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Israel’s democratic values: Punish human rights organizations, not war criminals

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Were you scared by the recent poll finding that the majority of Israeli Jews have profoundly anti-democratic attitudes and support restricting human rights groups, punishing Israeli citizens who call for boycotting the country, and punishing journalists who expose news that expose immoral actions by the military? Well then get all the way underneath your covers.

Those sentiments may be made the law of the land soon if a centrist coalition has its way and the Knesset passes a bill concerning non-governmental organizations. According to Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the proposed bill would prevent “the registration of a non-governmental organization (NGO) or would shut down an existing NGO, ‘if there is a reasonable basis to conclude that the organization is providing information to foreign bodies or is involved in lawsuits abroad against senior officials in the government in Israel and/or officers in the Isareli army regarding war crimes.’" 

Is that Israel’s way of saying, yes we commit war crimes, but we don’t want anyone to know about it?

The bill is being spearheaded by Ronit Tirosh of the Kadima Party, the supposedly “centrist” opposition party, and has the support of 19 members of the Knesset, according to Adalah.

The Guardian’s Rory McCarthy has more:

Israeli human rights groups say they are deeply concerned about a newly proposed bill that could shut down any organisation that investigates and mounts legal challenges to abuses by the military.

The bill was introduced in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, yesterday with the support of at least 17 MPs from different parties. If it became law it would prevent any organisation from being registered, or would close down existing groups if they were found to be passing information "to foreign entities" or were "involved in legal proceedings abroad against senior Israeli government officials or IDF officers for war crimes".


In a joint statement today, 10 Israeli human rights groups said the bill would "trample" democratic values. "Instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce it to ashes," they said. "This bill is the direct result of irresponsible leadership that is doing all it can to undermine democratic values and the institutions that are the backbone of a democracy: the supreme court, a free press and human rights organisations."

The groups included B’Tselem, Gisha, Adalah, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and Rabbis for Human Rights. Adalah, which works on Arab minority rights within Israel, said the bill was "a dangerous step" against human rights groups. The bill "seeks to restrict the freedom of expression and freedom of association of these organisations", it said.

However, the bill already has significant cross-party support. "The bill will put an end to the rampage by NPOs [non-profit organisations] who are trying to subvert the state under the guise of human rights," Ronit Tirosh, an MP from the centrist opposition Kadima party, told the Ma’ariv newspaper.

The claim that Israel is a democracy that shares the values of the United States is becoming more farcical by the day.

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