By Simon Pelsmakher
B’nai Brith Canada
A law has been passed by the Israeli Knesset that allows for a sitting member to be expelled for incitement to racism or violence against the state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sponsored the bill earlier this year in response to an incident where three Members of Knesset (MK) from the Balad Party (part of the Joint Arab List) visited families of terrorists, and stood for a moment of silence to honour the terrorists in the Knesset. The MKs were then suspended for their actions.
Referencing US Justice Robert Jackson, who in 1949 argued that freedom of speech does not include the right to incite a riot, Netanyahu said: “We have to keep limits and basic rules of behavior so that democracy will not turn into a suicide pact.”
Opposition Leader Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) said: “The public’s patience has run out. The MKs from Balad constantly provoke against the State of Israel and for terror…They crossed a red line.”
In order for an MK to be expelled, a minimum three quarters majority (including 10 from the opposition) votes must be cast. An expelled MK can appeal the decision by going directly to the Supreme Court. The law does not apply to actions conducted during election years or prior to the law’s passing. A party can fill its expelled MK’s seat with another party member.
Other states such as Canada, the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, France, and Germany also provide measures for the suspension or expulsion of its political leadership.
The Canadian House of Commons can expel a Member of Parliament for “conduct unbecoming the character of a member” and has done so on four occasions since confederation. In addition, the Senate of Canada can take similar measures as it did in 2013 when Senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin were suspended without pay for allegations of corruption.