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Fri May 18, 2012, 09:19 PM

Chilling effect of the Nakba Law on Israel's human rights

By Roni Schocken | May.17, 2012 | 4:25 AM

The court ignored the infringement of free speech stemming from the very existence of the law, as opposed to one stemming from the law's application.

By rejecting the petition calling for the repeal of the Nakba Law in January of this year, the High Court of Justice ignored the violation of human rights inherent in the danger that institutions may now preemptively refuse to fund activities that involve the exercise of free speech, for fear of financial sanctions.

The High Court argued that time was not yet "ripe" for such a request in its ruling against the petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights. The Nakba Law grants the finance minister the authority to impose harsh fines on government-funded organizations that budget expenses for (among other things ) marking Independence Day as a day of mourning.

"The petitioners request the repeal of sections of the law that have not yet been used by the finance minister, and there is no way of knowing whether, when and under what circumstances he will use the authority granted to him," the decision read.

Since the petition was rejected with the argument that it was premature, the High Court did not hold any sessions on the substantive issues the petition raises, despite the court's noting that they "are likely in certain situations to go to the root of problems dividing Israeli society."

"Nakba" ("catastrophe" in Arabic ), is a term used to describe the suffering of Palestinians, including the 700,000 who lost their homes, in the war that led to the establishment of the State of Israel. The short decision, just 19 pages, not only failed to address arguments that the Nakba Law infringes on the Palestinian Arab minority's right to free speech and equality with regard to its historical memory; it also refrained from dealing with the important argument raised by the petitioners: the chilling effect of the law on carrying out various activities for fear of financial sanctions.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/chilling-effect-of-the-nakba-law-on-israel-s-human-rights-1.430942

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