The right-wing-led Israeli parliament approved a law to expel lawmakers which critics say is meant to target Arab-Israeli parliamentarians.
In Israeli government’s latest move to target leftist and Arab lawmakers, the country’s parliament passed Wednesday a law enabling it to impeach deputies for “incitement to violence, racism or support for armed struggle against the state”.
Passed by a 62-47 vote, the bill is seen by activists as the latest example of legislation promoted by Netanyahu's right-wing as the government attempts to curb freedom of speech.
"This is one of the most serious legislative proposals in recent years and it harms the very building blocks of democracy—the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to representation," Debbie Gilad-Hayo of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel said in a statement Wednesday.
"Arab (lawmakers) whose actions and remarks do not find favor with the political majority will be the first people harmed by the bill—however, it is a slippery slope and the bill has potential to affect all."
Some Arab parliamentarians have enraged Israel's Jewish majority and right-wing politicians by meeting with families of some of the Palestinians killed during a recent surge in street attacks on Israelis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new law ended "the absurd situation" whereby someone who "supports terror against the State of Israel and its citizens" could serve as a member of parliament.
Dov Henin of the Joint List party, a political alliance of four Arab-dominated parties in Israel, said the law is an example of the tyranny of the majority, and "directly targets the Arab public's elected officials, chosen to voice their stances."
"This law is a black page on Israel's code of laws, which reflects anti-democratic policy and maneuvers by an anti-democratic government, which will go on to harm more and more populations," he said according to the left-leaning local newspaper Haaretz.
Also, opposition leader Isaac Herzog slammed the law, saying on Twitter that it is a "dark mark on Israel's face. The hate-filled government is busy widening the rift that threatens Israel more than any outside enemy."
There are 18 Arab members of parliament, 16 of them in the opposition. Arabs citizens, many of whom identify as Palestinian, make up some 20 percent of Israel's population.
But the law could prove to be more symbolic than practical, as it requires at least 90 of the house's 120 members to vote in favor of any impeachment, a majority that may be hard to achieve in the Knesset.
The news comes less than a week after the parliament also approved a law requiring NGOs that receive more than half their funding from abroad to provide details of their donations. The European Union said the NGOs law risked “undermining democracy and free speech.”