Democracy under siege?

Gaza might not be the only thing under siege in the Middle East. Israeli democracy has taken a fair number of hits recently. A Zionist student organization, Im Tirtzu, partly bankrolled by the Christian Dispensationalist-Zionist (and non-pal to Catholics) John Hagee, has issued an inflammatory report condemning independent Israeli human rights organizations (and the Israeli agency responsible for some of their funding) for their “unpatriotic” assistance to the United Nations. A U.N. special reporting team last year investigated the behavior of the Israel Defense Forces during the Gaza incursion that began in late December 2008. Three brutal weeks later, Gaza’s infrastructure was in ruins and 1,400 were dead. Last September the controversial Goldstone report, the outcome of that investigation, suggested both Hamas and the IDF had probably committed human rights violations and war crimes in that spasm of violence. Israeli human rights groups had provided testimony and other assistance to Goldstone and his investigators. Now Israeli politicians are calling for, not an independent investigation of Goldstone’s allegations, but a witch-hunt of the human rights organizations which assisted the UN in a clear attempt to silence their critical, and critically necessary, voice within Israel.

In recent weeks two well known Israeli human rights advocates have been arrested or detained and interrogated by Israeli police because of their activities, and 13 Israeli human rights organizations have sent an urgent letter to the president, the Knesset speaker and the prime minister, protesting an “increasing and systematic campaign against human rights organizations” in Israel.

Advertisement

This dangerous environment has been years in the making and is complemented by a rising hard-right sentiment within the Israeli government and its political parties, the too-powerful illegal settlers movement and a growing tolerance for religious extremism within the IDF rank and file. Taken as a whole the confluence of such potent culture shifts surely endangers what’s left of the peace process, continues a process of dehumanizing Palestinians and now finally, predictably, threatens the viability of Israel democracy itself. These trends require careful attention now before they unleash volatile forces that could prove impossible to contain in the future.

Kevin Clarke

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

 Pope Francis arrives in procession to celebrate Mass marking the feast of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 20. The pope at his "Regina Coeli" announced that he will create 14 new cardinals June 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Eleven of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and so have the right to vote in the next conclave.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 20, 2018
Images: AP, Wikimedia Commons
Bishop Curry described Teilhard as “one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.”
Angelo Jesus CantaMay 19, 2018
Both men were close to each other in life, and both are much revered by Pope Francis.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 19, 2018
The Gaza Nakba demonstrations this week have done nothing to advance the situation of Palestinian refugees, nor did they provide relief to the people of Gaza, who dwell in an open-air prison, hemmed in and oppressed at every turn.