Thousands of Israelis Demonstrate for Human Rights
Montreal, January 18, 2011 - On Jan. 15, an estimated 20,000 Israelis protested in Tel Aviv against various recent government measures. The proposed inquiry into Israel’s peace and human rights groups and their funding was key among them, but protesters were also angered by the draconian “loyalty oath” and the government’s disinterest in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. These developments and the protest helped spark the Labour Party’s public fracturing on Jan. 17. Party leader Ehud Barak and four other MKs left Labour to form a faction that will remain in the Netanyahu government coalition while three Labour Party cabinet ministers withdrew from cabinet.
On Jan. 5 the Israeli Knesset had voted 41:17 to set up an inquiry into the activities and financing of Israeli human rights organizations monitoring the Israeli army’s conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories. The inquiry is viewed by many as an attempt to intimidate and harass Israeli organizations doing human rights work in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Coalition whip, a Likud MK, said the bill aimed “to prevent a recurrence of the Goldstone report, which is mostly based on material provided by Israeli organizations …” The bill was opposed by three Labour MKs – including Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, who said it smelled of McCarthyism.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) welcomes the resurgence of an energetic and vocal Israeli peace camp, and urges the Canadian government to heed the camp’s concerns and be more balanced in its Middle East policy. “Since the targeted NGOs already file reports on their financing and activities, the proposed inquiry is clearly intended to attack and intimidate them for monitoring violations of human rights and international law by the Israeli state and its institutions,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. CJPME notes the lop-sided nature of the inquiry proposed. Neither violent Israeli colonist groups dependent on donations from Americans, nor the far-right parties allegedly closely tied to the Russian mafia are to be investigated.
The Jan. 15 demonstration was the largest in Israel in many years. Yisrael Beiteinu, the party that sponsored the new bill, said the proposed inquiry is targetting B’Tselem Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the women’s group Machsom Watch(Checkpoint Watch), and Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers collecting testimonies from soldiers. Shalom Achschav (Peace Now) and other groups are also threatened with investigation.
For more information, please contact:
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Telephone: 450-812-7781 or 438-380-5410