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Israel's Knesset passes 'draconian' anti-terrorism law

June 15, 2016 9:47 P.M. (Updated: July 10, 2016 4:59 P.M.)
An Israeli flag flutters as the children of Jewish settlers wait for the bus in Migron, in the occupied West Bank (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A controversial new anti-terrorism law passed Israel's parliament, the Knesset on Wednesday, which will grant the Israeli state far-reaching powers in cases of suspected “terrorism,” in a move a member of the Joint List called “draconian and unacceptable.”

The new Israeli law includes a provision expanding the definition of terrorist organization membership to include “passive members” who are not actively involved in any group, but can now be indicted by Israeli authorities. The law will reportedly apply only within Israel and not the occupied West Bank.

The law also includes a provision that gives the defense minister -- currently ultraright Avigdor Lieberman -- the power to confiscate property of alleged members of terrorist organizations without getting approval by Israeli courts, "much the same way he can issue administrative detention orders," a Knesset press release said, referring to Israeli's controversial policy of indefinite internment without trial or charge.

All of the Knesset parties voted in favor of the law, with the exception of the left-wing Meretz party and the Joint List.

The press release quoted MK Zehava Galon of Meretz as saying that the law "is based on archaic and hysterical legislation” and "will not really provide the tools for combating terror. It will place us once again on the list of countries that take advantage of their democratic ability to enact anti-democratic laws.”

Head of the Joint List Ayman Odeh said the legislation will damage Israel's security cooperation with the PLO and Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, pointing out that Israel considers many political parties within the PLO to be terrorist organizations.

“I see panic, the panic of the final stage of all colonialism worldwide. The panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria. I see the panic of the Americans in the final phase of the occupation of Vietnam,” Odeh said of the bill.

"The real terror is your occupation, which hasn’t yet ended,” he added.

Haaretz quoted Knesset and Joint List member Ahmad Tibi as saying that the bill was “draconian and unacceptable,” adding: “You can demolish houses, arrest people, deport people, kill them and shoot them when they’re on the ground bleeding… But you can’t suppress a nation’s desire to liberate itself from the occupation.”

Supporter of the law Nissan Slomiansky of the HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) party argued: "This is a law that lives the reality and draws its strengths and definitions from real life in the state of Israel,” he said. ”Regretfully, since the day of our establishment we have been in a constant fight against terror. Therefore, this law stems from real life; from the reality on the ground.”

While addressing members of the Join List, Yoel Hasson of the Zionist Camp insisted that the law was not "anti-Arab.”

"Let me remind you, my friends, that terror does not differentiate between those sitting at this table and those who sit at another table," Hasson said. "You know this from experience as well. Therefore, the law is not anti-Arab, and it is not a law against the Arab citizens of the State of Israel; it is a law for the benefit of the citizens of the State of Israel.”

The law’s passage comes just two days after the Knesset voted to renew an emergency provision to Israel’s Family Reunification Law, which prohibits Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip from automatically obtaining legal status in Israel or East Jerusalem through family unions.

The Knesset cited fears of "terrorists” entering Israeli society from the occupied Palestinian territory through the law as reason for its extension for the 13th year.

Rights groups have often conflated Israel’s anti-terrorism legislation with discriminatory policies enacted toward Palestinians that attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes and create social and political divides among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and those residing in Israel.

Nearly all Palestinian political movements are considered "terrorist" organizations by the Israeli government.
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