Knesset Roundup | June 20

June 1 – June 27 2011


Recent Anti-Democratic Legislation


Early June | Attorney General Opposes Bill Discriminating Against Persons Who Did Not Serve in the Army

On June 16, the Israeli media published a very rare measure taken by Israel’s Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, a week earlier. Attorney General Weinstein sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, asking him to stop a government supported bill, tabled by MK Hamad Amar (Yisreal Beitenu), stipulating that Israeli citizens who have completed military or national service will be given preference when applying for positions in the civil service. This bill was approved for first reading by the Knesset Constitution Committee on May 22, and has garnered opposition from many human rights organizations, including ACRI and other organizations promoting equal rights for women, Ethiopian Jews, Arab citizens of Israel, and handicapped persons.
Attorney General Weinstein’s letter reiterated the claims stated in ACRI’s position paper on this bill, and noted that “giving preference to one group over another in the distribution of limited resources […] places other groups in a lower status, first and foremost Arabs, handicapped persons, and ultra-Orthodox Jews.” Following the Attorney General’s Intervention, this bill will probably not be further promoted with government support, but we will keep you updated if this status changes.
To read more about ACRI’s position regarding this bill, click here.

June 15 | Raising Women’s Retirement Age

Last week, the Public Committee to Examine the Retirement Age for Women held a hearing, attended by representatives of the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Israel, and representatives of human rights NGOs including ACRI, the Mahut Center, the Adva Center, and the Israel Women’s Network.
ACRI is opposed to raising women’s retirement age from 62 to 64, because many women are ejected from the labor market even before the retirement age as it is, and raising it will, therefore, make them lose their rights to pensionary and other benefits for two more years. Alva Kolan, Policy and Legislation Promoter at ACRI, explained to the committee that when giving equal conditions to two groups, one of which is systematically disadvantaged, it does not promote equality but rather perpetuates discrimination.

June 20 | High Court of Justice Hearing on Acceptance to Communities Law

Today (Monday), the Israeli High Court of Justice will hold the first hearing on two separate petitions against the “Acceptance to Communities Law,” which passed its final Knesset reading in March 2011. This law legalizes a common discriminatory practice, which has already been criticized by the High Court: the screening of candidates wishing to join residential communities in the Negev and Galilee regions.
ACRI, together with the Abraham Fund Initiatives and Atid Misgav, filed the petition demanding to disqualify the “Acceptance to Communities” law on the grounds that it provides a “license to discriminate” against “unwanted” communities. In the petition, ACRI attorney Gil Gan-Mor notes that the law will enable discrimination based on the vague criteria of “fitting with the life of the community” or “fitting with the social fabric.” Based on these criteria, the committees currently reject “unwanted” communities that wish to live in the village – such as Arabs, single parents, disabled persons, same-sex couples, Mizrachi Jews, religious people, and so on.
To read ACRI’s full position on this bill, sent to Members of Knesset, click here.

Upcoming Anti-Democratic Legislation


June 26 | Fiscal Limitations on Foreign Funding for NGOs

On June 26, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation is expected to re-discuss a private bill proposed by MK Ofir Akunis (Likud), which was initially rejected by the committee on May 29. This bill stipulates that an Israeli NGO would not be allowed to receive donations of more than 20,000 NIS (approximately $6000) from foreign state entities.
The original version of the bill would have affected research institutes, hospitals, education and culture institutions, and human rights organizations – which is why it was rejected. However, MK Akunis has now presented a modified version, which specifically targets human rights and political organizations – yet another step in the ongoing assault on civil society and human rights organizations in Israel.
To read the current version of the Akunis Bill, click here.

June 27 | Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill

On June 27, the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee is scheduled to discuss the Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill, in preparation for its second-third (i.e. final) reading in the plenum. This bill was presented in July 2010 by the Coalition Chairperson, MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and others, and is meant primarily to prevent those opposing the Israeli occupation from advancing boycotts against Israeli settlements products.

On March 7 2011, the bill passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum. Prior to that, 53 Israeli human rights and civil society organizations sent a letter to MK Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of the Knesset, and to MK David Rotem, Chair of the Constitution Committee, expressing their strong opposition to this dangerous bill.
According to ACRI, Israelis and other people around the world use boycott to protest various causes, such as boycotting companies that violate labor rights. It is a legal, nonviolent tool of protest. Singling out those who work against the occupation, by using anti-boycott legislation, is a miserable use of the legislative process. This is an anti-democratic step, intended to create a chilling effect on civil society.
For further background on the bill and ACRI’s position, click here.

Success in the Spotlight


June 1 | Deputy Minister of Health Announces: No Private Medical Services

The Israel Medical Association is currently striking and holding negotiations with the government regarding the working conditions of Israeli physicians and the status of the health system. Initially, it appeared that the main card to be used by the government in these negotiations would be Private Medical Services in public hospitals (PrMS), a concept that was previously rejected by the High Court of Justice and the Attorney General because it infringes on the principle of equality health care.
However, on 1 June 2011, ACRI and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel received a letter from Deputy Minister of Health Yaacov Litzman, stating that the proposed plan to solve the crisis in the health system will not include Private Medical Services.
According to Rami Adut, Director of ACRI’s Right to Health Department, “Because we work for the right of all of Israel’s residents and citizens to health services, we support the physicians’ struggle and hope it would bolster public health care in Israel and minimize gaps in health services. At the same time, ACRI strongly opposes the introduction of PrMS into public hospitals under the pretext of the crisis that the physicians’ strike is causing. The public health system must be bolstered through raising salaries, adding positions, and encouraging physicians to work in the periphery, but certainly not through privatizing it.”

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Freedom of Expression, Housing Rights, Labor Rights, Land Distribution and Planning Rights, Social and Economic Rights, The Right to Health

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