The Coalition against Racism criticizes the Knesset for rejecting the draft law "Prohibition Against Racist Publications, Incitement to Racism and Racist Content in a Corporations Documents, 5772-2011", submitted by MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima) and Dr. Afu Agbaria (HADASH), Chairmen of the Lobby for the Coalition against Racism in the Knesset and 18 other MKs from various factions. Recently, the Knesset rejected the draft law that had undergone the initial reading, with 35 MKs against and 24 in support.
Minister Michael Eitan, who gave the reasons for the governments objection to the draft law, said that there is indeed racism in Israel, but the draft law constitutes too much restriction of the freedom of expression, and should therefore be rejected. Due to the Coalitions objection the draft law was rejected.
In recent years, Israeli society has witnessed a worrying increase in racism and incitement to racism. This increase has a lot to do with the change in the face of Israeli society and the exacerbation of tensions among the communities, sectors and groups in the population. These phenomena find expression in discrimination of the various groups, exclusion of the members thereof and harsh statements inciting against these groups and their members, humiliating and shaming them.
The aim of the draft law was to expand the legal tools for coping with manifestations of racism in Israel, using the following means: adding a civil offense that will enable the individual to sue for compensation due to racist incitement, similar to the ability to sue for compensation due to discrimination; expanding the definition of "racism" so that it will also include incitement on the basis of religious affiliation, ethnic extraction and country of origin (including Ethiopians, Russians, Sephardim and other groups), and also with respect to a persons status in Israel. The draft law also proposes a change in the definition of the offense of incitement to racism, so that it will require a regular emotional element of awareness of the act, just like the majority of criminal offenses, and also cancellation of the restriction of criminal liability based on "quoting from the Scriptures", and making it a defense argument that must be proven by the defendant.
Only a few days before the rejection of the draft law we witnessed an unprecedented racist disturbance and repeated declarations by senior government members that the rising wave of incitement to racism must be eliminated. But instead of taking advantage of the opportunity provide the State and its citizens additional tools to root out these phenomena, it was decided to reject the draft law. This rejection demonstrates the slippery slope on which the current Knesset is walking, as it will lead to the legitimization of instances of racism against others and even legitimization of racist activities and harm to the welfare of groups injured by such racism. Adv. Einat Horowitz, Director of the Legal Department in the Israel Religious Action Center, one of the initiators of the draft law: "Whole groups in the population will continue to constitute targets for unbridled attacks by interested parties, and thus Israel protects not freedom of expression but freedom of incitement against anyone different from themselves. We will not leave this matter alone and will continue to table such laws in the future so as to provide the public with effective tools for eliminating such incitement that is so destructive for a democratic society."