The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Monday approved for a second and third reading in the plenum an amendment proposed by MK Nava Boker (Likud) to Israel’s Flag, Emblem and Anthem Law, which seeks to increase the punishment for dishonoring the national flag or emblem. The bill equates the punishment for dishonoring the national symbols with the punishment for doing the same to the symbols of countries friendly to Israel.
Currently the law sets the punishment for dishonoring the Israeli national flag and symbols at up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 300 Israeli liras (pounds). The lira was replaced by the shekel as Israel’s legal tender back in 1980, which shows how long it has been since any legislator was last troubled by the dishonoring of the national flag.
However, dishonoring the flag of a friendly country will put you in prison for up to three years, and the alternative financial penalty is $15,000, so the bill seeks to extend the sentence and fine to those same levels.
Committee Chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) complained about the fact that “we belittle ourselves. Anyone whose national flag is burned will be offended. When we are insulted the result is a conviction for a year, and when someone from abroad is upset it’s three years? Do the police keep records of the number of convictions given for such an offense? The national emblems are a source of national pride in every country. It is not a political matter. An American whose flag is burned is offended.”
“Freedom of expression does not mean you are allowed everything. Even religious emblems deserve elementary respect. A person who arrives at a synagogue or a mosque cannot do whatever he wishes. Even at a concert you don’t stand up and laugh. There is no need to exaggerate, but it’s illogical that there are no sanctions against those who burn flags,” Amsalem added.
MK Abdullah Abu Maaruf (Joint Arab List) asked to lower the punishment from three years in prison as the bill states, to a day, and remove the financial penalty. His request was rejected.David Israel