“Nakba Law Incites against Arab Population”
Israel’s Knesset approved the Nakba Law, mandating fines for state funded bodies that commemorate the Nakba, the 1948 Palestinian catastrophe of death, displacement and dispossession. Palestinian public in Israel will continue to commemorate its national days and history, despite this legal threat.
The Israeli Knesset approved on Tuesday night (22 March) the second and third readings of the controversial “Nakba Law.”
37 Knesset members voted in favor of the bill, which would require the state to fine local authorities and other state-funded bodies for holding events marking Israeli Independence Day as the “Nakba” (“catastrophe” in Arabic) or for supporting “racism” against Israel. 25 others opposed the law.
The bill, initiated by Knesset Member Alex Miller of the ultra right-wing Zionist party Yisrael Beiteinu, will now become law, unless the decision is overturned by the Israeli High Court.
The Nakba is the term for the events of 1948 that left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as refugees, dead, and homeless.
The final version of the law will require the state to fine local authorities and other state-funded bodies for holding events commemorating the Nakba, supporting armed resistance or racism against Israel, or desecrating the state flag or nation symbols.
A statement released by the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education- Israel, following the vote, says, “The Palestinian Arab public in Israel has every right to observe national days and preserve the national collective memory, including content in school curriculum.”
“The Follow-up Committee on Arab Education will continue to target Arab schools, specifically on Nakba Day, Land Day, the massacre in Kafr Qasem and other important historical events, to enhance the national and cultural affiliation of Arab students and present the denied Palestinian narrative, and will continue to fight for inclusion in the curriculum.”
The AIC spoke with Raja Za’atra the spokesperson for the Committee on Arab Education Issues, which said it will continue to commemorate the Nakba Day in schools.
“This law has no practical effect on the committee itself because it receives no funding from the state, but it is meant to intimidate schools, local councils and other bodies that are giving services to the public and dealing with Palestinian nationalism in general,” Za’atra said.
“This law is an attempt to incite against the Arab population,” he added.
The Abraham Fund responded to the Nakba Law, warning that “Knesset members are mistaken to think that one can force the Arab minority to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. It is important to allow Arab citizens to learn about and acknowledge their painful past. It is also important that mutual understanding of the other’s historical narrative exists between the Jews and Arabs in Israel.”
Prior to the final vote, Attorney Dan Yakir, ACRI’s Chief Legal Counsel, sent a letter to Members of Knesset, urging them to oppose the Nakba Law. In his letter, Attorney Yakir states that the law will limit specific forms of expression, while attempting to dictate one ideological and historical truth: “This bill severely damages freedom of political expression, freedom of artistic expression, and freedom of protest, which are all basic rights and are essential to the very existence of a democracy.”