Rights and Accountability 4 May 2011
Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court demanding that the government overturn its recent decision to criminalize commemoration of the Nakba — the ethnic cleansing and expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians before, during and after Israel declared itself a state in 1948.
Every 15 May, Palestinians all over the world — inside the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, those who hold Israeli citizenship, those in refugee camps outside Palestine, and millions more in the global diaspora — hold commemorative events and protests to remember and reflect on their collective history since the purging began more than six decades ago.
In an article in The Electronic Intifada in March, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours reported — just after the so-called “Nakba bill” was passed in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) — that the Israeli government would “deny funding to any organization, institution or municipality that commemorates the founding of the Israeli state as a day of mourning.” The Israeli Finance Minister would be the one charged with investigating and slapping fines on Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and civil society organizations taking part in Nakba day commemorations.
Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported this morning that:
Adalah and the Union for Human rights submitted the petition along with the parents of students from a mixed Arab and Jewish school, a non profit alumni organization for former students at an Arab high school in Haifa and Professor Oren Yiftahel from Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.
The petition claims that the Nakba Law will unjustly permit Israeli authorities to fine individuals for holding events commemorating the Nakba not only on Israel Independence Day, but throughout the year as well.
The drafters of the petition claim that the law is an infringement upon citizens’ legal rights, compromising individuals’ political, academic and artistic freedoms. They added that the law detracts from basic human entitlement to equality, education, and employment as well.
The petitioners’ major allegation is that the law will harm the basic rights of Israel’s Arab minority, and may detract from the budgets of many public institutions including cultural and education facilities, as well as Arab municipalities throughout Israel.
Those who submitted the petition have demanded that the Knesset, and the Finance Minister, suspend implementation of the bill until it rules on the petition. Members of the Knesset who are opposed to the Nakba Law have denounced it as a racist attack on Palestinian identity and heritage.
MK Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) said … “We will continue activities marking Nakba Day with the aim of presenting the historical facts, which are not subject to interpretation when it comes to a people uprooted from its land, many of whose members were made refugees.”