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Israel Moves Closer to Banning Naqba Memorials

An Israeli government committee has approved a draft law that would prohibit commemorating Israel's independence as a day of mourning.

The decision by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation Sunday drew fierce criticism from Arab parties. They say the proposed legislation is an act of an "apartheid" state.

Many Palestinians call the 1948 creation of Israel the Naqba, the Arabic word for "catastrophe."

They mark the anniversary with ceremonies paying tribute to the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled, or were forced from their homes, during the Arab-Israeli war that began in 1948.

If passed by Israel's parliament and Cabinet, the proposed ban on Naqba memorials would punish violators with up to three years in prison.

The bill was proposed by parliamentarian Alex Miller, of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party. The rise of Lieberman's party and its anti-Arab platform has stirred concern among many Palestinians and Israelis about the new government's commitment to peace.