leftists - Alon Ron - November 23 2011
Protesters at a Tel Aviv march, November 2011. Photo by Alon Ron
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Peace upon you, brave champions of democracy,

This year we are observing Human Rights Day in a unique atmosphere. On the one hand, we are witnessing an awakening and a decisive struggle for freedom and against corruption, from Morocco, through Yemen and Syria and all the way to Israel. Masses that have suffered from repression, racism and poverty are taking to city squares and standing proudly in the face of ruthless repression. On the other hand, a dark cloud is forming that threatens human rights. Evil forces are exploiting the spirit of social protest and are adopting only the outermost layer of democracy - majority rule. They incite against anyone foreign or different and seek to bring about a destructive tyranny of the majority in order to trample justice and freedom.

We will stand in their way.

Democratic institutions, human rights organizations, the social justice movement and freedom of artistic expression have all been marked for persecution and elimination.

We will stand in their way.

Forces of darkness are using deceptive tricks in our representative institutions in order to smash the fortresses of democracy. They want to undermine the High Court of Justice and we will stand in their way. They want to weaken human rights organizations and we will stand in their way. They want to demolish the organizations that work hard to bring peace and to end the corrupting occupation.

We will stand in their way.

They spread misinformation and nurture hatred of strangers in order to guide the people onto the destructive path of hating Arabs.

We will stand in their way.

Israel has one of the highest rates of poverty among the developed nations. They are plotting to continue policies that snatch a glass of milk and a slice of bread from the hands of poor children, so the rich can become richer. A third of Israeli children live in distress. Poverty is a tragedy for children and a catastrophe for the state.

We will stand in their way.

They create a fierce atmosphere of warmongering to drown out the bitter cries of the homeless, the unemployed, the social workers, the medical residents and the foreign workers who live in slave-like conditions.

We will stand in their way.

We are not against religion, but we are against religious coercion. We will not give in to the forces of darkness that use religion to humiliate women, to repress homosexuals and to intimidate members of other religions and free thinkers. Their objective is clear: To turn a democratic state into a state of halakha.

We will stand in their way.

Freedom of expression is the vital sign of a real democracy. Whoever plots to impose narrow-mindedness, whoever preaches to blindly follow one ideology to the exclusion of all others, or one historical ethos barring all others, is simply preaching for spiritual fascism.

We will stand in their way.

The clouds are dark and the atmosphere is bleak, which is why the brave contributions and the blessed actions of human rights organizations and organizations struggling for equality and for peace with the Arab peoples - particularly with the Palestinian people- are so immeasurably outstanding.

To my brothers and sisters, the Arab citizens of Israel, I say: "Your struggle for a just society is our struggle too". Your fate is our fate. The right to live in dignity makes no distinction between men and women, between religions and nationalities. We all wish for a better and more humane society for our children and our grandchildren. Together, only together, can we strive to build a more just future for you and for us.

Our adversaries are weaker than they seem and we are stronger than our adversaries think we are. Through the joint efforts of human rights organizations we have proven that we can block the forces of darkness. We defeated the initiative to establish investigative committees in the Knesset. But plenty of work remains. The forces of darkness have not despaired. They seek to silence us, but we will not be silenced and we will not let them violate human rights, the freedom to demonstrate, and the right to protest against injustices. And if we must again take to the streets and the city squares, we will do so. We will do so throughout the country, in cities and villages, in the center and the periphery, among the majority and among the minorities.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my city, Haifa, which at this very moment is holding for the first time its own march for human rights. I hope that next year more and more communities will join in this democratic celebration.