Israeli parliament bans Arab member from U.S. lecture tour sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace

MK Jabareen & Adalah in Israeli Supreme Court petition: It is illegal for Knesset to ban members from participating in lecture tour funded by Jewish Voice for Peace due to its support for boycott.

Knesset Member Dr. Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court today, 22 April 2018, against a 13 March decision by the Knesset Ethics Committee to prevent MK Dr. Jabareen from participating in a series of lectures in the United States sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). MK Dr. Jabareen is the head of the Joint Lists’ international relations committee.


JVP is a U.S.-based NGO that defines itself as a "diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights." At the end of 2017, JVP had 250,000 email supporters; 13,500 members; 75 chapters across the US; 500,000 social media followers; and a budget of over U.S. $2 million per year.


On 22 January 2018, the Knesset House Committee approved a new amendment to the 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.


This amendment was first employed in order to prevent MK Dr. Jabareen from participating in the upcoming June lecture tour sponsored by JVP.


The petition was filed this afternoon by Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Myssana Morany.


In the petition, Adalah argued that the amendment – and its specific implications for MK Dr. Jabareen's trip – directly harms political freedom of expression and the right to free movement for Knesset members. It was further argued in the petition that this restriction does not stem from the fact that MK Dr. Jabareen's expression or actions constitute an ethical or criminal offense or because of the existence of any prohibition on MKs being in contact with the funding body in question.


Rather, the restriction stems solely from the fact that JVP – the organization financing MK Dr. Jabareen's trip – maintains a particular political position vis-a-vis Israeli government policies and calls for a boycott in an effort to bring about an end to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territory.


Adalah and MK Dr. Jabareen further contend that the amendment was not approved due to proper purpose, and that it is intended to limit the legitimate parliamentary activity of a Knesset member solely because the political views of the body financing the trip stand in contrast to those of the political majority in Israel.


In addition, the amendment goes beyond the Knesset’s authority, as the Knesset code of ethics cannot interfere in the legitimate political activities of an MK. This position is in fact supported by Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon who, as quoted in the petition, has stated that "until now the Committee focused solely on examining the axis of government-wealth relations and conflicts of interest, and did not deal at all with the content or ideology behind an event or conference in which a Knesset member may participate abroad, or the nature of the organization that invited him and finances him."


With today's filing of the petition, MK Dr. Jabareen stated:


"The current Knesset – which is ruled by a right-wing coalition – continues with its attempts to hobble Arab members of Knesset in an illegal and undemocratic manner. The Expulsion Law, the ban of MKs visiting Palestinian political prisoners, and now this amendment are all expressions of the tyranny of a majority that seeks to prevent us from representing our public in a substantive and worthy manner. I do hope that the Supreme Court will hear this position as soon as possible and that it will move to cancel the Knesset House Committee's amendment. This series of lectures in which I am slated to participate in the United States is an essential part of my role as an elected official and of the freedom of political activity."


Case Citation: HCJ 18/3201, MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen, et. al. v. The Knesset Ethics Committee


CLICK HERE to read the petition [Hebrew]