Jerusalem/PNN - A bill passed in the Israeli legislature yesterday bars organizations from commemorating the 1948 Nakba, in which thousands of Palestinians died or lost their homes.
The new law, which passed its preliminary reading by 38 votes to 14, denies funding and support to any group participating in “Nakba day” and other mourning events.
The bill originally proposed that such involvement would be punishable by three years’ imprisonment, but after discussion this was replaced with financial sanctions.
Jamal Zahalka, an Arab member of the Knesset (or legislature), has condemned the new law as “racially directed against Arabs.”
“This law is designed to deny us freedom of expression,” he said. “All the laws will not be able to control our thoughts or remove our memories of the tragedy of the Palestinian people.”
He also pointed out fears that the law could affect Israeli academic institutions that attempt to publish articles on the Nakba.
Ahmed Tibi, another Knesset member, accused the Israeli parliament of being home to Nakba deniers.
"There are ministers in the government who think that by changing street signs or cancelling education programs they can rewrite history. There are racists in this Knesset afraid of historical truth, who deny the pain of the other,” Tibi said. “They deny that families were destroyed in 1948 – their homes destroyed and their lands taken.”
But MK Alex Miller, the bill’s initiator, welcomed the decision: “The Knesset stated clearly today that the State of Israel should not be funding organizations denying its Jewish character, supporting armed resistance against it, or offending its national symbols ... This is an important and proper bill drafted in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence."
Resistance to the bill began last month when 230 Israeli academics signed a declaration that they would “publicly violate” the law if it was passed. The declaration described the law, along with the proposed citizenship laws, as “harshly anti-democratic.”
This is not the first blow to the remembrance of Nakba this week. Last Wednesday the Israeli Education ministry banned a children’s textbook used in Arab schools that described the 1948 war as a catastrophe. A passage in the book states that “Arabs call the war the nakba — a war of catastrophe, loss and humiliation — and the Jews call it the Independence War."
A spokesman for the Education Minister said that the description of the war in these terms was “inconceivable.”
But Arab lawmakers remain adamant that the Nakba cannot be forgotten. “It was a personal, familial, and national disaster,” Tibi said, “no matter what the reason.”
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