Israeli Supreme Court gives parliamentary committee 45 days to justify travel ban

JERUSALEM� The Israeli Supreme Court Monday gave the Ethics Committee of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, 45 days to justify its travel ban against a member of the Knesset (MK) by providing a comparative survey of restrictions that may have been implemented by other parliaments around the world regarding parliamentarians’ travel funded by external sources, according to a press release.

The court convened on Monday for a hearing on a petition against the Knesset Ethics Committee decision barring Arab MK Yousef Jabareen, from the Joint List, from participating in a series of lectures in the United States sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) due to the organization’s alleged support for a boycott of Israel.

Adalah � The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Jabareen filed the joint petition on April 22 against the committee’s March 13 decision.

This decision was the first implementation of a new amendment to the Knesset’s Code of Ethics that gives the ethics committee the power to forbid a Knesset member from traveling overseas if funding for the trip is provided by a body that knowingly publishes a call to boycott the State of Israel or participates in such a boycott.

Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Myssana Morany, who represented MK Jabareen in court, stressed that the amendment to the Code of Ethics constitutes an exceptional precedent: this is the first time that the code is used � with no authority � to overtly restrict the political freedom of expression and movement of a member of Knesset.

Further, such a restriction, imposed only upon those with a particular political position, is lacking proper purpose and disproportionately violates the right to freedom of expression in a preemptive manner � despite the fact that the positions in question have not even been expressed by MK Jabareen.

Responding to the court ruling, MK Jabareen said, “The Knesset’s representative admitted that this restriction is intended to serve as part of a government system designed to confront the boycott of Israel, which the government believes is damaging to the state. This means that the Knesset Ethics Committee has become a tool in the hands of the right-wing government and an instrument meant to silence the voices of critical MKs. We will not yield to the dictates of a far right government.

Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen added: This new amendment � aimed specifically at stifling Arab members of Knesset � directly harms political freedom of expression and the right to free movement for Knesset members. It prevents Arab MKs from carrying out their duties as the elected representatives of their constituency. The Knesset has no authority to intervene in the legitimate political activities of an MK, especially when these activities involve pure political speech. The visit of an elected, sitting MK to the United States to discuss the rights of the Palestinian minority in Israel falls far beyond the power of the Knesset to regulate.

Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson also responded to the interim order: It should not have taken the court any time at all to overturn the Knesset’s un-democratic restrictions on MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen’s travel. There is no doubt that in a truly democratic country this law would never have been passed.

Source: Palestine News & Info Agency