Statement about attacks against Israeli human rights activists

In the past two weeks there has been an unprecedented attack against human rights activists in the Israeli media and in the Israeli political system. This includes what appear to be trumped up charges against two Jewish and one Palestinian employee on the basis of spying by semi-privatised intelligence agencies funded by settler organisations and supporters, filtered through sensationalist media. As of January 22nd, it is still unclear if the Jewish detainees will  actually be released next week, despite a court order. The Palestinian detainee has been removed from Israel civil jurisdiction and sent to a military prison, an example of the form of local apartheid that exists between Israel proper and the Occupied Territories. Guy Butavia, one of those arrested, said in court “This is a political arrest, its entire goal is  to hurt our work for Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, and  against the crimes and criminals of occupation. Everything they will  try to pin on us, it won’t work. This case will crumble, and they can’t  break us. They can’t”. Coupled with a move to force NGOs that receive foreign funding to wear stigmatizing badge when in the Knesset building, and other activities by extreme right-wing organisations such as the ‘student’ organisation Im Tirzu, Israeli civil society is under threat. And of course, gangs still appear to be free to harass and conduct graffiti and other attacks against churches and mosques,  pursue ‘mixed couples’, and books on such topics are forbidden in school. In an environment wracked by the current wave of horrendous inter-communal violence, which we absolutely condemn, more than ever, it is time to show solidarity with human rights organisations in Israel. The use of gag orders by the Israeli authorities–frowned upon by Menahem Begin–is a demonstration of how politicized and dangerous the situation has become, where a virulent nationalism has taken hold. We don’t know who is next to be caught up in a secret political swoop. What has been used for years against Palestinians is now being used against dissenting Jews (and we hold the same concerns for the secret conduct of investigations into the Duma murders). One of the benchmarks of a free society is open and due process. This is entirely missing now. This will only serve to isolate Israel even further from the world community What can you do? You can directly support affected organisations, by making donations to them via their websites, and by conveying your displeasure and concern to the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, here. We mention organisations such as Ta’ayush (a non-Zionist human rights collective), and Rabbis for Human Rights (a strongly Zionist organistion), and B’tzelem or Shovrim Shtika/Breaking the Silence, also Zionist, because this range show that human rights and ethical behaviour is an issue that concerns people of different political and ethical orientations in the Israeli Jewish community. But despite the campaign against civil society organisations in Israel, we must not forget the daily humiliation and harassment faced by Palestinians, and the important of witnessing organisations, such as Ta’ayush and RHR, which go out in the field, all the time. As Ta’ayush says:
“Harassment of Palestinian farmers and shepherds in South Hebron hills by both settlers and the army continues. These forces take over their lands and prevent them from accessing it. Without the presence of activists, many farmers don’t get the chance to cultivate their land. There is a direct link between the number of activists who come to accompany the farmers and their ability to live a relatively normal life.” [found here]
We are also deeply disappointed that leading Australian Jewish community organisations have fallen silent in the face of attempts to demonise human rights activity in the country. Their silence and complicity at this time is indefensible. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Occupation, we need say, “Not in Our Name” and let this be known. Solidarity!   This official statement was released by the AJDS January 23, 2016
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