Israel's parliament has adopted a controversial law allowing it to expel members accused of racial incitement. Critics say it's aimed mainly at Arab legislators who make up the third largest group in the Knesset.
Detractors said the bill, passed in a 62-47 vote, was the latest example of curbs on freedom of speech legislated by Israel's right-wing government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new law ended the "absurd situation" in which a member of parliament could "support terror against the State of Israel and its citizens."
The new law would only allow an expulsion if approved by 90 of parliament's 120 lawmakers.
The parliament has 18 Arab members, 16 of them in the opposition.
Majority Jewish Israelis were enraged in February when three opposition members visited relatives of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces after alleged attacks.
The trio said they had attended that meeting to discuss the repatriation of the suspected assailants' bodies to their families.
Breach of democratic principles
A spokeswoman for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, Debbie Gilad-Hayo, described the new law as "one of the most serious legislative proposals in recent years."
It harmed the "very building blocks" of democracy, including freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected and the right to representation, she said.
The bill was aimed at Arab lawmakers but it would become a "slippery slope" with the potential to affect all Israelis, she added.
Last week, parliament drew criticism from the European Union, when it adopted a law requiring non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive more than half their funding from abroad to provide details about donors' contributions.
Critics claimed that legislation would be used to target left-wing groups.
ipj/kms (Reuters, AFP)