Iraq on Thursday passed a new law criminalizing the normalization of relations with Israel, ostensibly ending any hope that it would eventually sign on to the Abraham Accords.
Those violating the law could face the death penalty or life in prison.
It was passed by an overwhelming majority of 275 lawmakers out of Iraq’s 329-seat parliament. See the full translated text of the legislation below.
What does the law mean practically for average Iraqis? On the surface, it would seem to prohibit political or diplomatic moves toward Israel. But a source in Iraq tells Israel Today that it is very much aimed at preventing average Iraqis, the “Iraqi street,” if you will, from developing greater affinity for the Jewish state amid the atmosphere created by the Abraham Accords.
“The new law criminalizes any type of interaction with the Israeli state or Israeli people on all levels,” says Ali Abbas, who runs the Virtual Embassy of Iraq in Israel, an activist project that seeks to foster warmer relations between Iraq and Israel, and which is no doubt now illegal under the new law.
“We are afraid that the new law is specifically made to justify death penalties,” he continues. “It even punishes by death anyone who communicates with any Israeli on social media, email or any other method of communication.”
Islamists in parliament hailed the law’s approval as a “great achievement” and a “true reflection of the will of the people.” But Abbas explains that it is a gross violation of the “freedom of expression sanctioned by the Iraqi constitution,” and will be used to intimidate people and eliminate political opponents.
He also previously reported to Israel Today that there are millions of Iraqis who love Israel, signaling that contrary to what the Islamists say, this new law does not reflect the true will of the Iraqi people.
Hopes of peace dashed
It was just last year that hope of peace between Iraq and Israel peaked when 300 prominent Iraqis attended a conference in Erbil that called for normalization with the Jewish state.
The gathered tribal leaders, government officials and other leading citizens pointed to the benefits the Abraham Accords had afforded countries like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and stressed that Iraq was in dire need of moving beyond its conflict-ridden past.
The central government in Baghdad was furious and sought to arrest those involved in the conference.
While Abbas and other peace activists were greatly encouraged by the Erbil event, he warned at the time that it would be exploited by Islamists in the upcoming national election. And so it was.
The political party of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as predicted became the largest party in parliament after successfully claiming that “Zionist agents” were already active in the country, and was behind the draconian new law passed this week.
The US State Department on Thursday issued a statement decrying the new Iraqi law:
“The United States is deeply disturbed by the Iraqi Parliament’s passage of legislation that criminalizes normalization of relations with Israel.
“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.”
Full translated text of the new Iraqi law
This law aims to achieve the following:
- Criminalizing normalization with the Zionist entity in any form.
- Preventing the establishment of diplomatic, political, military, economic or cultural relations or any other form of relations with the occupying Zionist entity.
The provisions of this law apply to:
- Iraqis inside and outside Iraq, including officials, state employees, and those charged with public service, including civilians, military, and foreigners residing outside Iraq.
- All state institutions and their federal authorities and independent bodies.
- Regional governments, their parliaments, and their offices.
- Governors, provincial councils that are not organized in a region, local administrations, and the departments related to them.
- Iraqi media.
- Social media.
- Civil society organizations in Iraq.
- Private companies, foreign companies and institutions, and foreign investors working in Iraq.
It is forbidden to normalize and establish diplomatic, political, military, economic, cultural, or any other relationship with the Zionist entity.
Normalization and establishing relations include one of the following actions:
- Travel to and from the territory of the Zionist entity, and it is prohibited to visit its embassies and institutions located in any country in the world.
- Communication and contact by any means with the Zionist entity and with its representatives and with whom it belongs as an individual, institution or organization and under any cultural, political, scientific, commercial, economic, media, security or any other title.
- Establishing any diplomatic, economic, political, military, cultural or any other relationship.
- Normalization with the Zionist entity or promotion of any Zionist or Israeli principles, ideologies, or behaviours by any means, whether secretly or publicly, including conferences, gatherings, publications, merchandise, social media, the virtual world, and participation in conferences and events implemented or sponsored by Zionist institutions or other institutions that promote normalization and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Zionist entity.
- Belonging to any Zionist organization or supporting it financially or morally.
- Take any action that achieves the Zionist goals.
- Acceptance of any kind of aid, donations or gifts from the Zionist entity or its institutions or institutions that promote normalization.
- Providing any kind of aid, donations or gifts from the Zionist entity or its institutions or institutions that promote normalization with it.
- Committing any of the prohibited acts mentioned in Article 4 is a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment.
- The accusation of high treason shall be brought and the penalty shall be the death penalty if one of the acts mentioned in Article 4 is committed by the President or his deputies or the Speaker of the House of Representatives or his deputies or the Prime Minister or his deputies or members of the House of Representatives or ministers or those of their rank or deputy ministers or whoever their rank and the general managers, or their rank.
- Private companies and civil society institutions and organizations operating in Iraq shall be dissolved if it is proven that they have committed any of the acts mentioned in Article 4 without prejudice to the penal responsibility of individuals working in these institutions, and these institutions shall be prevented from establishing and re-working in Iraq.
- Private companies and civil society institutions and organizations operating in Iraq shall be expelled if it is proven that they have committed any of the acts mentioned in Article 4 without prejudice to the penal responsibility of individuals working in these institutions, and these institutions shall be prevented from establishing and re-working in Iraq.
- In addition to the penalties stipulated above, the movable and immovable funds of institutions and civil society organizations, foreign companies and foreign investors shall be confiscated.
Confiscation of publications and literature that promote normalization with the Zionist entity.
The perpetrator of one of the crimes mentioned in Article 4 does not benefit from the excuses and mitigating circumstances mentioned in the amended Penal Code No. 111 of 1969 or any other law that replaces it.
No provision that contradicts the provisions of this law shall be applied.
This law shall be implemented from the date of its enactment in Parliament and its publication in the Official Gazette.
In order to preserve the national, Islamic and humanitarian principles in Iraq, and prevent the great danger that ensues from normalization with the Zionist entity, promoting, communicating, or establishing relations with this entity, in addition to blocking the road for anyone who wants to establish any kind of relations with the Zionist entity. This law is to put a deterrent punishment and to preserve the unity among the people and to keep their national and Islamic identity.