Knesset limits democratic rights

TEL AVIV – Last week, the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, adopted two unprecedented racist resolutions. For the first time in the Israeli state’s history, the parliamentary immunity of an Arab Member of Knesset, Azmi Bishara of the (Arab) National Democratic Assembly (Balad) Party, was lifted so that he can be put on trial for political expressions.

The second was the passage of a bill that would prohibit a person or party that “supports a terrorist organization or an enemy state undertaking an armed conflict against Israel” from taking part in general elections in Israel.

It would be at the sole discretion of the General Election Board, which is made up of representatives of the political parties holding seats in the current Knesset, to determine who falls under such a definition.

These two developments are seen by many democratic forces as a general attack by the right-extremists, within and without the government, on the democratic freedoms in the country’s political life, and particularly upon the rights of the Arab-Palestinian minority (approximately 20 percent of all Israeli citizens), and their elected representatives in the Knesset.

A spokesman for the growing anti-globalization group in Israel pointed out that this onslaught on democratic freedoms in Israel is in line with similar trends in the U.S. and some EU countries, which are utilizing the terror attacks of Sept. 11 to restrict democratic freedoms in their countries.

The chair of the Knesset’s Hadash faction, Mohammad Barakei, stressed that the majority votes in the Knesset should be seen not just as an attack upon Bishara and his Balad party, but as an all-out racist attack on the Arab minority in Israel and the democratic freedoms of all Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike.

The Gush-Shalom peace bloc issued a statement saying, “if implemented, the two measures will be a death knell for any democratic freedoms in Israel, for its Jewish, as well for its Arab, citizens.”