AL-ZAYTOUNA: All-Out War – Israel Against Democracy December 29, 2010

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultation -  November 2010


This report deals with the offense against Israeli democracy directed by both institutional and non-institutional powers, which have joined forces in repressing civilian freedom of action within Israel. The current overriding atmosphere in Israel is one of threat towards opposition both in Parliament and civil society, growing governmental violence, deterioration towards a repressive regime seeking to violently silence critical and opposing voices, the continuation of oppression and control over the Palestinians, and an uprooting of fundamental democratic principles.

The report focuses on a historically short period of only two years, during which the attack on democracy and those who function within its bounds has been escalating. From its inception, Israel has oppressed the Palestinian national minority which remained within the boundaries of the state after the 1948 Nakba. Initially this was carried out by the establishment of military rule; it was maintained through a long line of discriminatory practices and the ongoing involvement of the security apparatuses in the social and political lives of Palestinians. 

There is little contention over the fact that the repressive mechanism used by Israel against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories from 1967 to this day are particularly violent and harsh, defy basic human and civil rights standards, and contradict Israel’s self-definition as a democratic state.

Despite the tight connection between the repressive mechanisms administered by Israel on both sides of the 1967 borders, this report will not deal with the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Rather, the report will focus on escalating political persecution within Israel’s 1967 borders. The report considers the assault on Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009, and the subsequent Goldstone Report, to be a watershed in Israeli public opinion and in the political sphere.

The attack on Gaza increased and accelerated external pressure on Israel to end the occupation and discontinue its severe human rights violations. According to this analysis, for the first time in quite a long period, escalating international pressure on Israel led to substantial discomfort among the Israeli political elite as well as in the movements of the right.

The growing realization that Israel cannot maintain its image as a democratic country while upholding the occupation is one of the principle factors behind the political and social offensive against the peace movements, civil rights organizations, and the Palestinian leadership within Israel. In order to continue and sustain both the occupation and its definition as a Jewish country (as opposed to a democratic and egalitarian one), Israel must ruthlessly repress Palestinian resistance to the occupation, and for this it must forego even the superficial appearance of commitment to democracy.

The escalation of political repression within Israel and the Occupied Territories bolsters critical voices both within Israel and internationally against Israeli policies, and leads Israel to a condition of unprecedented international isolation – economically, militarily, culturally and politically.

Thus, the voices of resistance within Israel have become a strategic threat to the continuation of the policies of occupation, and silencing them has become a primary goal for both the organisms of government and the Rightwing political movements within Israel.

The report will show how the principle of conceiving “enemies from within” and treating these organizations and activists as traitors, subversives and anti-Israeli are common practice in the current period, whether such treatment is carried out in the Parliament, on the street or in the media. The creation of such an “enemy” helps to sway public discourse away from the occupation and its detrimental effects and put the blame for Israel’s isolation on a handful of “subversives” acting “against the state”, rather than pointing the fingers at failed government policy.

The report begins with a description of an explicitly anti-democratic trend within Israel’s Eighteenth Knesset, manifested by a series of proposed bills aimed at the destruction of the opposition and the conditioning of civil liberties with the requirement of “loyalty”, along with a multi-faceted attack against Arab members of Knesset.

The second chapter will deal with the attack carried out by extreme Right-wing organizations against civil society organizations within Israel, particularly those organizations that struggle against the occupation and in defense of human rights in both the Occupied Territories and within Israel. This chapter will show that extreme Right-wing organizations intentionally act to bring about the delegitimization of peace and human rights organizations through highly publicized campaigns based on disinformation, distortion of facts, public manipulation and incitement.

This chapter will emphasize the dangerous connection of these organizations to individuals and institutions in the establishment and mainstream Israeli media. The third chapter will review specific cases of repression of civilian dissent in Israel during the last two years, revealing the scope and aims of repression. The fourth and final chapter will deal with personal persecution of journalists and political leaders under the guise of security.

This is an up-to-date account of the situation; however, it cannot encompass all the developments and aspects of this powerful political and social phenomenon. We believe that the project of documentation and analysis of this offensive must remain ongoing and thorough, since according to all evidence it is clearly far from ending. Documentation allows us to follow developments as they arise, and to reach reflective conclusions, both about the character of this period and regarding our function as movements and organizations committed to ending the occupation and to far-reaching change of the political and social reality.

As a side note, it is also worth mentioning that the repression of civilian freedom of action nullifies the feminist achievements towards equal representation, anchored in UN Security Council resolution 1325. Despite Israel’s image as an advanced country in terms of gender equality, women’s possibilities for reaching the upper echelons of power – especially if they did not take part in the military enterprise – are severely restricted. In this reality, many Palestinian and Jewish women choose civil society, peace, and human rights organizations as a central arena for their political activity.

Thus, silencing these organizations constitutes an additional step towards the exclusion of women from involvement in the political system. This report is published by the Coalition of Women for Peace with the aim and hope that it will become a tool of action for individuals and groups both within Israel and abroad. One of the goals of this document is to assist activists in gaining a deeper understanding of the scope and origins of this offensive, so that they might respond in a coordinated and calculated manner against it in light of this understanding. We hope that it will serve our readers well in their struggle to bring about change.

Download Report Israel_Against_Democracy_11-10-1

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