Knesset approves anti-incitement bill blocking return of terrorists’ bodies

The Knesset has approved a bill to limit the return of terrorists’ bodies in cases in which funerals would be used used to incite further terror attacks. 

By: World Israel News Staff

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday gave its third and final approval to an amendment to the Counterterrorism Law which grants a police district commander authority to set conditions for returning the body of a terrorist for family burial, if the commander determines that there is reason to fear that as a result of the funeral a terror attack might be committed or lives might be at risk, or the funeral will be used as a platform to incite further terror attacks.

Conditions limit the size, location, timing, and attendance of the burial ceremony, and a body could be held until the family agrees to the terms.

The law, a merger of a government-sponsored bill with proposals submitted by MKs Anat Berko (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) passed its third and final reading by a vote of 48 to 10.

Palestinian funerals for terrorists killed while committing attacks often become a demonstration of force, during which the terrorists and terrorism are praised, and further acts of violence are encouraged.

The practice of limiting the scope of terrorist funerals has been sporadically implemented, but the bill will sanction the practice by law.

The bill was introduced after the High Court of Justice in December ruled Israel could no longer use terrorists’ bodies as bargaining chips without legislation explicitly permitting the practice. The court gave the government six months to pass such a law.

The preamble to the bill states that “the recent wave of terror in October 2015 was characterized by terror attacks that were committed by terrorists who were influenced by incitement, among other things, and this led to a renewed debate on the issue of holding the bodies of terrorists.”

“As part of the effort to deal with severe disturbances which occur during the funerals of those who are killed in connection with committing a terror attack or with an attempt (to carry out a terror attack), Israel Police set conditions (for funerals) which are meant to ensure the public’s safety and security and prevent acts of terror during a funeral (or shortly after it),” the bill says.

During Wednesday’s debate on the bill, Member of Knesset Yousef Jabareen, of the Joint Arab List, called the bill “delusional and draconian.”

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“Bringing bodies to burial is the basic treatment that is expected from a state that declares itself to be a civilized country,” he asserted.

In response, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that “the government doesn’t want to hold on to these bodies. As far as we are concerned, the bodies of these cursed terrorists can rot. We have no need for them.”

The bill further mentions that following the terror attack on the Temple Mount in July 2017, in which two police officers were killed, an appeal was filed with the High Court of Justice regarding the return of the terrorists’ bodies to their families. In the appeal, Israel Police explained that the return of the bodies should be delayed until the danger to the public’s safety is minimized.

Erdan pointed to the High Court petition by the family of the terrorists, saying “the Jabareen family appealed, and the funeral happened in Umm el-Fahm, and unfortunately, thousands of Israeli Arabs paid tribute to the murderers.”

“Since then, two cells from Umm el-Fahm were caught planning to attack the Temple Mount… The police will not allow mass funerals for terrorists,” he vowed.

MK Jamal Zahalka, also of the Joint Arab List said that “all cultures, including Judaism, define the burial of the dead as a commandment and preventing the burial of the dead as a vile act.”

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After the bill was voted into law, Berko, an expert on terrorism, said that it “will enable and supply tools to Israel Police to maintain order and prevent mass demonstrations of hate and incitement to terror.”

“Terrorists must be buried at night, without people watching, as quickly as possible,” she underscored.