Fear of the « Goldstone effect »: Democracy endangered in Israel

More than a half of Israeli Jews supports a reduction of the freedom of expression for certain Human Rights organizations that condemn the immoral behavior of the State of Israel. On Tuesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz commented on the results of a study conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research of Tel Aviv University. The survey also shows that a majority of Israeli Jews are in favor of sanctions against the citizens who call for boycott actions against Israel or against the journalists who give a bad image of Israeli military actions (Poll: Majority of Israel’s Jews are back gag rights groups Haaretz, 27/4/2010).

Considering that publication, many concerns about democracy’s future in Israel were expressed. David Newman of Ben Gurion University said that the Israelis used to consider that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, but in Europe they are beginning to think of us otherwise« .

In a speech last Saturday for Euromed Rights in Brussels, the journalist Gideon Levy of Haaretz is also very concerned about the democratic character of the State of Israel. He said the Israeli population has never been so apathetic, the peace camp so little present today. Any person or organization that dares to make a criticism of the army is automatically demonized (Watch the video of the speech).

It is then not surprising to read that following the publication of the Tami Steinmetz Center poll, a bill was introduced Wednesday at the Knesset. It threatens all NGOs that provide “information to foreign bodies or is involved in lawsuits abroad against senior officials in the government in Israel and/or officers in the Israeli army regarding war crimes” (Rights groups attack Israeli bill to shut down military criticsThe Guardian, 29/4/2010). Such organizations will then be forced to put an end to their activities in Israel, despite all fundamental rights and freedoms universally recognized. Israeli Human Rights Organizations, including B’Tselem, Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights and other, reacted strongly against the bill. They argued that such a measure would crown with a series of attempts to curb their actions following the war in Gaza.

Since the report issued by judge Goldstone on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel and Hamas during the war, domestic and international criticism is increasing against the Israeli government’s actions. So that Benjamin Netanyahu said that the « Goldstone effect » was one of the three most serious security threats to Israel. In other words, Israeli democracy would be endangered by the assaults … of Human Rights?

To borrow a word from Gideon Levy, « the only hope for Israel comes from outside« . Facing an Israeli society that is gradually moving towards a denial of the freedom of expression and democracy, the international community has indeed a responsibility. The European Union, traditionally the protector of democracy and human rights, can no more turn a blind eye on the actions of the Israeli government.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée