27 March 2011

OK, This is Repulsive

We have a couple of new laws making their way through the Knesset, and they are both pretty contemptible:
The Knesset is scheduled to vote Tuesday, in second and third readings, on two highly controversial bills: the first would deprive organizations of state support and fine them if they undertake activities that deny Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, and the second would allow small towns to screen applicants for residency.

The Knesset is scheduled to break for spring recess next week.

Critics of the first bill, the Nakba Law, which was sponsored by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu), maintain that it infringes disproportionately on the freedom of expression and the right of Israel's Arab citizens to tell their own historic narrative.

About 20 recipients of the prestigious Israel Prize, along with distinguished intellectuals, yesterday issued a public statement expressing their opposition to the Nakba Law. "The principle of separation of powers is an essential principle of democracy," they wrote. "Neither the Knesset nor the cabinet is a judicial branch empowered to punish. Under this law, politicians would be able to judge and punish those who make statements not to their liking."
All you really need to know about the "Nabka law" is that it's sponsored by the Yisrael Beiteinu party, who are basically Israel's equivalent of the Dixicrat segregationists in the 1940s and 1950s.

The law itself is much like the flag burning laws that we periodically see courts strike down in the US, a lot of political opportunism based on the sort of loud faux patriotism that is the refuge of scoundrels.

The second law is more complex, as it is sponsored by two Kadima MKs, and one Ysrael Beiteinu member, Shai Hermesh and Israel Hasson,and David Rotem respectively, and there does appear to be a real problem that needs to be addressed here.

The problem here is that language (added after the bill was originally proposed) that "an admissions committee will not refuse to accept a candidate purely on grounds of race, religion, nationality or physical handicap," (emphasis mine) is very weak tea, and so would almost certainly be used to exclude Arabs from these communities.

Certainly the language, at least as translated by Haaretz, seems to indicate this:
The law would empower admissions committees to reject candidates for residency if they are minors, if they lack the economic means to establish a home in the community, if they have no intention of basing their home life in the community, if a professional evaluation indicates that they are ill-suited to the community's way of life, or if they do not suit the community's social-cultural fabric.
Those last two clauses seem to leave a lot of room for some sort of Jim Crowism.

What's more, it's not just Arabs caught up in this net, you could see it applied to, "immigrants, single-parent families or same-sex couples".

On the other hand, the phrase, "If hey have no intention of basing their home life in the community," does reflect a real problem, one that with Arabs, or Sabras, and everything to do with rich Americans.

In many places in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, you have large numbers of rich absentee apartment owners who are in Israel for perhaps 4 weeks a year, with the apartments remaining vacant, or rented, for the rest of the year.

The communities down in the Negev and the Galilee, which is where the law would apply, would likely be far less expensive that Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Haifa, and so you could see a similar phenomenon involving more middle class Americans engaging in real estate speculators/part time Aliyah.

But you could craft a bill that would just cover that problem, by allowing an evaluation of a person's intention to make the community their permanent and primary residence, with the ability to levy fines and/or evict those who don't.

Of course, we aren't seeing such a limited law, because someone wants to slip in discriminatory provisions.


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