Editorial: Dissenters pay a high price in Israel

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Israel's far right has asserted its total control over the government and continues its policy of apartheid against the Palestinian people.

It was only a matter of time before it began to lash out at its own people. According to David Shulman, writing for the New York Review of Books, Israel's security agencies have been mobilized to crush any dissent or opposition to the country's policies that continue to devalue the lives of millions of people in Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

"Israeli human rights activists and what is left of the Israeli peace groups, including joint Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations, are under attack," writes Shulman.

Tactics that have been used against B'Tselem and Breaking the Silence, two of the most effective opposition groups in Israel, are now being used against other humans rights organizations in Israel.

"(O)pen attacks on the Israeli left have now assumed a far more sinister and ruthless character; some of them are being played out in the interrogation rooms of Israeli prisons," writes Shulman. "Politically driven harassment, including violent and illegal arrest, interrogation, denial of legal support, virulent incitement, smear campaigns, even death threats issued by proxy ..."

This "everyday state terror," as Shulman characterizes it, used to be reserved exclusively for Palestinians, but now is being wielded against Israelis opposed to the torment being inflicted upon the residents of the Occupied Territories.

"The witch-hunt began this time with a targeting of the ex-soldiers' organization Breaking the Silence by a strident chorus on the right," wrote Shulman. "There have been calls to outlaw the organization entirely."

Netanyahu has accused Breaking the Silence of "trying to tie Israel's hands in its attempts to defend itself."

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. "We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population's everyday life," states the organization's website.

A new law passed in Israel calls for all human rights organizations to report who they receive money from.

Initially, the law call for representatives of left-wing organizations that receive foreign funding "to wear identity badges whenever they entered the Knesset or other public spaces, but Netanyahu, still apparently capable of seeing the invidious analogy to the badges the Nazis forced Jews to wear in public, squashed this clause," notes Shulman.

The human rights organizations have reported cases of spies in their ranks, private detectives following organizers around and the arbitrary arrests and detentions of activists. While Israelis have received some protection from the courts, Palestinian activists have literally been kidnapped and dropped off at military detention camps, writes Shulman.

"We are seeing a general assault by the government and right-wing groups on those parts of Israeli society that are still standing up for democratic values," said Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B'Tselem. "The aim is to silence us."

"Anyone who opposes the occupation in word or deed is now at risk. For the right, patriotism is synonymous with occupation and all that comes with it, above all the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians and the theft of their lands," notes Shulman.

It should really not come as a surprise that Israel's government is cracking down on organizations and individuals who are appalled at the treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Israel's government has been slowly slipping towards totalitarianism for the past several decades. Any defiance of its policy toward the Occupied Territories and the expansion of settlements doesn't fit into the right-wing's nationalistic narrative. The voice of the Palestinians has been effectively silenced and now the right wing is doing the same to the voices of conscience within Israel who dare stand up to injustice, atrocity and violent hyperbole.


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