Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Israel's Stupid Laws (and Knesset lawmakers who enact them)

Israel is no stranger to limiting personal freedoms, be they freedom of religion, property rights, or expression.

So it should come as no surprise that MK Yisrael Hason's latest proposed law is all about limiting freedom of expression on the internet. Or more specifically, stripping the ability to remain anonymous when leaving comments, "talkbacks" on internet news sites (maybe even blogs?)
Web sites could be absolved of all responsibility for content published on their message boards, or talkbacks, if they agree to reveal the details of people posting on their sites, according to a bill approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

The bill, which was drafted by MK Yisrael Hasson (Israel Beiteinu) would effectively define Web sites as newspapers to those who wish to press libel charges against statements made in various forums. While the owners, or editors, of a Web site would be legally responsible for the content on their site, they could be absolved of liability if they provide details of the users and posters.

The bill would provide an extension to the current law, which allows courts to order a Web site to reveal users' technical information, such as their IP address.

A clause in the bill, however, mandates that Web sites with more than 50,000 'hits', or entries by Internet surfers per day, would be accountable for all contents published on their pages. (JPost)
Perhaps Israel is only attempting to follow in Poland's footsteps (after all, they tell jokes about Israel in Chelm). Poland enacted a law as part of criminal penal code that states that "those who publicly slander the Polish nation for its alleged part in orchestrating or taking part in the crimes of the Communists or Nazis will be subject to a three-year prison sentence."

As a result, Poland is examining the possibility of pressing charges against the Polish-born Jewish American historian Jan T. Grosz (also a History Professor at Princeton University). Grosz's highly-acclaimed book, "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz" which was published in the US over a year ago, and just translated into Polish, describes the widespread anti-Semitism and violence towards Poland's Jews who survived the Holocaust, including a pogrom in the town of Kielce in 1946. (YNET)

Nice.

Of course, don't go blaming all of Israel's legal silliness on the inherited laws from the Ottoman Empire, British Mandate, or Jordanian Law -- urban legends are just as important a factor in determining Israel's laws...as is MK Hason's desire to remove our anonymity.

On January 31, 2005, the Knesset enacted a law (sorry, link is in Hebrew) that forbids the use of mobile phones in gas stations, with a whopping fine of NIS 12000 ($3260) for the criminals who dare to flagrantly endanger public safety.

And where did the Knesset get such an idea? From an Urban Legend spam email going around.
Cell Phones

In case you do not know, there was an incident where a driver suffered burns and his car severely damaged when gasoline vapors ignited an explosion while he was talking on his mobile phone standing near the attendant who was pumping the gas. All the electronic devices in gas stations are protected with explosive containment devices, (intrinsically safe) while cell phones are not. READ YOUR HANDBOOK!

Mobile phone makers Motorola, Ericsson, and Nokia, all print cautions in their user handbooks that warn against mobile phones in "gas stations, fuel storage sites, and chemical factories." Exxon has begun placing "warning stickers" at its gasoline stations. The threat mobile phones pose to gas stations and their users is primarily the result of their ability to produce sparks that can be generated by the high-powered battery inside the phone.

Please pass this on.

Since Israel's lawmakers are too stupid to check spam emails and urban legends with the Snopes website (one of the internet's authoritative websites on proving or disproving Urban Legends), it's no shock we end up with silly laws on the books.

It's worth reading the entire snopes entry on mobile phone and gas stations to see how pathetic the Knesset really is.

Perhaps that explains the rumor that Israel's Finance Ministry is preparing a proposal to replace Bituach Leumi (social security) with a new kind of individual investment plan: Each citizen will be paired up with a widow of a slain third-world high-ranking government official, who had stashed enormous amounts of embezzled money in secret Swiss bank accounts. In return for agreeing to assist in the withdrawal of the funds, everyone will get a generous cut of the loot, which should be more than sufficient to provide for all future medical and retirement needs. (Lurker heard it first)


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael  --  טובה הארץ מאד מאד

4 comments:

Risa said...

כל הכבוד!
Espeically the last paragraph.
I am still laughing! (unfortunately, with tears in my eyes)

ProfK said...

Good grief! Is it something in the water in the Knesset building that they are all drinking? Because it sure can't be the result of unfuddled brains in action.

Anonymous said...

J,

please chime in how posts like these jibe with
טובה הארץ מאד מאד

In other words, isn't the following a possible response to this post?:

"Those stupid Israelis, that country is for the birds. I'd be a fool to move there."

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous 12:36

We could stick our heads in the sand and ignore the corruption, stupidity and evil that emenates from the Knesset...but then you won't have a very realistic picture of life here.

Why be a fool for moving here -- are the people who keep shabbat, fools?

This is our country, and we have to make the best out of it.

Acknowledging the deficiencies is crucial if we are going to improve it.

And in terms of getting people to move here; it's a wonderful country, with wonderful people DESPITE the government and Knesset.

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