Thursday, January 13, 2011

Israel's Assault on Human Rights

By Neve Gordon
The Nation

"......In early January forty-one (versus sixteen) Knesset members voted in favor of a proposal to establish a parliamentary inquiry commission into the funding of Israeli human rights organizations. MK Fania Kirshenbaum, who submitted the proposal, accused human rights groups of providing material to the Goldstone commission, which investigated Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza offensive.

Considering that the funding of all human rights organizations in Israel is made public each year and scrutinized by the state auditor, the idea of creating a parliamentary commission to inspect their income is merely a smokescreen. The parliamentary commission’s actual goal is to intimidate Israeli rights groups and their donors and, as a result, stifle free speech.

MK Kirshenbaum said as much when she accused the rights organizations of being “behind the indictments lodged against Israeli officers and officials around the world.” The majority of Knesset members supporting Kirshenbaum’s proposal wish to deter human rights organizations from making use of international human rights law and universal jurisdiction. They thus want to deprive Israeli rights groups of their most basic tools, the tools deployed to criticize rights-abusive policies. They might not oppose human rights groups, but they certainly do not want human rights work. In their myopic minds, the problem is not Israel’s unethical practices, but the organizations that reveal them.

The ongoing delegitimization of those watchdogs of democracy—human rights NGOs, the press and public intellectuals—is leading Israel down a steep and slippery slope. The next time someone travels through Ben-Gurion airport, he or she might not be able to access the websites of Israeli rights groups like Physicians for Human Rights and B’Tselem, not because they have been blocked, but because the organizations have been shut down.

The question Kirshenbaum and her supporters need to ask themselves is what kind of countries attack their own human rights organizations? The answer is straightforward."

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