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Israeli democracy under attack

November 24, 2016 22:53

I received this letter from New Israel Fund GB. If you want Israel to remain a democracy rather than turn into some KGB-like nightmare that Yisrael Beiteinu want, please write to the Israeli ambassador, Ron Pross-Or, to express your disgust.

Dear Friend,

Over the last few weeks Jewish values of social justice and our duty to tikkun olam (repairing the world) have come under serious threat in the State of Israel.

Several weeks ago Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of longtime New Israel Fund (NIF) grantee the Israel Religious Action Centre, the legal advocacy arm of the Reform movement, was hauled into a police station, fingerprinted and interrogated for her prayer sessions at the Kotel with Women of the Wall. A week later, it was the arrest of Hagai El-Ad, the CEO of NIF’s flagship grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), during a peaceful demonstration in East Jerusalem that ACRI was monitoring to protect freedom of speech.

Now it is the turn of the New Israel Fund itself to be under attack.

Last week a new organisation made a big splash in Israel by accusing the New Israel Fund and its grantees of being behind the Goldstone Report. Timed to capitalise on the anger many Israelis feel about the Goldstone conclusions, it was personalised with a particularly despicable attack on NIF President Naomi Chazan. The attack was the latest salvo in a coordinated attempt to de-legitimise civil society, repress the activities of the human rights community and weaken Israeli democracy. This new group is part funded by an American Pastor, John Hagee, who once said that the Holocaust was a good thing because it created the state of Israel. This has been followed by attempts to bring a private member’s bill in the Knesset to investigate NIF and its grantees. We have no issue with the funding and activities of all NGOs being examined to ensure that they are operating within the law and with the intent to bring about improvements in the State of Israel. However, these attacks are consistently against the Social Justice movement and not against those who fund and support right wing activities, including the development of illegal settlements.

In regard to Gaza, it was those human rights organisations that examined and reported on human rights concerns during and after the Gaza operation who were the first to declare that the Israeli government must launch an independent inquiry into the events of Gaza. They were acting out of a profound sense of patriotism and love of Israel. Their views on the subsequent Goldstone report are not monolithic and differ on many issues, including their conclusions in regard to the report.

It is the role of social justice and civil society organisations to hold up a mirror to society, and work towards making positive change. In Israel, where security concerns are always paramount, this can often be a difficult and sensitive activity, but we should be especially proud of the record of the human rights groups NIF have incubated and supported and their enormous contribution to Israeli democracy.

NIF stands for the efforts of thousands of Diaspora Jews who are dedicated to support the many Israelis who are working towards the Israel they know to be possible; one which upholds the dignity of all of its people.

Please stand with us, and our family of organisations, and contribute what you can, at a time when it is vital that we are seen to stand firmly together and determined to renew our commitment to a just and democratic Israel.

November 24, 2016 22:53

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