The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee discussed on Monday a section of the anti-terror bill which deals with membership in a terrorist organization. During the debate an argument erupted regarding the legal distinction between terrorist organizations and shell organizations that support terrorist organizations.
According to the government-sponsored bill, there would no longer be a distinction between the terrorist organizations and the shell organizations. However, the distinction remains when it comes to the level of punishment.
The vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, said that after 9/11 ”America became hysterical; after every disaster we see an overreaction. This proposed bill is an unproportioned overreaction. The manner in which terrorist organizations are dealt with is not suitable for organizations that support terrorism. A distinction is needed, and not only with regards to punishment.”
The Chief prosecutor in Judea and Samaria, Col. Morris Hirsch, said that ”the purpose of shell organizations is to glorify terrorists and to support their families. One such organization is Al-Nur. This organization`s goal is to support and aid terrorist activities”. Hirsch also revealed that ”there is an organization of lawyers with the sole purpose of passing messages between incarcerated terrorists”.
The representative of the Ministry of Defense, Mrs. Rinat Hameiri, also objected to the distinction between terrorist organizations and shell organizations.
The Deputy Legal Counsel to the Government, Atty. Raz Nazari said that ”from the moment a terrorist organization is declared as such, it is wrong to distinguish between an organization that beheads people, like ISIS, an organization that carry outs terrorist activity, such as Hamas, and organizations that raise money in order to purchase weapons. However, the levels of punishment would vary from one terrorist activist to another, according to the position they filled within the organization.”
The representative of the Shin Bet general security service said that ”in my opinion, this bill is meant to help us fight terrorism in its broader sense. I have a feeling that it is inconvenient for the committee to deal with anyone who isn`t firing a Kalashnikov rifle and not touch those who aid terrorism. We are going easy on the organizations that pay millions of dollars in wages to those who murder, incite, and purchase weapons. The point is to dry up the financial sources. Giving us, in 2015, such a crippled law – it is as if they want us to reach only the shooters.”
Hearing this, MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) stood up and said ”as if we are restricting the hands of the defense forces. Enough with the defense forces` populism. They want power without any limitations. That is why we have the court houses and members of the Knesset.”
The Shin Bet`s representative said in response that ”those who collect one and a half million dollars in three months are much deadlier than the militant activist that I am familiar with. Who`s to say that a member who carried the missiles is worse than those who collected millions of dollars? It would be very bad on our part if the message that would come out of here today would allow passive membership without any criminal repercussions. The distinction between terrorist organizations and shell organizations is impossible and dangerous.”
MKs Rozin, Revital Swid (Zionist Camp) and Osama Sa`adi (Joint Arab List) supported Kremnitzer`s point of view, while MKs Anat Berko (Likud) and Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi) backed the position of the defense authorities.
MK Berko said that ”a terrorist attack is a whole production; a production by (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas and his associates. A person does not wake up one morning and murders.” MK Sa`adi called her out and asked her to look back at the events that have transpired lately.
The debate became heated, and Berko accused Swid of trying to silence her. ”I`ve seen more terrorists than you have seen in your entire life,” Berko told her. ”While we can be humane towards terrorists, we should start being humane towards the victims.”
Sa`adi cried out and said ”I deal in legal terms, and MK Berko, who has no legal knowledge, is saying things that are sheer incitement.” MK Berko said ”Sadly, terrorism is now a career option. I wasn`t the legal counsel to Mahmoud Abbas; while you were there I had other positions, in the IDF”.
MK Rozin called Berko`s response ”cheap populism.” Turning to committee chairman Slomiansky, Rozin said: ”I know you would have wanted to sit here, decide, and vote all by yourself. Too bad, we will sit here and voice our opinion; we will not let you make decision by yourself”.
Slomiansky concluded the meeting by saying ”there shouldn`t be any distinction between a terrorist organization and an organization that supports terrorism. It is my opinion that an act of terrorism should count as an independent and harsh offense.”