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Occupation magazine - Commentary

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Could it be the end of Israeli democracy?
Aeyal Gross

When I published my ďKilling the MessengerĒ article on International Human Rights Day, I described, so it appears, not only things that had happened by then, but also things that have gotten worse over the weeks since. A letter from human rights groups to the Israeli prime minister described a chain of attacks on HR organizations. The arrests of demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah and the attack on the New Israel Fund are two important and recent developments in this context. The arrests continued even though the courts have repeatedly stated that the protest vigils held there are legal and require no permit. The arrests of demonstrators gained some media attention after ACRI Executive Director Hagai El-Ad was arrested too, though the point was not, as El-Ad remarked, the fact that he was placed in custody. These arrests cannot be dissociated from the attacks against human rights organizations, on which I elaborated in a previous article. Again, they go after the messenger. We should pay attention to the way these attacks make the focus of discussion shift from the wrongdoing in Sheikh Jarrah to issues such as freedom of expression and protest, important as they may be, though in this case it seems that protests against the attempts to deny the freedom of expression draw attention to the issue at hand.

The recent attack against the New Israel Fund and Prof Naomi Chazan by an organization whose name I would not even mention here set a new record in ugliness and fascist conduct.

Plenty of information is being published on these topics in recent days. I wish to thank those who write about these issues more frequently than I do, and recommend that you watch for the various articles, including by ACRI. When we put together the attacks against human rights organizations, the continuation of the appalling situation in the territories, the exacerbated and continuous settlers violence against the Palestinians, and the fact that the army and the police are indifferent at best, and cooperate with them in the worst case scenario (several recent TV reports showed things we have known for quite a long time), we are left with a very heavy feeling concerning the ever-worsening situation of what was left, if at all, from the Israeli democracy. As explained before, the state of continued occupation itself is denying the basic foundations of democracy. Now, we witness a series of attacks against bodies that try to revive whatever was left of that democracy. The threat posed by and the danger entailed in those attacks cannot be overstated.

If there is any consolation here, it is the rather clear historic development of the tension between those who point at the violations of human rights and those who deny them and attack the critics. Groups and individuals, who deny that human rights are violated, and that their state employs racist and discriminatory violence, eventually go down in the dark pages of history as collaborators with villainy. At the same time, I do not recall a single case in which human rights organizations, protesters, and demonstrators inflicted disaster on their countries. I distinctly remember, however, how those who denied that such violations have taken place did inflict such disasters on their countries. They are the real threat. Therefore it does not matter to me if you are students who present themselves as ďcentrist organizationsĒ, professors who shamelessly besmirch others by distributing lies, or journalists who may have once addressed social issues and have recently joined the choirs of patriotism which, in this case, truly is the villainís last refuge. You will go down in history alongside many other deniers. It is only a shame that there are so many victims along the road there.

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