A bill which increases the punishment for incitement against people volunteering in the security forces was approved for its first reading on Monday by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, headed by MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi).
The legislation, presented by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), would make the penalty for inciting not to volunteer in the IDF equal to that of someone who incites or lobbies against doing mandatory IDF service, up to seven years in prison.
Kisch proposed the legislation in response to increased volunteer IDF service by Christian Israelis, who are not required to enlist, which he said has been coupled with a rise in incitement against them.
MK Osama Sa`adi (Joint List) argued that ”there is confusion between freedom of expression and a legitimate dispute. There is a dispute within the Christian public, and it should be left within the framework of an internal dispute. Criminal law should not be brought into it. The argument within the Christian and Druze ethnic groups is legitimate. There are those who claim that volunteering leads to equality, but I tell you that [this is not true].”
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Camp) said the ”spirit” of the bill seeks to ”prevent people from voicing their opinions,” adding ”it is permitted to claim that members of minorities should not enlist in the IDF as long as a peace agreement has not been signed; in order to avoid a situation where IDF soldiers fight their brothers.”
”I am in favor of voluntary national service in Arab communities under Arab supervision,” he said.
Addressing Bahloul, MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beitenu) said, ”Your objection is bewildering. The bill applies only to those who have already been recruited. I did not hear the MKs condemn those who attacked [volunteer] IDF soldiers. I call on you to condemn the attackers.” MK Bahloul condemned the attackers, but MK Sa`adi refused to do so.
The representative of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, Amit Barak, told the committee that the ”Bladna” non-profit organization, which he said ”encourages Israeli Arabs not to enlist in the IDF and has stated that it would form a coalition to fight the bill,” is funded by the New Israel Fund and by European countries.
Alon Schwartzer of the Im Tirtzu rightist movement noted that lately demonstrations have been held on university campuses against the enlistment of Christians in the IDF. Knesset Members also take part in these protests, he said.
”We see how Gabriel Naddaf suffers from incitement against him,” Schwartzer said.
Father Gabriel Nadaf has long been a proponent of Israeli Christian citizens joining the IDF.