Israel Moves Another Step Nearer Being a Police State – Even for Jews
Israel Moves Another Step Nearer Being a Police State – Even for Jews
Plan to Outlaw ‘Breaking the Silence’ the group which reveals Israel’s war
The reality of the most benign occupation in the world
Settler colonial societies, be it Israel, Algeria or South Africa,
always created a certain democratic space for the settler population. The indigenous population were always faced
with a racist police state but Whites South Africans, French colons or Israeli Jews were always
granted freedoms that resemble those that exist in Western bourgeois societies.
However the very nature of a settler colonial society leads to a
situation where those members of the settler community who sympathise with and
support the oppressed native population find that their democratic space is constantly being encroached upon. So it was in South
Africa that White opponents of Apartheid were also banned, detained, framed and deported.
So too in Israel, anti-Zionist Jews are increasingly coming under
pressure, political and physical. Not just anti-Zionist Jews but
even those Zionists who are human rights activists and oppose the war
crimes of the settler state.
How the Right see it – revealing human rights violations is a distortion of reality
I have had an argument with a good Israeli comrade, Ronnie Barkan, who
tells me that ‘Breaking the Silence’ is no better than the rest of the Zionist
population. I disagree with him. Although they, like Btselem, are undoubtedly
liberal Zionists the fact is that the work they do is seen, rightly, as a
threat by the Zionist regime – and not just the regime but most of the Zionist
opposition too. The ‘centrist’ Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid has been one of the most hostile parties.
Israeli NGOs have already been the target of hostile legislation. Last year they were forced to reveal
prominently in their literature if they received more than half their funding
from abroad. [Israel passes law to force NGOs to reveal foreign funding] The reason for this was in
order to demonstrate that human rights activists are really traitors, who received their
money from foreign governments. Of
course there was no obligation on other mainly right-wing groups or e.g. the
most popular news paper Israel Hayom
which is funded by US billionaire to reveal its funding.
Breaking the Silence speak out in Berlin
The aim of the new law is to ban organisations which seek to harm
Israeli soldiers, whatever that means and which seek to put them on trial in
international courts. BTS which collects
testimony from soldiers on the human rights violations of Israeli soldiers
would be caught by this.
Yair Lapid of the ‘centrist’ Yesh Atid attacks Breaking the Silence alongside Israeli army officers
The bill would shut down Israeli groups that try to put IDF soldiers on
trial in international courts.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
pauses while addressing attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations
General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, October 1, 2015. .
(photo credit:CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
New legislation supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would
shut down any organization that seeks to harm IDF soldiers or try IDF soldiers
in international courts.
The bill would also ban NGOs that promote a boycott of Israel or any area in
its controls, meaning that it would apply to settlement boycotts, Channel 2
reported on Monday night.
The new details followed Sunday’s
unanimous decision by the coalition to launch a two-pronged attack on foreign
funding of political NGOs, consisting of a parliamentary commission of inquiry
into “the involvement of foreign governments in the funding of political
organizations and activities to harm IDF soldiers,” and legislation that will
be more stringent than the current laws requiring organizations to report
foreign funding and announce it publicly if more than half of their budget
comes from a foreign political entity.
Israeli soldier poses with detainees
The vast majority of organizations that are mostly funded by foreign
governments – 25 of 27 NGOs listed by the Justice Ministry in 2016 – are
Earlier this year, Netanyahu appointed Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to come up
with a new bill on the topic, because he thought the existing laws are too
Closing Breaking the Silence, which collects testimony from former IDF soldiers
claiming war crimes and airs them around the world, was reportedly specifically
mentioned in discussions of what the legislation should entail.
Breaking the Silence Exhibition – Netanyahu wants to clamp down on such embarrassments
Breaking the Silence’s executive
director Avner Gvaryahu said his organization “is here to stay, now and after
Netanyahu,” and argued that the “persecution” of his NGO is a distraction from
the investigations into alleged corruption by Netanyahu.
“This is yet another pitiful witch-hunt from a right-wing government that knows
its days are numbered,” he stated. “Yet again, Netanyahu chooses to use IDF
soldiers, who have broken the silence and oppose the occupation, as a human
shield, deflecting the consequences of his own criminal entanglements. Neither
a commission of inquiry nor legislation will deter us. There is only one way to
stop Breaking the Silence: end the occupation.”
Opinion The Right-wing Assault on Israeli Democracy
The reported plan to declare the
anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence illegal is an indication of Israel’s
heavy-handed government and of its weakened democracy. It would be considered
breaking news were it not for the fact that it is actually more of the same.
The blacklisting of Breaking the Silence, which would surely serve as a gateway
to banning more dissent, is part of the overall right-wing assault on the
liberal democracy that Israel once aspired to be. Like the (apparently false)
claim that a frog will tolerate water being heated up until it’s boiled to
death, Israeli public opinion, including the part that was supposed to offer
resistance, has adapted to the dismantlement in stages of the country’s
democracy. If and when the public wakes up, it might very well be too late.
The onslaught is being executed
on many fronts. It is a calculated and integrated campaign. To allow the
government to enact anti-democratic laws as it sees fit, it must first revoke
the authority of the High Court of Justice to nullify Knesset legislation. To
diminish the stature of the court, the justice minister tries to clip its wings
through legislation while her fellow coalition members delegitimize the High
Court’s decisions and makeup. Without the threat of High Court nullification,
right-wing lawmakers can start dreaming about remaking Israeli democracy into
the Jewish ethnocracy they desire. To justify the required curtailment of
equality and civil rights, Israeli Arabs are portrayed as a Fifth Column,
opponents of the occupation become terrorist collaborators and demonstrators
for the rule of law are dubbed anarchists and harassers. All the while, the
government’s education commissar tries to edit academic freedom to make it
conform to government policy and its culture czar threatens the livelihood of
artists who challenge dogma and buck right-wing convention.
Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s efforts to save himself from what increasingly look like likely
indictments only add fuel to the fire already consuming Israeli democracy. A
frantic and haunted prime minister waging a personal vendetta against the media
and the legal system for his own survival is a crucial element in the
anti-democratic revolution. So the coalition stays silent when Netanyahu
attacks the police just as they will look the other way when he will try to
intimidate his potential Justice Ministry prosecutors, not to mention the
ecstasy that engulfs right wingers whenever Netanyahu tries to torment the
media. He launches bitter personal attacks on journalists, like Donald Trump on
steroids, opens and closes public broadcasting stations, like Romania’s Nicolae
Ceausescu or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, enforces regulations or relaxes the
rules to send a message to reporters – but mainly to those who pay their
salaries – that investigative exposés and biting criticism might not be the
shortest avenue to fame and fortune.
The breaking and smashing frenzy,
which is slated to peak in the Knesset’s upcoming winter session, is shared by
cynical politicians and true fanatics. The former are looking for headlines
that will grab their incited voters but the latter represent a comprehensive
world view that derides Western and liberal values and seeks to replace them
with an authoritarian regime in which Jews reign supreme. They want to discriminate
between Jews and Arabs without knee-jerk liberals getting in their way, to grab
Palestinian land while the High Court cowers in the corner, and to continue
managing the occupation in darkness, without the rays of disinfecting sunlight
occasionally shed by NGOs such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.
This aggressive campaign is fed
by the right wing’s perpetual self-victimization, orchestrated and conducted by
Netanyahu himself, and by the arrogance of Likud politicians – and those from
the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) Party even more so – who
show no compunction about undermining the values that made Israel what it is
today. Maybe their amok is a function of an urge to erase the last remnants of
the Israel in whose creation and consolidation their political movements played
only a minor role. After the mission is accomplished, the internal destroyers
and demolishers of the Zionist revolution that created the state can continue
pretending that they are its children and successors.