Public Comment

Israel’s Assault on Free Speech

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday January 08, 2016 - 02:00:00 PM

Israel’s fragile democracy is once again under fierce attack. Last month, an Israeli ultranationalist group released a video containing the mug shots of four Israeli human rights activists, depicting them as terrorists, ‘moles of foreign powers.’ Prime minister, Netanyahu and his fellow right wing ideologues failed to condemn the video for its outright slander and incitement to violence. Equally troubling, is the growing effort by the government, led by Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, to stifle free speech.  

Last month, Shaked, introduced a bill that would force human rights groups to identify themselves as “funded by foreign entities,” and carry identifying badges in a blatant effort to further stigmatize such groups. This is the government’s latest effort to silence activists who oppose Israel’s decades occupation of Palestinian territories, its illegal settlement policy and systematic abuse of Palestinian rights. The government dragnet includes, Breaking the Silence, a group of military veterans who oppose the occupation. This group has been smeared as anti-Israeli and banned from speaking to military schools. Anti-democratic reforms have intensified under successive Netanyahu led governments. These include the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movements, and slashing funding for institutions that commemorate the “Nakba” (Arabic word for “catastrophe” used to describe the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes during the founding of Israel in 1948). By its actions, Israel is in complete violation of The United Nations’ 1999 Declaration of Human Rights Defenders which obligates states to take proactive measures against the stigmatization of rights advocates.