 P.M. (Updated: March 24, 2011 5:09 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli parliament passed two bills late Tuesday night which ban events commemorating the Nakba and restrict residency in the Galilee and Negev, according to the Israeli media.

The ‘Nakba bill’ requires state fines for local authorities and state-funded bodies that organize or fund events commemorating the Palestinian ‘catastrophe’ of Israel’s creation in 1948.

The bill has been criticized for its vague language, prohibiting any activity "which would entail undermining the foundations of the state and contradict its values."

Proposed by lawmakers from the right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu, the bill was revised from a three-year prison sentence to a fine of three times the event’s cost, doubling if it is violated again within two years.

The second bill establishes admissions committees for communities of less than 400 families in the Galilee and Negev.

The committees are legally authorized to reject potential residents based on a number of criteria, including failing to fit in with the community’s “socio-cultural” character.

The bill was also revised from its original form, proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu and opposition party Kadima, in which its provisions were not restricted to the Galilee and Negev, nor a maximum size of 400 families. An amendment was added banning rejecting residents based on “race, religion, nationality or physical handicap.”

The Nakba bill was supported by 37 members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and opposed by 25, and the residency bill passed by 35 to 20.

The bills sparked furious debates on the Knesset floor, with United Arab List parliamentarians slamming the bill as racist and uproar over allusions to Nazi persecution of Jews, with Knesset member Uri Ariel of National Union yelling at UAL lawmakers, "Go back to Ramallah," according to reports in the Israeli press.

After the bill passed, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel immediately filed a petition claiming the bill sanctions discrimination against Arabs, Mizrahi Jews, amongst others, referring to cases in which members of these communities were rejected by admission committees without explanation.

On Sunday, more than a dozen Israeli intellectuals issued a statement criticizing the Nakba bill as against “the principle of separation of powers.”
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