by Steven Plaut
Israel recently 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 law has yet to be applied to anyone. Sometimes called the “Azmi Bishara Law,” it was motivated by an Arab member of the Israeli parliament (or Knesset), Azmi Bishara, from one of the Arab fascist parties, who had openly engaged in espionage and treason, including passing on intelligence to the Hezb’Allah 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 has denounced this law as “racist,” just as it denounces everything Israel does as racist (including rescuing Haitian earthquake victims).
Treason itself is left undefined under this new Israeli law, and in general it has been interpreted by the legal authorities in Israel so loosely that virtually no one has ever been prosecuted for it. Israeli 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 Israeli 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 goes without saying that no one at all has ever been sentenced to either punishment for treason in Israel. Only a few people engaged in actual espionage, and this includes nuclear spy Mordecai Vanunu and some old-time spies for the Soviet Union, have ever even been so charged with “treason.”
This Israeli law is little more than a joke. Israeli Arabs, including almost all the Arabs who sit in Israel’s Parliament, openly collaborate with the enemies of Israel, support their agendas, sometimes engaging in violence. Israeli Jewish far Leftists work against the sovereignty and integrity of their own country every day. Examples of this would include issuing calls for Israel’s destruction or support for international boycotts against Israel. No one at all 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 Tee shirts or have bumper stickers on their cars that some might find in poor taste. 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. It is important to see what sorts of anti-treason laws exist elsewhere in democratic countries.
Some 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, goes back to 1351. It provided for mandatory execution of traitors. Britain executed sixteen traitors under the Act during World War II. The Act was suspended in 1946 and later was repealed. However, Britain has other laws against treason, and these are still being debated well into the 21st century. Under the British Crime and Disorder Act of 1998, the punishment for treason is life imprisonment, but it had been death up until that law was passed.
Canada also has a Treason Act, where “high treason” consists of acts committed during time of war. The punishment is mandatory life imprisonment. Australian has a somewhat similar treason law. Turkey, Ireland and Brazil have Treason Acts that provide for execution of traitors, as do many Third World countries. The United States has had anti-treason laws that allow for execution of traitors, although these were seldom applied, and similar laws were once passed by some individual states. The US also has the Espionage Act of 1917. France’s law provides for life imprisonment for treason, as do Hong Kong’s, India’s, and New Zealand’s. Switzerland’s Treason Act usually provides for softer punishments, but in some cases they can go as high as life imprisonment. Modern Germany also has an anti-treason law with punishments up to life imprisonment for high treason, but that is defined as attempts to overturn the constitutional order.
Execution and life imprisonment were not the only responses of Western democracies to internal treason. In 1939 the British government under Winston Churchill passed Defence Regulation 18B. It suspended habeas corpus for Nazi sympathizers and allowed for their wholesale internment without a trial. While enemy aliens were interned under other laws, this law was used to intern British nationals. The law was used to jail pro-German citizens, including members of the pro-Nazi British Union of Fascists party, led by Oswald Mosley.The United States passed its first law against enemy aliens and against treason in the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798. It allowed for the internment of enemy aliens in time of war. It remained on the books, supplemented by the Sedition Act of 1918, an initiative of President Woodrow Wilson, which was later repealed.
Abraham Lincoln may have been the most aggressive president when it came to prosecuting and jailing traitors. He ordered the suspension of habeas corpus in 1861. He used military tribunals and declarations of martial law liberally. More than 4200 trials by military commission were conducted. “Copperheads” or Americans in the North who identified with the rebellion in the South were arrested and jailed. Other Copperheads were deported and stripped of citizenship. Some traitors were executed. 13,000 people in the North were rounded up and jailed under martial law. The Union government took action against newspapers that identified with the rebellion, closing some. Under the Confiscation Act of 1861, the private property of those accused of treason, and not only Southerners, could be seized.
Britain had historically made liberal use of internment as an instrument against the enemy, especially during the Boer Wars. After 1940 it arrested Germans, Austrians and Italians in larger numbers. The Treachery Act passed Parliament that same year and allowed for the prosecution of any alien suspected of espionage or hostile activity, and included provision for execution of foreign spies, In addition, over 7000 suspect aliens were deported, mainly to Canada and Australia. Tragically, in some cases these included non-British Jews, for fears that German spies might have infiltrated Britain while amongst them.
Canada interned 80,000 people during World War I. While the massive internment of Japanese-Americans by the United States during World War II is well known, less well known is the fact that thousands of ethnic Japanese were interned by Canada. Australia also ran internment camps, holding as many as 7000 Australians, plus thousands of aliens sent there by Britain for internment. While their numbers were much smaller than those of the interned Japanese-Americans, hundreds of Italian-Americans were interned by the US during World War II, and other restrictions were applied to Italian-Americans who were not interned. German-Americans were subject to restrictions during World War I, over 6000 were arrested and over two thousand were interned. 11,000 alien Germans were interned in the United States during World War II. Surprisingly, given the widespread pro-Nazi sentiments among some American ethnic Germans and the operations of several pro-Nazi organizations in the 1930s in the US, German–Americans were not interned during World War II, although some other countries in the Western Hemisphere did intern domestic ethnic Germans. Small numbers of ethnic Germans were evicted from sensitive coastal areas of the US. After Pearl Harbor the United States outlawed the pro-Nazi “German American Bund.”
Throughout Europe before and during World War II, the ethnic German minority populations by and large supported Nazi Germany. After the war, these Germans well expelled en masse by many of those countries as retaliation for their identification with the enemy, including from democratic Czechoslovakia. The same people today whining that Israel’s “Azmi Bishara Law” is “racist” have never had much to say about those expulsions.
The irony is that Israel’s Arab population more openly identifies with the country’s enemies than do any of those groups interned during war by Britain and the other Western democracies. Most Israeli Arabs make little attempt to hide their contempt and intense hatred for the democratic country in which they live, while rarely seeking to move to any of the 22 countries that have an Arab ethnic majority. Most (but not all) Israeli Arabs support political parties and groups openly hostile to the existence of Israel, openly supporting the genocidal terrorist groups and Moslem countries seeking Israel’s obliteration. Israeli far-leftist groups, awash in funding from hostile anti-Israel foreign governments and organizations, engage in sedition and treason during time of war, led by Israel’s tenured Far Left. None of these have been targeted for prosecution by Israel’s legal system or police.
Why not? Why can Taliban John and Jihad Jane be prosecuted in the US, while traitors in Israel enjoy immunity?
Israel, and not Israel alone, needs to start putting some teeth into anti-treason legislation and enforcement.
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