Palestinians attend a rally marking the 61st anniversary of the "Naqba" in Jenin in 2009
Palestinians attend a rally marking the 61st anniversary of the "Naqba" (catastrophe) in the West Bank city of Jenin in 2009. Israeli human rights groups said Thursday that the country's Supreme Court had rejected their petition to overturn a contentious law penalising Arab mourning of the Jewish state's founding. © Saif Dahlah - AFP/File
Palestinians attend a rally marking the 61st anniversary of the
AFP
Last updated: January 6, 2012

Israeli court upholds contentious Naqba law

Israeli human rights groups said Thursday that the country's Supreme Court had rejected their petition to overturn a contentious law penalising Arab mourning of the Jewish state's founding.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Israeli Arab rights organisation Adalah said in a statement that the court ruled that whether the law was constitutional or not would only become clear at a later stage, if and when it was implemented.

"The...Court ignored the chilling effect of this law, and missed the opportunity to tell legislators that there are limits to their anti-human rights actions," the statement said. "This law encourages discrimination against the Arabs in Israel."

"This court ruling ignores the fact that already this law in practice harms both the freedom of expression and the civil rights of Arab citizens, even before its implementation," it added.

"Because the law’s formulation is so broad and vague, many institutions... will self-censor in order not to risk incurring penalties."

The law was passed last March at a late-night session of the 120-seat parliament by 37 votes in favour to 25 against.

It was sponsored by the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman which was elected on a platform which included seeking to strip Israel's Arab citizens of their nationality unless they take an oath of allegiance to the Jewish state.

The legislation imposes fines on any publicly funded bodies, such as local authorities or educational institutions, that mark the date -- celebrated by Israeli Jews as Independence day -- as a day of mourning or support any other activities defined loosely as "contrary to the principles of the state".

Israeli Arabs currently number some 1.4 million, or 20 percent of the population, and are the remnants of the 160,000 or so Palestinians who remained in the Jewish state after its creation 1948, along with their descendants.

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