Netanyahu joins attack on lack of democracy – in Arab spring
Netanyahu slams ‘anti-democratic wave’ in region
TEL AVIV — Israel’s prime minister on Wednesday blasted anyone who supports the Arab Spring and said the Arab world was “moving not forward, but backward,” media reports said.
Benjamin Netanyahu said history would prove him right about the “Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli and anti-democratic wave”, as he termed it, sweeping the region.
“In February, when millions of Egyptians thronged to the streets in Cairo, commentators and quite a few Israeli members of the opposition said that we’re facing a new era of liberalism and progress … They said I was trying to scare the public and was on the wrong side of history and don’t see where things are heading,” he said.
But time has proved him right, Netanyahu said, according to Israel’s Haaretz daily.
He also slammed Western leaders, and especially US President Barack Obama, and called them “naive,” the report said. “I ask today, who here didn’t understand reality? Who here didn’t understand history?”
“Israel is facing a period of instability and uncertainty in the region. This is certainly not the time to listen to those who say follow your heart,” he was quoted as saying in a Knesset speech.
Netanyahu used the upheaval in the Arab world to justify inaction vis-a-vis the peace process, the report said. “I remember many of you urged me to take the opportunity to make hasty concessions, to rush to an agreement.”
“But I will not establish Israel’s policy on illusions,” he said.
“There’s a huge upheaval here … whoever doesn’t see it is burying his head in the sand.”
On Wednesday, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni warned that recent legislation by Netanyahu’s government would turn Israel from a democracy to a dictatorship.
Referring to the uprising in Egypt, she told the Knesset: “We were a democracy and they were a dictatorship. Now, they are trying to become a democracy, while we – with these bills – are heading towards dictatorship.”
Livni’s comments were made during a debate over several bills, including amendments to a libel bill which critics say seriously harms freedom of the press.
Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman MK Shaul Mofaz also said Netanyahu was creating a dictatorship in Israel, Ynet reported.
“Orwell’s world is coming to life under your government’s legislation, which is aiming to enforce elements of oppression and is creating a vision of horrors the likes of which we’ve never seen. It is as if 1984 is here,” Mofaz said.
Columnist tears into “criminal” gov’t before new law makes it illegal
Dimi Reider, +972
The Knesset yesterday passed in first reading a bill which has been described by most of the Israeli media as “The silencing law”. Under the bill, which is an amendment to the existing defamation law, the maximum compensation in a libel suit will increase exponentially from NIS 50,000 (~$13,000) to NIS 300,000, a whopping $80,000. Most journalists I know in Israel make between $2,000 and $3,000 a month, tops.
But the bill’s real traps isn’t the sum of the fine. It carries a clause that says such lawsuits might be won without proof of damages; and another clause that stipulates a reporter must publish the comment of his subject in full. In other words, I can get sued for writing that the author of the bill is more dangerous to Israel’s future than Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah combined; and, if a newspaper wants to run a 300-words report suggesting a certain company is engaging in malpractice, it must also run the full comment of the company – even if it’s 5,000 words long. With the likely result the report will not run at all.
As damaging as the bill is, it’s not yet law and is still to go through a committee and at least one more vote in the assembly. Haaretz columnist and author Neri Livneh took advantage of it this morning in a Facebook status:
“Before the amendment to the defamation law enters the books, I’d just like to declare that this government, as a whole, is racist, Tzipi Livni, whose party tabled the bill, is a cowardly hypocrite, Barak is an even worse liar than Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman is a violent fascist, David Rotem (chair of the parliamentary Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which will review the bill) is a piece of shit, and every politician who supported the bill has excellent reasons for doing so – deep inside they know they’re either criminals, liars or shits, and that only bad things will ever be written about them by honest reporters; that Israel is becoming a place no longer deserving decent, democratic and human rights supporting human beings, and that, like my father said in his latter years, “Herzl was wrong.” While we’re at it, the IDF is an occupying army and Israel routinely commits war crimes in the Occupied Territories.”
Enjoy such venting while it lasts.
BÖLL LUNCH DEBATE
Israel’s democracy endangered?
A number of political development put Israel’s democracy under stress. A series of legislative initiatives in the Knesset aim at restricting the freedom of non-governmental organizations by limiting international funding, others aim at limiting the freedom of expression. Outside of the Knesset, human rights and peace NGOs have been under pressure through accusations of delegitimizingthe State of Israel and being foreign agents. Lastly, individuals have been attacked both in the Palestinian Territories as well as in Israel by radical settlers or extremists in so called ‘price tag’ attacks.
Is Israel’s democracy under threat? What can Israel’s allies do? What is the role of the European Union?
Date Tuesday , 29 November 2011, 12.30 – 14.30*
Venue SOFITEL BRUSSELS EUROPE
Place Jourdan, 1
Yariv Oppenheimer, Executive Director, Peace Now, whose Jerusalem offices have recently been vandalized by price tag activists, and whose colleague Hagit Ofran was personally threatened.
Mossi Raz, Executive Director, “All for Peace”-Radio, a multi-lingual Israeli-Palestinian radio station, which has been closed based on the accusation of operating illegally in Israel. Mossi Raz is a former Member of Knesset.
Hassan Jabareen, Director, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who together with other human rights organizations in Israel advocates against laws that could fundamentally limit the freedom of expression of Israeli non-governmental organizations and minorities and thus civil society involvement overall.
Claude Weinber, Director Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, European Union
No admittance without confirmed registration. Please register by sending an E-mail to: email@example.com
* A sandwich lunch will be available between 12.30 and 13.00. The meeting will start at at 13.00 (sharp) and is held under Chatham House Rule.