In an op-ed published at The Independent Donald MacIntyre (their former Jerusalem correspondent) lashes out at a proposed amendment to Israel’s Basic Law which would allow the Knesset, with a 90 vote majority, to suspend a sitting Member of Knesset (MK).
The grounds for suspending a MK would be identical to those listed in the basic law for banning a party or person from running for election – incitement to violence or racism; support for armed conflict against Israel; or negating Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. (For instance, in 1988, Meir Kahane’s political party was banned for running afoul of the “incitement to racism” clause.)
MacIntyre claims that, if the bill was passed, hundreds of thousands of Arabs could be “disenfranchised”.
That is simply not true. In the unlikely event that an Arab (or Jewish) MK was suspended, “he or she would be replaced by the next non-MK on the party’s list”. The party would still retain the same exact number of seats in the Knesset. No Arab citizen of Israel (or any citizen) would be disenfranchised.
However, the biggest problem with MacIntyre’s op-ed isn’t his mischaracterization of this specific law. The most misleading element of the piece pertains to how it contextualizes the proposal by arguing that “the Bill, if passed, will undermine Israel’s just claim to be a full democracy in a region dominated by autocracies“.
As Jerusalem Post reporter Herb Kenion recently observed about the use of such “run-away hyperbole”:
If a controversial law such as the NGO transparency bill begins meandering its way through the Knesset, the legislation’s opponents can’t just oppose it merely as an ill-advised measure that will cause the country more harm than good, they must show that it is nothing less than a threat to democracy.
Moreover, those who engage in such dark prophecies seem undeterred by the fact that Israel’s democracy always seems to survive unscathed from each putative ‘assault’ – a phenomenon our colleague Gidon Shaviv explained in the following diagram. (Though Shaviv focuses on Haaretz, the idea holds true for other media outlets that are similarly hyper-critical of Israel.)
Here, I made this chart to help you understand how Israeli legislation and politics work. pic.twitter.com/PGfAuuu3o8
— Gidon Shaviv (@GidonShaviv) February 23, 2016
Of course, Israel’s democratic institutions are vibrant and robust by any standard, and certainly don’t teeter on the edge of extinction based on the trajectory of one controversial bill – a fact which critics of Israel within the foreign media would be best to remember if they want to be taken more seriously when opining against the latest ‘legislative outrage’.