Although Israel’s Nakba Law has yet to be technically implemented, human rights groups and activists say it has a dangerous deterrent effect and is meant to intimidate Palestinians and others who view Israel’s establishment as a day of mourning for Palestinians who were forced out of their homes in 1948.
Haifa – Each year on May 15, Palestinians across the world commemorate the Nakba (catastrophe), or the 1948 establishment of Israel that led to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians being displaced from their homeland.
The estimated 1.7 million Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship and live in villages, towns and cities across the country are no exception. Each year, protests, marches, lectures and other events to mourn their ancestors’ dispossession are held in Palestinian communities across Israel.
Yet, since 2011, Israeli legislation has made mourning the Nakba publicly difficult for Palestinians and others in Israel. The “Nakba Law” authorises Israel’s finance minister to revoke funding from institutions that reject Israel’s character as a “Jewish state” or mark the country’s Independence Day as a day of mourning.
Although the Nakba Law has yet to be technically implemented, human rights groups and activists say it has a dangerous deterrent effect and is meant to intimidate Palestinians and others who view Israel’s establishment as a day of mourning for Palestinians.
Among those who could be potentially affected by the Nakba Law is Zochrot, an Israeli non-governmental organisation that aims to keep the memory of the 1948 events alive and promotes the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.
“Without actually implementing the Nakba Law, [the law] has been used as an excuse to limit freedom of expression. It has a chilling effect,” said Sawsan Zaher, lawyer at Adalah.
“The Nakba Law is part of an atmosphere to suppress the Nakba narrative and a discussion of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees,” Liat Rosenberg, director of Zochrot, told Al Jazeera. “These are right-wing, anti-democratic efforts [that] continue to create an atmosphere of fear and suppress this issue from the public discourse.”
Back in February, Yona Yahav, mayor of the central Israeli city of Haifa, withdrew municipal funding for a Zochrot film festival about the Nakba. The event was scheduled to be held at the local cinema the week before Israel’s Independence Day, marked this year on April 23, but it was cancelled in the end.