Abraham Foxman in the Huffington Post: Israel's Democracy Is Eroding

ADL chairman urges the right-wing in Israel to defend the country's democratic values, rather than supporting proposal that stifle free expression and undermine the rights of minorities.

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Anti-Defamation League chairman Abraham Foxman is urging right-wing Israeli legislators to come out against their colleagues who he believes are endangering Israel both internally and externally with their recent wave of anti-democract proposals in Knesset.

There are many reasons why the recent spate of domestic legislation in Israel -- regarding non-governmental organizations, the media, Israel as a Jewish State, the Supreme Court -- is disturbing, Foxman wrote in an op-ed on the Huffington Post published Wednesday, entitled The Assault on Israel's Vibrant Democracy.

Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation LeagueCredit: AP / Corrado Giambalvo

In many of these cases, the Knesset is addressing real and challenging problems, Foxman surmised. But it is doing so in the wrong way.

Foxman acknowledged in his op-ed that some of the issues underlining the proposals were indeed in need of debate, citing for example the foreign governments and groups that fund certain Israeli human rights organizations, the perception that Israeli media is tilted to the left and the fear that the Supreme Court may be hastily asserting power in the political system.

All of these matters are legitimate subjects for public debate, wrote Foxman, but he warned that such debate must not come at the expense of democratic values.

When, however, laws are passed that stifle free expression, seek to undermine the independence of the judiciary and, in the name of defending a Jewish state, seek to undermine the rights of Arabs and other minorities, then the very democratic character of the state is being eroded, wrote Foxman.

This is bad for Israel internally, wrote Foxman. The modern state of Israel was founded on the principles of democracy and pluralism. Moreover, on a practical level, democracy has been the glue holding together a disparate community.

And it will hurt Israel externally, particularly at a time when delegitimization campaigns are rampant and when so much of the international community sees Israel as blocking peace efforts, he added. Israeli democracy and the perception of Israel as defending democratic values are crucial to Israel's good name.

One of the biggest concerns Foxman raised in his op-ed was that the tacit approval given by Likud to these Knesset proposals may be used by the left-wing as proof that the right-wing is in fact anti-democratic. When it comes to Likud, wrote Foxman, nothing could be further from the truth.

Foxman pointed out that the majority of these proposals had been submitted by Yisrael Beiteinu. The Likud, he said, was in fact a faction that representing the mainstream right, has been a living example that nationalism and democracy can co-exist in a healthy and harmonious relationship.

It is clear that people on the left will oppose such legislation, Foxman concluded. What really ought to happen, however, is that more leaders from Israel rightist camps should be standing up against efforts to undermine Israel's judicial, press and speech freedoms.

They must assert that not only is democracy an essential component of Israel's very being and a potent constructive force throughout Israel's history, but that the defense of Israel's vibrant democratic traditions are a core value for those on the political right.

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