The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza are arresting, abusing, and criminally charging journalists and activists who express peaceful criticism of the authorities. The crackdown directly violates obligations that Palestine recently assumed in ratifying international treaties protecting free speech.
Some of the bravest voices of dissent in Israel write for +972 magazine.We reprint their newsletter which has just dropped into our inbox.
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We would like to bring to your attention the first video in a series of clips that the Coalition of Women for Peace has produced as part of our campaign against the Prohibition of Boycott Bill, which is currently promoted in the Knesset. Please circulate widely…
“When the Knesset approves legislation banning the Nakba commemoration, it seems surreal”, writes Palestinian Israeli Oudeh Basharat. “Yet, there is also something good in this commotion. At least, there’s no denial of the Nakba…”
Vengeance is mine sayeth the Israeli state. Israeli investigative journalist Uri Blu who published top-secret IDF documents leaked to him by Anat Kamm is to be prosecuted. The state is clear that it is not pursuing Haa’retz and its publisher, but going all out to criminalise investigative reporters as such: “[W]e thought it was more correct to go for the precedent-setting move of prosecuting a journalist for retaining stolen documents…”
Gideon Levy writes that what delegitimises Israel are Lieberman, Israel Beiteinu, Netanyahu and their flood of anti-democratic laws, the unbridled Israel Defense Forces and the settlers who know no boundaries. Groups like B’tselem, Breaking the Silence and the others are responsible for whatever little sympathy Israel manages to garner in the world today…
Uri Avnery reflects on “two obnoxious racist laws” that the Knesset has finally adopted, both directed against Israels’ Palestinian citizens. But he reserves his most vitriolic for a third bill, that to outlaw the boycott of Israel – which includes “the boycott of Israeli institutions and enterprises in all territories controlled by Israel”. This includes, of course, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Israel Prize laureate David Tartakover, singer Rona Kenan, poet Meir Wieseltier and others have have joined a struggle organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace against the bill punishing Israel boycotters. This bill will cover such things as people calling for a consumer boycott on settlement products, and artists refusing to perform in Ariel, beyond the Green Line. A letter to the Knesset speaker and members on behalf of 53 organisations says: “Instead of holding a democratic discussion on issues which are on the Israeli public agenda, this bill is being used to silence political rivals and block the possibility of a public discourse.”
NGO monitor has been the scourge of human-rights NGOs in Israel, accusing them indiscriminately of being anti-Israel, antisemitic, in the forefront of the campaign to delegitimise Israel and much else beside. It’s role in encouraging the Knesset to go the assault against these NGOs is also clear.
But who or what is NGO Monitor? The New Israel Fund poses some pertinent questions. Its posting is undated, and Yossi Alpher’s article was published in December 2009. But nothing has changed since; and the pernicious interventions of NGO Monitor need to be seen for what they are – an attempt to delegitimise criticism of Israel as such.
Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, based in Haifa and a human-rights activist, has been goaled by Israel for nine years for alleged espionage. A ‘confession’ obtained while Makhoul was held incommunicado and probably tortured was admitted in court; the information allegedly conveyed by Ameer Makhoul was publicly available (under the Israeli penal code, people can be charged with “espionage” even if the information passed onto an “enemy agent” is publicly known…)
The attempt by prominent Zionists in South Africa to denounce Archbishop Tutu as antisemitic and force the South African Holocaust Foundation to dismiss him as a patron has been seen off. Thanks to the over five thousand who signed a petition in his support, including former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson, human rights lawyer Joel Joffe, Annie Lennox, Adam Hochschild, Andrew Feinstein, Neve Gordon, Justice Albie Sachs, Zackie Achmat, Justice Dennis Davis, Geoff Budlender, Barbara Hogan, Pregs Govender and Jan Kavan.
An appeal from South Africa: Archbishop Tutu has been labeled an “anti-Semite” and a “bigot”. Please read the appeal and sign the petition in his support.
Gisha and Btselem respond to the absurd and dangerous Knesset attack on human-rights NGOs in Israel. “Civil society organizations”, says Gisha, “are at the very heart of a democratic society, and their role – our role – is to bring the actions of the Israeli authorities up for public scrutiny.” And Uri Zaki, U.S. director of B’Tselem, pulls no punches: “Last year, we witnessed a surge of anti-democratic, and often racist, legislation and rhetoric. Now, in the first week of 2011, the Knesset has launched a witch hunt against Israel’s human rights community.”
Neve Gordon comments on recent developments in Israel: “A spate of anti-democratic bills, now in the process of being ratified in the Israeli Knesset, render it a crime to support any ideology that poses alternatives to conservative interpretations of Zionism, such as support for the notion that Israel should be a democracy for all its citizens…”
Two stories from YNets news tell it all: National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari referred to members of the leftist organizations as “traitors who must be persecuted at any cost”; and Avigdor Lieberman said, “These organizations are terror supporters whose only goal is to weaken the IDF, weaken its resolve to defend the citizens of Israel…”
Uri Avnery exposes the rampant McCarthyism behind the Faina Kirschenbaum bill to investigate the sources of funding of left organisations in Israel. But he says that if “an even-handed law had been enacted, I would have welcomed it. I am very curious about the origin of the money that supports the settlers and the other extreme-rightist organizations.” He goes on to discuss what is known, but not known: “If a serious inquiry committee investigates the financing of the extreme right, it will discover that much of it comes straight from the pocket of the American taxpayer. That is one of the great scandals: the US government is financing many of the settlements. For dozens of years, it has turned a blind eye to the American organizations that are providing funds to the settlements – settlements that are illegal even in the official policy view of the US government. In the US, one can donate tax-free money for humanitarian purposes – but not for political purposes. Almost all the money flowing to the extreme right in Israel is officially marked as devoted to humanitarian purposes…”
Bradley Burston’s latest ‘A Special Place in Hell’ column. Envisaging the unwelcome return of the messiah. Unmissable!
A further step was taken in the intimidation of Israeli human-rights and peace groups today when a proposal to establish a parliamentary investigatory committee to examine such groups was approved by the Israeli Knesset. Gideon Levy, Jonathan Pollack, Michael Manekin, Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Knesset, and others inveigh against it. And a Jewish Peace News 9 January mailing contains additional devastating critique…
Since the elections in February 2009, which brought one of the most right-wing government coalitions in the history of Israel to power, a flood of discriminatory legislation has been introduced in the Knesset… This short paper provides a list of 20 main new laws and currently-tabled bills that discriminate against the Palestinian minority in Israel and threaten their rights as citizens of the state, and in some cases harm the rights of Palestinian residents of the OPT.
Ilana Hammerman took three young Palestinian women to enjoy the beaches in Israel back in May 2010. Other Israeli women followed her example. These actions are all illegal and Hammerman is being investigated with a view to her prosecution. Here she reflects on what she did; on the position of Palestinians labourers who cross illegally into Israel all the time in a desperate search for work. Hammerman says she is “nurturing the hope that the police will recommend that I stand trial. Because then, before they “prosecute me to the full extent of the law,” I will be given an opportunity to tell my story…”