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Prof. Aeyal Gross: Could it be the end of Israeli democracy?

February 2, 2010 17 comments

Professor Aeyal Gross is a faculty member  in the law faculty of Tel Aviv University, a guest lecturer at the University of London, and research fellow  at the Human Rights  Program at Harvard Law School. His bio is available at www.aeyalgross.com. A Hebrew version of this article was published on Prof. Gross’s blog this morning (February 2 2010.)

Other recent posts on the latest wave of suppression of dissent in Israel | Essays Hadas Ziv; Hagai El-Ad; Yariv Mohar | News and analysis IDF joins assault on Israeli human rights community; Israeli media goes after New Israel Fund: “Responsible for Goldstone Report”; Hagee and CUFI fund anti-NIF campaign organizer |

Could it be the end? Killing the messenger, part 2

When I published my “Killing the Messenger” 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 Read more…

Killing the messenger: Prof. Aeyal Gross on the assault on Israeli human rights groups

December 14, 2009 1 comment

Professor Aeyal Gross is a faculty member  in the law faculty of Tel Aviv University, a guest lecturer at the University of London, and research fellow  at the Human Rights  Program at Harvard Law School. His blog and full bio are available at www.aeyalgross.com. This article was commissioned by the Israeli Democracy Institute in Hebrew on the for International Human Rights Day. An annotated version, also in Hebrew, is available on Prof. Gross’s blog.

Killing the messenger

International Human Rights Day commemorates an important historic moment that occurred 61 years ago.  On December 10th 1948, after devastating years filled with violence and bloodshed, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This day symbolizes a revolution in thought that transformed the understanding of human rights from a state’s “private matter” to an international standard of rights that each and every human being deserves.  The revolution in thought conveyed by the Universal Declaration was illustrated by the fact that, alongside the right to life, liberty, freedom of expression, of religion, of conscience and of movement; the right to health, education, housing, and just and fair employment benefits were listed with equal importance.  The Universal Declaration did not distinguish between ”civil” ” and “social” rights, and instead addressed them all as human rights.

Sixty-one years after this historic moment, the revolution proposed by the Universal Declaration has received many threats.  The Declaration’s attempt to secure equality and human rights for each and every person has been limited by national and ethnic criteria concerning those who deserve them, undermining the universality of these rights.  For example, migrant workers and Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories are not eligible for the same rights that Israeli citizens enjoy.  At the same time, among its citizens, the State of Israel discriminates against and violates the rights of many, as described by a recent report released by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in honor of International Human Rights Day, which concludes that democratic rights in Israel are “conditional.”  There is also a missing link between “civil” and “social” rights, in opposition to Israel’s Declaration of Independence which promises “total equality of social and political rights.”  Welfare rights take second place, if they are recognized at all, in Israel.  Amongst these disturbing phenomena, this year a particularly upsetting one demands our attention: the concept of “killing the messenger.”  More and more, the discussion about violations of human rights is diverted to one meant to de-legitimize those who point them out.

One obvious example is the Goldstone Report.   Read more…

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