A new law passed by Iraq’s parliament would make even more communication with Israelis illegal—including messaging Israeli officials on social media—and potentially punishable by death. Israel and the United States were quick to condemn the legislation and decry it as out-of-touch with the new Middle East.
According to The New York Times, the law effectively expands upon an older Iraqi rule banning ties with Israel by criminalizing more cooperative activities. Among the forms of contact branded as illegal by the new bill include economic, scientific or cultural communication with Israel or any of its representatives. Violations of both the old and new laws could be punishable by death.
Israel condemned the move, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat posting in a series of Twitter posts that “this is a law that puts Iraq and the Iraqi people on the wrong side of history and disconnected from reality.” The Iraqi law contrasts strongly with the Abraham Accords peace deals signed with Israel in the last couple years by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.
Haiat highlighted the accords in his Twitter posts: “The changes in the Middle East and the peace and normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, which are bringing stability and prosperity to the peoples of the region, are the future of the Middle East.”
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement the US is “deeply disturbed” by the Iraqi bill. “In addition to jeopardizing freedom of expression and promoting an environment of antisemitism, this legislation stands in stark contrast to progress Iraq’s neighbors have made by building bridges and normalizing relations with Israel, creating new opportunities for people throughout the region,” said Price.
“The United States will continue to be a strong and unwavering partner in supporting Israel, including as it expands ties with its neighbors in the pursuit of greater peace and prosperity for all.”
The New York Times said that the Iraqi law was proposed by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is viewed as politically friendly with Iran and whose political faction is the largest in the Iraqi parliament. The new legislation was passed unanimously last week by the 275 (out of a total of 329) Iraqi parliament members in attendance for the vote. While the bill technically now goes to Iraqi President Barham Salih for his signature in a perfunctory step, it will take effect within 15 days regardless of whether or not Salih signs it.
Despite the apparent parliamentary unity behind the legislation, Israel is hoping the Iraqi people oppose the move. As Haiat tweeted, by cutting off conversations with Israel, Iraq is ultimately hurting its own people.
Said Haiat, “Leaders who choose a path of hate and incitement hurt their own people first of all. We call on the Iraqi people not to support this extremist position.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 29, 2022)