The Israeli Knesset passed on Wednesday, May 27, a preliminary reading of a bill criminalizing citizens who refuse the Jewish nature of Israel, drawing immediate rebuke from opposition lawmakers.
The bill, initiated by Knesset’s Education Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev, was supported by 47 lawmakers and rejected by 34 with one abstention.
It slaps a one-year jail term against any person who challenges the Jewish nature of Israel.
A Knesset committee will now discuss the bill and decided on how it should proceed until being voted into law.
The voting comes only a few days after the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided to push through Knesset a law banning its Arab citizens from marking Nakba, the day Israel was set up on the rubble of Palestine.
Those found in violation could face up to three years in prison.
A third bill obliges every Israeli citizen, including Arab citizens, to take a "loyalty oath." It would be brought up to vote in the Knesset next Sunday, May 31.
Israeli Arabs are descendants of Palestinians who stayed after hundreds of thousands of compatriots fled or were driven from their homes by Zionist gangs in 1948.
According to statistics released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, they are estimated at 1.5 million or 20 percent of the 7.3 million population.
The "Jewish Israel" bill drew rebuke from several lawmakers, both Arab and Jewish.
"This crazy government – what exactly are you doing? Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron asked.
"Israel’s citizens have the right to say that they believe Jewish and democratic is an incorrect wording."
Ronnie Bar-On, a lawmaker from the Kadima opposition party, said they opposed the bill.
"You want to punish people for speaking? Soon you’ll want to punish people for thinking."
Israeli Arab Knesset member Jamal Zahalka also blasted the controversial bill.
"Many intellectuals in the academia who talk about a country belonging to all its citizens belong in prison, according to MK Orlev," he fumed.
"Arab and Jewish leaders who seek real democracy in Israel also belong in jail, according to Orlev."
Ahmad Tibi, another Israeli Arab Knesset member, mocked the right-wing ruling coalition.
"This coalition will soon propose a low banning ‘expressing shock over the occupation’ and calling for a penalty of five years in prison for anyone expressing such shock," he said.
"We will not recognize a Jewish and Zionist Israel despite the draconian law, even if we pay a personal price."
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)