Knesset Advances Bill Requiring Israeli Flag at Public Events

A bill that would make it mandatory to display the Israeli flag at public events passed a first reading in the Knesset plenum early Tuesday, January 30, drawing the ire of opposition members who decried it as an “attempt to educate the Arab community.”

Twenty-five lawmakers supported the bill and 11 opposed it. The proposed legislation still has to be discussed by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and then pass two more plenum votes to become law.

Israeli flags during a counter-demonstration by the far-right group "Im Tirtzu" on Naqba Day at Tel Aviv University, May 2017

Israeli flags during a counter-demonstration by the far-right group “Im Tirtzu” on Naqba Day at Tel Aviv University, May 2017 (Photo: Im Tirtzu)

The legislation, sponsored by far right and Ariel settlement resident Likud MK Oren Hazan, requires that the flag be shown at any public event attended by the prime minister, the president, a minister or a member of the Knesset. Thus, any public event held by the Arab community in Israel, protest demonstration or otherwise, attended by even only one MK of the Joint List, for example, would oblige the organizers to display Israel’s national flag. Failure to comply would be punishable by a fine of NIS 14,400 (approximately $4,200).

Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List faction said, “In a democracy, state symbols and the flag should represent all citizens. When the symbols were approved, it was known that 20 percent of citizens would be unable to identify with them.”

“When there is a population that feels alienation toward its citizenship and symbols that don’t represent them due to their treatment by the government, one of the rights of every citizen is to voice their opinion about these symbols,” said another Hadash member, MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List).

Hazan, the author of the bill, has gained a reputation as a troublemaker since entering the Knesset in 2015 and has drawn the anger of Palestinians for a number of antics.

Last month, Hazan led a small group of protesters blocking buses carrying Palestinians from Gaza on their way to visit their relatives in an Israeli prison, during which he referred to the inmates’ relatives as the “families of these animals”.

In October, Hazan appeared to call for the assassination of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a Facebook post in which he suggested the Palestinian leader was on his way to meeting the same fate as a number of figures from his Fatah party who were killed by Israel.

Hazan has also squared off with Hadash lawmakers, most recently calling Joint List MKs “terrorists” last week after they brandished placards reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” during US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on January 22.