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Will Israel Ever Get Serious About Treason?


Steven Plaut

Steven Plaut

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Earlier this year Israel passed a law that would strip Israelis of their citizenship if convicted of espionage or treason. Condemned for this by countries all over the world, almost all of whom have far harsher anti-treason laws than Israel, the Israeli government has yet to apply the law to anyone.

Sometimes called the “Azmi Bishara Law,” it was motivated by the fact that an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, Azmi Bishara, from one of the Arab parties, had openly engaged in espionage and treason, including passing on intelligence to the Hizbullah terrorist organization while it was firing rockets at Israeli civilians. Bishara is now in hiding and has yet to be prosecuted.

The Anti-Israel Lobby denounced this law as “racist,” just as it denounces everything Israel does as racist (including rescuing Haitian earthquake victims). The bleating from Bash-Israel NGO groups about supposed Israeli “apartheid” sound particularly absurd when one realizes that Israel is one of the few democracies that has not utilized mass internment of hostile minority populations that identify and, in some cases, collaborate with the enemy in time of war. And Israel has yet to charge any of its extreme leftists with treason, no matter how brazen their words and deeds.

Treason itself is left undefined under Israeli law, and in general it has been interpreted by legal authorities in Israel so loosely that virtually no one has ever been prosecuted for it.

On paper Israeli penal law defines treason as “acts that impair the integrity of Israel” or “impair its sovereignty,” and the granting of assistance to the enemy during time of war. Based on British law, Article 99(a) of the Israel Criminal Code states, “If a person with intent to assist an enemy in war against Israel commits an act calculated to do so, he is liable to the death penalty or to life imprisonment.”

It should go without saying that no one has ever been sentenced to either punishment for treason in Israel. Only a few people engaged in actual espionage – including nuclear spy Mordecai Vanunu and some old-time spies for the former Soviet Union – have ever even been charged with treason.

The Israeli law against treason is little more than a joke. Nearly all the Arabs who sit in the Knesset openly communicate and even collaborate with the enemies of Israel. They support their agendas and some have engaged in violence.

There are far left Israeli Jews who work against the sovereignty and integrity of their own country every day. Examples of this would include issuing calls for Israel’s destruction or declaring support for international boycotts against Israel. No one has been prosecuted for any of that.

The Israeli attorney general is quite militant when it comes to prosecuting right-wing Israeli Jews for “incitement” and “racism,” including offenders who wear politically incorrect t-shirts or affix bumper stickers on their cars that some might find in poor taste.

Bear in mind that Israel is in a permanent state of war. Even so, Israeli Arabs and Jewish leftists never go to jail for collaborating with the enemy during times of war.

It is instructive and illuminating to examine the history of what other Western democracies have done with traitors, especially during times of war.

Many countries have the death penalty for domestic traitors; some of these anti-treason laws are quite old. Several countries have been putting teeth into old anti-treason laws recently because of international terrorism.

Britain’s Treason Act, which allowed for the prosecution of British nationals supporting the enemy in time of war, went back to 1351. One famous application of the act was the trial of Roger Casement, who was accused of collaborating with Germany during World War I. There was debate during the trial over whether the act applied to treason committed outside Britain or only on British soil. The prosecution carried the day and the traitor was executed.

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About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


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