Israel's Knesset passes 'anti-terrorism' bill targeting resistance
The Israeli parliament, the Knesset passed a controversial counterterrorism bill in its first reading overnight on Thursday. Zionist Union, the main opposition party, voted in support of the bill which significantly increases the government's authority and expands the definition of what constitutes a terrorist organisation.
The bill now moves to the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for rewording before being sent to its second and third reading.
The controversial anti-terror law contains legislation for emergency orders that were prevalent during the British Mandate for Palestine, with the addition of many articles that would make it easy for the Israeli authorities to prosecute Palestinians and narrows their options before Israeli courts.
The proposed law gives the Israeli authorities immense freedoms to legally pursue charities or even civil society organisations in case they or anyone from the territories occupied in 1967 or in the main Palestinian territories shows any solidarity or similarity to resistance against the occupation.
Previous governments have sought to legislate for this draft law but calls for early Israeli elections over the past five years have twice prevented it from becoming reality. The new draft law merges all emergency laws of the Mandate with new articles in one expanded package.
For example, the new law would impose imprisonment up to three years for anyone who declares solidarity with a "terrorist" organisation and gives the Israeli minister of security the right to declare any group as "terrorist," and criminalise it for merely announcing its solidarity or support for resistance operations without it having any connection to these operations.
In an effort by the Israelis to narrow the margin for manoeuvre or the freedom of action, the new law expands the definition of "terrorist operations" to include - in addition to resistance military operations - merely threatening to carry out an operation even if only to exert pressure on the Israeli authorities - such as threatening to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The draft law would also increase the sentences imposed on the various operations to 30 years in prison as a maximum penalty.
According to the articles of the proposed law, Israeli authorities could define charities and relief associations as "terrorist" organisations in case they found that they have any link to Hamas; any supporter of these organisations who is over the age of 12 may be prosecuted even for wearing clothes bearing the name of this organisation.
The proposed law also legislates for a series of penalties without resorting to "emergency laws, as was the case to this day, such as administrative arrests, preventing people for leaving the country, detaining those arrested for 48 hours before the person is allowed to see a lawyer or go to court."
The new draft law would also allow the Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet] to conduct electronic surveillance - including monitoring emails - of any person suspected by them to be linked to "terrorism," by obtaining the approval of the prime minister. This approval is usually obtained automatically by Israeli security services both from the prime minister or the minister of security by simply applying for it.
Former Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni was the first to introduce the bill in previous Knesset sessions. Many of the articles focus on the fight against "terrorism" in general which have made it difficult for left-wing parties - with the exception of the joint Arab list - to vote against it, even if these parties criticise the law - particularly for the timing of it and the limited time available for discussing its articles, which spread over nearly 100 pages.