In an expansion of the racist rhetoric and legislation put out by Avidgor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, it has been announced that in the coming week the party plans to present legislation to the Knesset to ban the marking of al Nakba, or “the Catastrophe”, the term designated by the Arab community in Israel and Palestine for the destruction and expulsion experienced leading up to and during the war in 1948 when Israel declared its independence. It is no coincidence that this announcement comes today, May 15, the Gregorian date of Israel’s independence which is annually commemorated by Arab communities and those in solidarity with them.
According to the Reuters report anyone caught participating in the commemoration of al Nakba will be arrested and sentenced to a three-year jail term.
During the campaign in February Lieberman made himself internationally known by demanding that any citizen of Israel who votes in future elections must submit to a “loyalty pledge,” which the 20% Arab minority claimed was leveled specifically at them to deny their right to vote. In addition, considering the Netanyahu administration has been cold, if not outright hostile, towards the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories, this type of legislation does not bode well for encouraging peaceful coexistence.
What Lieberman is attempting to do here is to not only undermine peoples’ right to freedom of expression, but even their basic human right to freedom of thought. Freedoms such as these are at the core of democratic society. To infringe on the ability to freely express one’s opinion is, itself, undermining democratic institutions. Between the demand for loyalty pledges and the banning the ability of a minority population to remember their experience and their history, Lieberman is aiding the further erosion of any moral upper-hand the Jewish state may have at one time held. Legislation such as this further entrenches the cultural mindset of occupation, and brings that worldview from the territories deeper into Israel proper.
Amidst illegal housing evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement expansion in the occupied territories inside and outside of settlement blocs, a government coalition that denies the right to a Palestinian state while demanding the recognition of a Jewish one, and now parliamentary legislation dictating how people remember their personal narrative, the future for Israeli democracy looks bleak.