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Wednesday, November 12, 2014 

Knesset approves anti-Israel HaYom bill in shamefully anti-democratic move

I thought it was possible this could happen in a preliminary vote, and it certainly spells a dark day for democracy:
The Knesset approved a controversial bill meant to shut down the Israel Hayom in a preliminary vote Wednesday.

"This shames the Knesset," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu muttered, walking out of the vote, and was caught on the Knesset Channel's cameras. [...]

Views on Cabel's proposal were split in most parties, and until the 43:23 result, it was unclear to many whether it would pass. Of the MKs voting in favor, 11 were from Likud, seven from Bayit Yehudi and one each from Yesh Atid, UTJ, Meretz, Labor and Kadima. The votes in favor were made up of 12 from Yisrael Beytenu, 10 from Yesh Atid, nine from Labor, four each from Hatnua and UAL-Ta'al, two from Hadash and one each from Kadima and Meretz. Three Shas MKs, two each from Labor and UTJ and one each from Balad and Hatnua abstained.

The bill will go to the Knesset House Committee in the coming days, where MKs will vote on which committee should work on it ahead of its next vote. Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) expressed interest in the bill going to his panel, and he would be likely to effectively bury it. Since Likud MK Yariv Levin leads the House Committee, he could easily facilitate that.

When asked whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would rather call an election than allow the bill to pass, a senior Prime Minister's Office source said that Levin and other Likud MKs could delay further voting on it, and this government probably won't last more than another year before there is another election, anyway.
From what I can tell, Yisrael Beytenu were the ones in the coalition who really voted in favor - they're the ones with 11 members - and that truly puts Avigdor Liberman in a bad light. It wouldn't be a good idea to wait and see if the House Committee's members will put a stop to this, I think legal action has to be taken now to ensure freedom of speech's safety.
Speaking in the plenum, Cabel made no effort to hide the fact that his initiative to shut down free newspapers targeted one specific publication: Israel Hayom.

"This is a bill in favor of pluralism and multiple opinions. It is a battle so that, in a few years, we do not become a country with only one newspaper. Adelson wants to bury a market that is fighting for its life," Cabel stated.

According to Cabel, Israel Hayom sells advertisements at significantly lower prices than its competitors in order to run them out of business, and the newspaper does not exist because of its revenues, rather because Adelson, a billionaire political donor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, funnels money into it.

"I do not oppose ideological journalism, but Israel Hayom is a unique phenomenon. It is all about the cult of personality [of Netanyahu]. Instead of being the watchdog of democracy, it is Netanyahu's attack dog," he said.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz responded that Iran and North Korea can learn from Cabel how to close a newspaper that they don't like.
Cabel's arguments are laughable, especially when there's plenty of other free papers who can sell ad space for just as low a price, and even Yediot Achronot's given out some publications for free. There are other left-wing papers that are free now too. Cabel can say whatever he likes, but it's clear he's against Israel HaYom simply because they represent the right.

Yet what's truly alarming is how some right-wing members of the Knesset actually lent their assistance to this darkness, and they'll have to come to terms now with how they can end up losing votes in the next election.
Steinitz pointed out that there are many newspapers in the world with clear political positions, saying that the US Congress would never vote to just close Fox News and not MSNBC.

The minister also quoted a deputy attorney-general who said the bill is unconstitutional, saying he thinks the High Court will cancel the law if it is passed.
We must hope so, though let's not forget a lot of people there are leftist too, so we should be careful in hoping they'll avail too.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) said that few people have been attacked in Israel Hayom as badly as himself, since he represents a clear opposition to Netanyahu within Likud, but that he thinks the bill limits freedom of expression.

"What is this? Since when do parliaments close newspapers? Are we bolsheviks?" Feiglin asked.

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) abstained from the vote, saying she is not in anyone's pocket, referring to pressures lawmakers received from both Israel Hayom and the second-most popular newspaper in Israel, Yediot Aharonot to vote against and for the bill, respectively.

"I have no intention in taking part in a dangerous game in which two newspapers are holding the political system by the throat," she announced before the vote. "Therefore, I will press the 'abstain' button to show my disgust for what is happening. I don't work for anyone."

Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the vote "a parade of hypocrisy," accusing "MKs who claim to believe in human rights and freedom of expression chose narrow and personal interests over the basic right to free speech."

MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said the result of the vote marked a dark day for Israeli democracy.
It most definitely is, and his chairman is going to have to now face a lot of people who'll be very angry at his betrayal.

MK Tzipi Hotovely from Likud had something to say:
Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) has accused right-wing MKs who voted for the "Israel Hayom" bill this morning of hypocrisy. [...]

Hotovely has been a leading critic of the bill, and had some choice words in particular for several right-wing MKs who either voted for the bill or simply absented themselves from the vote.

"I am sorry to see my friends from the Right, who experienced the closure of Arutz Sheva, and fought so many years for freedom of opinion in journalism, disappeared from the vote at the moment of truth and even [in some cases] voted for the closure of a newspaper in Israel," she said.

Hotovely was referring to the closure in 2003 of Arutz Sheva's radio station - a move that was denounced as an attack on free speech at the time, particularly by right-wing legislators and activists - and was also spearheaded by MK Eitan Cabel.

Other nationalist MKs also condemned the bill; Jewish Home party Moti Yogev in particular expressed his sense of "embarrassment" that some members of his party did not oppose the bill.

"I am sorry, and I am ashamed that there are members of the Jewish Home faction whose names are signed on this bill,"
he stated. "I hope that this law will be struck down in the course of the legislation process and that we will not harm freedom of expression in Israel."

"According to these rules we should have closed down Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot a long time ago," he noted, referring to Israel Hayom's left-wing competitors.

"One shuts down a paper only if it is blatantly harming state security, or doing similarly grave things. This is a black day for democracy.”
Again, I agree it is. The most absolutely alarming thing is how people who may have opposed the shutdown of Arutz 7 as an official radio station could suddenly take part in such a punch to the face.

Here's more on JNS, and also on Commentary.

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  • I'm Avi Green
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