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Old reports of Israeli bill outlawing Christian preaching resurface in Nigeria

IN SHORT: Several Nigerian social media users have shared reports that a bill has been proposed in Israel that would criminalise the preaching of the Christian faith in the country. But this is old news, from 2023, and the Israeli prime minister stopped the bill’s passing.

Several Facebook posts in Nigeria claim that Israel has “proposed a bill” to criminalise the practice of Christianity.

One user on 24 April 2024 posted a video, with the caption: “Netanyahu's Likud party has proposed a Bill to criminalise Christianity in Israel. These are the same people whose genocidal acts in Gaza are being supported by millions of misguided Christians.”

The video is a snippet from what appears to be a US news broadcaster called “Newsmax”, with the tagline “Wake Up America”. The segment carries the headline “Proposed legislation would outlaw talk about Jesus in Israel”. 

Jesus Christ is a central figure in Christianity, believed by Christians to be the son of God and the awaited Messiah

Israel, situated in the Middle East and bordered to the west by the Mediterranean Sea, is the world’s only Jewish state. There has been conflict between Palestinians and Israel since the founding of Israel in 1948 on land that was then the British mandate of Palestine

The current crisis, widely called the Israel-Hamas or the Israel-Gaza war, began after Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza on 7 October 2023, killing at least 1,139 people

Israel has subsequently waged war on Gaza and by 13 May 2024, Israeli action had killed a reported 35,091 Palestinians in Gaza and internally displaced 1.7 million more residents from their homes.

The Israeli attacks on and invasion of the Gaza Strip have split opinion among people around the world, with many criticising the actions of Israel.

Similar posts from April 2024 claiming that Israel may outlaw Christianity can be found here, here, here and here

But is this true? We checked.

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Old report, bill never passed

If a country passed a bill outlawing one of the world’s most widespread religions, this would likely be reported by international media. So Africa Check searched online, using the keywords “Christianity outlawed in Israel” and found several news reports about the proposal from the early months of 2023.

We found a report that two Knesset members proposed legislation to outlaw preaching the Christian gospel in Israel and send violators to prison.

The Knesset is the parliament and supreme authority of Israel. It sits in Jerusalem and is composed of 120 members.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the proposed legislation was put forward in January 2023 by two ultra-Orthodox Jewish legislators.

The bill suggested that encouraging someone to change their religion should carry a one-year prison sentence while trying to convert a minor child would be punishable by a two-year imprisonment. Historically, Jews do not proselytise, or seek to convert others to their faith.

But Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped the proposed legislation. On 22 March he tweeted: “We will not advance any law against the Christian community.”

Even one of the lawmakers who had proposed the bill reportedly said “he had introduced the bill as a procedural matter, as he has done in the past, and there were no plans to advance it”. 

In our online search, we also found the Newsmax video segment. It was uploaded to YouTube on 20 March 2023. It is no longer accurate.

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