Israel introduces sweeping apartheid legislation

Israeli lawmakers are seeking to further extend state apartheid during the 2010-11 winter session of the Knesset (parliament). Key in the new legislation is a series of laws on a loyalty pledge that includes acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.

There are differing views among Israeli leaders as to how far the loyalty pledge should go. Twenty-two out of 30 cabinet ministers approved legislation applying the pledge to new migrants and those applying for citizenship. As a requirement for immigration, the loyalty pledge was originally proposed by foreign minister Avigdor Liberman from the ultra-right Yisrael Beoteinu (Israel is our Home) Party. It was originally to apply only to non-Jews, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the name of “equality” has pushed for it to apply to Jews as well.

One version of the pledge being circulated as part of the “population registration bill” states: “I hereby pledge to be faithful to the state of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state, to the principles contained in the declaration on the establishment of the State of Israel, to the state’s flag, and to the national anthem”. The pledge goes on to say: “I pledge to go on compulsory service, or an alternative service, as stipulated by law”. Currently Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel are excluded from military (and other national) service, but such a pledge opens the door for changing that.

Palestinian ‘residents’

Some want to take the law beyond new migrants. Knesset member David Rotem is pushing for the pledge to apply to residents. According to a bill he and others are pushing in parliament: “A resident… who does not sign the declaration [loyalty pledge] as described in the said subsection shall not be issued an identity card”. Currently more than 200,000 Palestinians are living in East Jerusalem as resident non-citizens of Israel. Losing their identity cards would mean an increased inability to function in Israel because they would be unable to apply for work, housing or travel through checkpoints.

It is also possible that the “residents” required to sign the loyalty pledge would not only be those living in East Jerusalem and the land taken by Israel in 1967 but also the Palestinians living in the occupied territories who are also issued identity cards by the state of Israel as a way of restricting their movement.

Rotem and others also want to extend the oath to include Palestinians who are Israeli citizens elected to the Knesset. While individual parliamentarians are not currently required to pledge an oath to Israel as a Jewish state, since 1985 Palestinian parties (commonly referred to in Israel as Arab parties) seeking to run in Israeli elections have been prohibited from doing so if they seek to undermine Israel being a Jewish state. Israel’s Central Election Committee has several times banned Palestinian parties from running on this basis.

Corporations and NGOs will be subject to the same Zionist scrutiny with proposed legislation called “Preserving the Values of the State of Israel Bill”. It requires that companies “not undermine the existence of the state of Israel” and that NGOs not “endanger the Jewish or democratic [sic] character of the state”.

Some Knesset members even want to extend the loyalty pledge as a requirement for film projects that seek state funding. According to legislation that has already passed its first reading in the Knesset, a film that seeks public funding must have its entire crew pledge allegiance to the state of Israel. Israel’s Zionist rulers are concerned that the artistic community may sway public opinion against the apartheid state. Yariv Levin, a member of the Knesset from Netanyahu’s party, declared: “The vast majority of the Israeli public is fed up with the lunatic fringe that has gained control of Israeli theatre and cinema”.

Boycotts

Levin’s comment came on the back of several dozen high profile Israeli actors and directors declaring a boycott of a new cinema and theatre in the Ariel settlement. The letter from the entertainers states: “Just several kilometres from the thriving and flourishing Ariel, Palestinians live in refugee camps, in harsh living conditions and without any basic human right. Not only are they not entitled to see performances in Ariel, some of them have no access to running water.”

Under legislation also drafted for the winter session of parliament, this boycott too could be illegal. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, one of the proposed laws states that those “who initiate, promote, or publish material that might serve as grounds for imposing a boycott against Israel are committing a crime and a civil wrong, and may be ordered to compensate parties economically affected by that boycott, including fixed reparations to the tune of 30,000 shekels, freeing the plaintiffs from the need to prove damages”. Further, the new law is proposed to be retroactive, meaning those who have already participated in the boycott campaign may be liable to pay tens of thousands of dollars.

All these new laws against human rights show the desperation of Zionists in the face of growing international and internal pressure. Israeli legislators are so fearful of the growing opposition to Zionism that the winter session of parliament will even consider a “Nakba bill” to deny public funding to any organisation or person engaged in commemoration of the dispossession of Palestinians in 1948, known as Al Nakba (the catastrophe).

Israel is increasingly exposing its own contradictions. The “Jewish democratic state” can survive only by doing away with even the illusion of democracy.