The extreme right has been obsessively trying to introduce nationalist content into the education system, exclude Israel’s Arab minority and make a mockery of the very idea of democracy by subordinating it to religion in the guise of Zionism. To all this must now be added an idiotic new initiative, which, if successful, would eliminate freedom of expression in Israel and thwart legitimate criticism.
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The initiative in question is a bill by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), who has made it her goal to destroy left-wing nongovernmental organizations. The bill states that it would be enough for a single employee of such an NGO to do one of five things − call for a boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel, urge the indictment of Israel Defense Forces soldiers in an international court, reject Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, incite to racism, or support armed struggle against Israel by a terrorist organization or enemy state − to deprive the NGO that employs him of the right to raise more than NIS 20,000 from a foreign political entity.
Similar bills submitted to the last Knesset were frozen. At that time, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein warned the prime minister against them. “These bills infringe severely on a list of constitutional rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to equality,” Weinstein wrote. “Instead of enabling open discourse and an efficient ‘marketplace of ideas,’ they seek to block expression. They put Israel on a par with the handful of other countries that have taken similar steps, and it’s doubtful that it would be appropriate for Israel to be envious of their regimes and to act like them.”
But Weinstein was wrong: The racist coalition set up by Benjamin Netanyahu is not only jealous of those benighted countries, but it wants to surpass them. Shaked, in her ignorance of democracy, is convinced that by shattering the mirror that reveals the crimes of Israel’s policy of occupation and its discrimination against its own Arab minority, and by halting the activity of NGOs that still care about the rights of Israeli citizens, the world will come to believe what’s said in Israeli propaganda films.
Shaked’s proposal undermines the basic civil rights of freedom of speech and freedom to express an opinion. Under Shaked’s anti-democratic worldview, it won’t be long before any public institution, municipality, school or yeshiva in which a single employee criticizes government policy or calls for boycotting Israel will suffer a harsh blow to its pocket. That’s the kind of slippery slope onto which Shaked will push democracy if she isn’t stopped immediately.