Israel’s parliament on Wednesday passed a law that enables members to impeach lawmakers who incite violence and racism, but critics fear it could be used to target Arab legislators.
According to the law, any member “who incites racism or supports armed struggle against the state of Israel” could possibly be booted out of parliament. It passed by a narrow margin of 62 votes in favor to 47 votes against.
When the law goes into effect, it will require the votes of 90 of parliament’s 120 members to impeach a lawmaker.
The legislation, which is supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came about after an incident in which three members of the Arab-Israeli opposition party visited relatives of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli soldiers after the Palestinians allegedly carried out attacks in Israel.
Netanyahu has said of the law that it would put an end to “the absurd situation” that arises when a person who “supports terror against the state of Israel and its citizens” could serve in parliament.
Activists and detractors, though, claim the new law is aimed at purging Arab lawmakers from parliament.
"This is one of the most serious legislative proposals in recent years and it harms the very building blocks of democracy — the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to representation," said Debbie Gilad-Hayo of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. "Arab [lawmakers] whose actions and remarks do not find favor with the political majority will be the first people harmed by the bill — however, it is a slippery slope and the bill has potential to affect all."
There are currently 18 Arab members of parliament. Of those, 16 are members of the opposition.