Knesset moves to outlaw human rights organizations in Israel

Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Something very troubling is happening to “the only democracy in the Middle East”

More than 20 MKs, including members of opposition party Kadima, proposed a new bill which will make it possible to outlaw the important human rights groups in Israel. Among the organizations mentioned in the proposed bill are Doctors for Human rights, The Coalition of Woman for Peace, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, and Adalah: the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. All these organizations receive funds from the New Israeli fund.

According to a report in Maariv, the new bill will outlaw any organization “which is involved in activity intended to lead to the prosecution or arrest of IDF officers and government officials for war crimes.”  the word “involved” makes it a very broad definition.

Two weeks ago, an article by Maariv’s Ben Caspit suggested that NIF sponsored organizations that are linked to an international effort to investigate and prosecute senior IDF officers for war crimes.

The introduction to the new bill declares that:

“… “Those organizations help foreign organizations that seek to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli officials, either by means of providing information—the preponderance of which is erroneous and even mendacious—to foreign groups, or by publicly agreeing and lending credence to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes.”

More than 20 MK’s signed the offer. Among them are known parliament members from Tzipi Livni’s opposition party Kadima, former head of Shin Beit Avi Dichter and members from Likud and NRP.

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From all the anti-democratic measures I’ve been writing about here, this is by far the most extreme. Even if a mild version of this law passes, defending human rights in Israel – a difficult task as is – will become practically impossible. Merely proposing this bill will harm grassroots efforts and freedom of speech, as both the media and the public are becoming more and more hostile to people and groups who are portrayed as unpatriotic or anti-Israeli.

Much of “the case for Israel” is based on the notion that this is a democracy – the only one in a hostile environment. But Israel is changing. This is not something that you see on a one week vacation in Jerusalem or from the Tel Aviv beach, but if you pay close attention to the news, you can easily notice it.

People are harassed and delegitimized for the things they say and because of their views. Foreign activists are arrested and deported. The Shin Beit, Israel’s security agency, stated recently before the court that it sees its job as to supervise and follow the actions of Israeli left-wing organizations even when they are not suspected in breaking the law. This statement was approved by the former Government’s attorney, Meni Mazoz, who also heads the prosecution in Israel.

As a poll published this week on Haaretz shows, the Jewish public is supportive of such measures:

57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely.

Slightly more than half agreed that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel.

The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.

Politicians and Journalists, always sensitive to public opinion, follow such trends with calls for actions. Violence against activists in the West bank becomes common. Police arrests organizers of legal protests, even if there is nothing to charge them with.

As most of the country carries own with its daily life, and the world is busy with efforts to re-ignite the peace process and doesn’t pay much importance to such details, it is easy to miss the big picture. But something very major is happening here right now. I don’t have any idea where will it end up leading us, but I suspect it’s not such a good place.

UPDATE: here is a full translation of today’s article in Maariv, courtesy of Coteret blog.

MKs Propose Outlawing Adalah

Ma’ariv (p. 12) by Arik Bender — More than 20 MKs from the coalition and the opposition yesterday introduced a bill that is geared to outlaw non-profit organizations that are involved in activity that is geared to bring about the arrest of IDF officers and senior government officials overseas for war crimes. The bill did not specify the names of the non-profit organizations in question, but the law-makers did cite NPOs such as Adalah, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights and the Coalition of Women for Peace—all of which receive funding from the New Israel Fund.

“It is very saddening that in an era such as this one, when we ought to be united against those very same baseless accusations, we witness Israeli NPOs and organizations operating beneath the surface against Israel,” read the printed explanation to the bill. “Those same organizations help foreign organizations that seek to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli officials, either by means of providing information—the preponderance of which is erroneous and even mendacious—to foreign groups, or by publicly agreeing and lending credence to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes. Sometimes they even extend palpable legal assistance in drafting the arguments.”

The bill was submitted yesterday at the end of a tempestuous debate in the plenum about Ma’ariv’s expose about the involvement of the New Israel Fund in lawsuits against the IDF and top state officials. Among the signatories of the new bill are the former director of the GSS, MK Avi Dichter, former deputy GSS director MK Gidon Ezra, Chairman of the State Audit Committee MK Yoel Hasson, MK Ronit Tirosh, MK Otniel Schneller, MK Yaakov Edri, MK Moshe Matlon, MK Ophir Akunis, MK Tzippi Hotovely, MK Uri Orbach, MK Zvulun Orlev and others.

“The bill will put an end to the rampage by NPOs who are trying to subvert the state under the guise of human rights,” said yesterday Ronit Tirosh, one of the sponsors of the bill.

Upon the introduction of the bill, the Im Tirtzu movement announced that it was ending its campaign against the New Israel Fund. Ronen Shoval, the director of Im Tirtzu, said that he was pleased that his movement’s message had been heard in the Knesset. “We congratulate the MKs who picked up the gauntlet and intend to defend the IDF from the NPOs that are supported by the New Israel Fund,” said Shoval.

The forum of directors general of the human rights organizations in Israel, which includes Adalah—the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel— issued the following statement in response: “Instead of defending the values of democracy, the sponsors of the bill opt to trample it to dust. The bill—which seeks in practice to conceal information or suspected crimes—contravenes international conventions and the universal declaration about human rights that were signed after World War II and constitutes an unprecedented moral nadir in the Israeli legislature.

Politicians and Journalists, always sensitive to public opinion, follow with calls for actions. Violence against activists in the West bank becomes common. Police arrests organizers of demonstrations, even if there is nothing to charge them with.

As most of the country carries own with its daily life, and the world is busy with efforts to re-ignite the peace process and doesn’t pay much importance to such details, it is easy to miss the big picture. But something very major is changing right now. I don’t have any idea where it leads us, but I suspect it’s not such a good place.


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