The Association for Civil Rights in Israel assesses Israel's human and civil rights record annually. Its newly released 2011 report cites increasing crackdowns on basic freedoms. More on it below.
Losing free expression and assembly rights threatens others. They're basic ones Israel's High Court affirmed.
It said the "true test of freedom of expression lies in allowing the airing of views that are extreme, controversial, or infuriating." It's the state's obligation to protect them, including in public gatherings.
Israel ratified all core international human rights conventions relating to free association rights, including the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It requires signatories to respect the right to life, due process, judicial fairness, free and open elections, and freedoms of expression, assembly and religion.
Free expression and assembly are basic rights in all democracies. Although not enshrined in Israeli Basic Law, they're recognized in case law. Former High Court President Justice Aharon Barak said:
(A) demonstration of a political or social character is a manifestation of the autonomy of individual will, freedom of choice and freedom of negation that are included in the framework of human dignity as a constitutional rights."
The Court also ruled:
"The freedom of expression and demonstration is intended to protect not only those who hold accepted and popular opinions, but also - and herein lies the principal test of freedom of expression - opinions that are liable to incur anger or outrage."
Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also enshrines freedom to demonstrate, stating:
"The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
Israel claims human rights laws don't apply in Palestine. In fact, they're more important there than anywhere because occupied people are vulnerable. International human rights and humanitarian laws protect them, or they should.
It's especially unreasonable for a population occupied and denied basic rights long-term to be quiescent about it. It's their right to demonstrate and speak freely for liberation and justice.
However, Israel's August 1967 Order No. 101: "Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions" says any assembly, vigil, or procession of ten or more persons requires a permit from the commander of the military forces in the area, if the gathering is intended for the purpose of "a political matter or one liable to be interpreted as political."
In fact, all politically-reacted acts, including public speech, require military permission by permit. Violators are subject to arrest, imprisonment and/or fines. The order imposes lawless free expression and assembly restrictions.
It assumes groups of 10 or more constitute intrinsic and a priori public dangers, regardless of their purpose or nonviolent nature. As a result, it prohibits fundamental human and civil rights.
Israel's anti-democratic Knesset is imposing similar lawlessness internally. ACRI addressed it in its 2011 State of Human Rights Report. It discussed various means Israel uses to silence social protests and stifle democratic debate.
Escalation began after last summer's social justice protests across Israel for long denied rights. Arrests followed. Release depended on promising "not to attend demonstrations in the near future."
Others received police or Shin Bet summons. They were warned about possible consequences of their behavior.
Despite regulations requiring police to wear uniforms with ID badges at all times, increasingly they confronted protesters covertly to disperse demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere.
They did as well during home demolitions in al-Araqib and Lod, while serving evictions notices in Silwan, and for Havat Gilad residents.
Israeli and West Bank political activists were summoned before security forces for "warning talks." An Israeli Arab Tarabut-Hithabrut member, an Arab-Jewish Movement for Social & Political Change, was challenged. So was an Israeli Arab university student for protesting Cast Lead abuses.
Two Anarchists Against the Wall activists were briefly detained for law breaking when, in fact, they participated in peaceful protests.
ACRI criticized recent Knesset bills jeopardizing basic freedoms, including expression, assembly, thought and opinion. Israel's "boycott law" is particularly repressive.
It permits sanctions against supporters of anti-Israeli boycotts and "discriminates against people holding certain political views and greatly hurts a legal, legitimate and nonviolent means of protest."
Israel's Naqba Law was also cited. It withholds funding from organizations that oppose its core principles and "does great damage to the freedom of political expression, to artistic freedom, and to the right to demonstrate.
The report also addresses human rights violations against children and foreign nationals held in detention facilities and silenced social rights in Israel. It exposes emerging Israeli fascism and sham democracy.
Israel long ago abandoned its pretense. Arundhati Roy's description of India defines Israel: "A limbless, headless, soulless torso left bleeding under the butcher's clever with a flag driven deep into her mutilated heart."
As a result, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and growing numbers of Jews are left disenfranchised on their own, out of luck, and repressed when they challenge deepening social and political injustice.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
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