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Tunisian MPs debate bill that would criminalize normalization with Israel

The opening of the plenary devoted to the criminalisation of normalisation with Israel on November 2, 2023 in Tunis.   -  
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On Thursday (Nov. 02), Tunisian lawmakers met for the opening of a plenary session to discuss a bill that would criminalise a normalisation of ties with the state of Israel as fighting rages in the Gaza Strip.

The draft bill defines "normalisation" as "recognition of the Zionist entity or the establishment of direct or indirect ties" with it.

The crime of normalization would be classified as "high treason".

Anyone found guilty of "the crime of normalisation" would face a penalty of between six to 10 years of prison and a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 Tunisian dinars (3,000 to 30,000 euros), the text says. Any repeat offenders would be jailed for life. 

"We will maintain our position that the Palestinian question is the central issue for our people. We are opposed to the normalization and recognition of the legitimacy of this entity," speaker of Tunisia's parliament, Brahim Bouderbala said.

According to him, the 161 MPs were aligned with the President's position and the Tusinian people's aspirations on the subject.

Many pro-Palestinian marches were organized in the country recently.

"We firmly maintain our position that Palestine must be liberated from the river to the sea, with the full recovery of the homeland, the return of all territories and the establishment of the Palestinian state on all its lands, with Jerusalem as its capital," Bouderbala said.

A long debated legislation

The 6-article draft should not be passed immediately. 

If voted, it would proscribe ties between Tunisians and Israelis or "institutions, organisations, governmental or non-governmental" entities with ties with the State of Israel.

It also outlaws the participation of Tunisians in any event organized in territories held by Israel be it: "political, economic, scientific, cultural, artistic or sporting" event.

According to local media Tunisie Numérique, the 6-article legislation was first presented by the Bloc national souverain group in July 2023.

However, media Inkyfada details that 36 members of the National Constituent Assembly introduced a  similar bill In November 2012. The bill sought to "criminalize all forms of normalization with the Zionist state". 

The initiative was led by the Al Wafa parliamentary group, made up of former members of the Congress for the Republic (CPR) party.

Israeli forces continued to  bomb the Gaza Strip on Thursday (Nov. 02). Soldiers are also fighting on the ground against Hamas militants.

Since a deadly attack against Israeli civilians on October 7 by Hamas fighters, Israel launched an offensive which has killed more than 9,000 Palestinians. Two-thirds of them women and children according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

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