Bill criminalizing hate speech against ultra-Orthodox advances in Knesset

“It’s time to put a stop to the dangerous incitement that is raging against the Haredi public,” says bill’s author.

By World Israel News Staff

Legislation aimed at expanding the definition of racism to include incendiary statements against Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews passed an initial reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Fifty-four MKs voted in favor of the bill, while 34 voted against it. In order to become law, the bill will need to pass an additional two readings.

United Torah Judaism MKs Yaakov Asher and Moshe Gafni drafted the law, which is an amendment to Israel’s existing hate speech laws.

“It’s time to put stop to the dangerous incitement that is raging against the Haredi public, [which is supported by] inciting politicians and media persons,” Asher said in a media statement.

“There is no other group in the State of Israel that tolerates such a [high level] of incitement against it like the Haredi community does,” he added.

“The law I’ve proposed will make it possible to [punish those] inciting against the community, and make it clear that the blood of the Haredi community isn’t cheap.”

Israel has a number of laws on the books that criminalize hate speech against religious minorities, and backers of the bill want to see those policies applied towards those who promote hateful rhetoric against religiously observant Jews.

The bill was proposed after complaints about anti-Haredi statements made by public officials were deemed not to violate Israel’s anti-hate speech laws by the Attorney General’s office.

“The regulations of the law define as racism only cases in which the racism is due to skin color or belonging to a race or national-ethnic origin,” the office said, adding that because religious Jews aren’t identified by skin color but rather their style of dress, discrimination against the group doesn’t violate the penal code.

In a media release, Asher and Gafni explained that the introduction of the bill was critical due to the “growing phenomenon” of anti-Haredi hatred in Israeli society.

“Particularly serious are the cases in which the incitement is carried out by elected officials with the aim of dividing the people and thereby reaping political gain while harming an entire community and the unity of the people,” the bill reads, in what was likely a reference to Opposition leaders who have criticized the Haredi community.