Yesterday, the Israeli Knesset voted to ban Israeli Palestinian political parties from participating in future elections. It accomplished this evisceration of Israeli democracy in the dead of night with only 29 members voting in favor (20 brave souls voted against, the rest were apparently asleep at the switch). The means used was quite ingenious: the Basic Law was amended to read that no MK could sit in Knesset unless he or she affirmed that Israel was both a “Jewish and democratic state.” Jewish MKs have no trouble affirming both of these claims. But Palestinian MKs believe that Israel is not democratic and that it shouldn’t be Jewish (alone).
The amendment passed also notes that MKs may be found to have violated it not only by their deeds, but by their public statements. This means that if a Palestinian MK exercises his right to free speech, he may be expelled from the Knesset.
So with a few strokes of a fountain pen or keyboard, the most extremist of Israeli governments has effectively destroyed Israeli democracy. No self-respecting Israeli-Palestinian would be willing to affirm that Israel is and should be a Jewish state. It’s the equivalent of an American Jew affirming the U.S. should be a Christian nation; or an African-American affirming the U.S. should be based on Christian white supremacy. And without Palestinian representatives, the Knesset will become a Jewish-only body.
In the past, every single Palestinian MK has been subjected to criminal investigation or other form of persecution by the Knesset itself. So the new law is further evidence of the Israeli Jewish campaign to render Israeli politics Arab-rein. It is part of a longer term initiative to “disappear” Palestinians both physically and politically from Israel.
One must ask why only 20 MKs voted against this travesty? Their number included the Joint List and Meretz. Notably, it excluded virtually every other Jewish MK, including those from the supposedly liberal Labor Party. Do I hear the “A-word,” anyone?
Coincidentally, today a UN body issued a report finding that Israel had become an apartheid state. It further urged that the UN reactivate the methods, resolutions and commissions it used to ostracize South Africa, when it too faced international opprobrium for its racist policies. The new version of the Basic Law further strengthens such findings.
In truth, this is all a bit of political theater, since the Israeli elections commission decisions to expel Party lists or individual MKs must be ratified by the Supreme Court. This body, which has grown increasingly rightist, has in the past routinely overturned such rulings by the commission. It’s likely it will continue to do so. But as settlers are added to the Court it becomes increasingly likely it will eventually rubber stamp the anti-democratic racism of the legislative body.