Israel: The Democratic Haven of the Middle East?

1579272912_ec03437965_bIsrael touts itself as the bastion of democracy in the Middle East, sales a country that will go to bat for freedoms of expression and act as a mainstay against the dictatorships, global burden of disease monarchies and corrupt military regimes that generally characterize the region.

To a degree, arthritis this is true. If we are to forget Israel’s military control over millions of Palestinians who have absolutely no representation and little legal rights, Israel maintains what is by far the most robust and responsive multi-party democratic political system in the region. Israeli citizens, by in large, are relatively free to say what they want, when they want, in whatever form they want.

But there have been some incredibly worrying signs over the last two years in the erosion of freedoms of expression in Israel. The governing coalition in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is actively trying to block foreign funding to Israeli human rights groups and non-profits critical of government actions and to require that Arab citizens declare a loath of loyalty to a Jewish state. The parliament has already stripped certain diplomatic privileges of various Arab parliamentarians.

On the streets non-violent protests against Jewish settlement in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah are regularly met with police brutality and in the schools leftist Israeli academics have been explicitly threatened with loosing their positions or tenure.

The Coalition of Women for Peace, a leading Israeli feminist peace organization, is now leading a well-targeted campaign to petition Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, to do something about it.

“The circumstances and cases described raise concerns regarding an orchestrated and widespread assault on the freedom of expression and opinion of Israeli human rights and peace organizations and Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders,” wrote the organization in a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur outlining the aforementioned issues. “Based on the documents we have enclosed, we respectfully request that you investigate these matters and communicate your concerns to the government of Israel and to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.”

The letter was coupled with a new report, worth reading if you have the time, on “the increasing political persecution of peace and human rights organizations and activists.”

“The principle of conceiving “enemies from within” and treating these organizations and activists as traitors, subversives and anti-Israeli are common practice,” the report reads.

We can support The Coalition of Women for Peace by calling on Frank La Rue to formally ask Israel to respond to the report, a request which (if there is enough pressure) he is likely to be open to.

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