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Human Rights Abuses in Israel and Occupied Palestine

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Human Rights Abuses in Israel and Occupied Palestine - by Stephen Lendman

Founded in 1972, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is its leading human and civil rights organization through activities involving litigation, legal advocacy, education, and public outreach. Each year it publishes an annual report covering flagrant violations, positive trends, if any, and "significant human rights-related processes" affecting Israelis and Palestinians.

Its latest December 2009 one is examined below, discussing "a disturbing (government-sponsored) trend that has (gained) currency in Israel over the past year - both in public discourse and sometimes in practice - to make human rights conditional: on fulfilling some obligation, having financial means, or belonging (or not belonging) to certain groups."

For example, free expression is targeted, and Israeli Arabs threatened, denied equality, education, employment, and their citizenship without "declaring loyalty" to Israel - in other words, on condition they abandon their national identity, culture, language, and historic heritage that's the equivalent of asking Jews to renounce Judaism.

Financial means involves regarding social rights, including healthcare and education, as commodities, accessible to those who can pay. And for Occupied Palestinians, Gaza was devastated by war, remains under siege, and sustains near daily assaults, killings, and targeted assassinations.

In the West Bank, security forces enforce land seizures, home demolitions, displacement, segregation, isolation, closures, movement and travel restrictions, the Separation Wall's construction, daily home invasions, arrests, attacks on peaceful protestors, imprisonments, and torture of detainees under a rigid "matrix of control" involving checkpoints, bypass roads, roadblocks, curfews, electric fences, and various other harassments to cow all Palestinians into submission or make them give up and leave.

Since 1948, Israel denied its Arab citizens fundamental human and civil rights and increasingly fewer of them to many Jews. In the Territories, it's far worse under military occupation and Israeli laws affording no protections to Palestinians. Nor has the Supreme Court upheld the law that should be sacrosanct in a legitimate democracy. When it's compromised, no one is immune from abuse and neglect as greater numbers in Israel are learning, including Jews.

Threatening Free Expression

Losing it threatens all other freedoms. It's a basic legal right even Israel's Supreme Court recognizes, but not absolutely having repeatedly ruled that curtailing it is justified in extreme public danger situations or if national security may be undermined.

However, the "true test of freedom of expression lies in allowing the airing of views that are extreme, controversial, or infuriating." It's the state's obligation to protect them, especially in times of crisis, including war. But during Operation Cast Lead, Israel failed the test.

Protest demonstrations were attacked, dispersed, and silenced. Participants were arrested, then intimidated by dubious charges. Against Israeli Arabs, excessive force and preemptive detentions were used, then bogus indictments made based on charges of "participating in unlawful gatherings."

Legally, authorities overstepped so egregiously that harsher measures may follow, and against Palestinians they're commonplace, including targeted killings and torture.

Israel also restricted the foreign media, prohibiting on the scene access to report accurately on the conflict. For their part, the Israeli media largely supported the government. Overall, war coverage restrictions caused Israel's journalistic freedom rating to drop sharply as measured by international human rights organizations. Dissent was minimally tolerated, and repressing it continued post-war. "Not only were critics silenced, they were accused and vilified, and their critiques unaddressed."

During 2009, anti-democratic Knesset bills also limited free expression, including the Nakba Law threatening individuals with imprisonment for mourning on Israel's Independence Day. Organizations risked loss of their public funding for doing it.

The Incitement Law threatens prison for anyone denying Israel's existence as a Jewish, democratic state, and the proposed Loyalty to Israel Law rescinds Israeli citizenship for anyone unwilling to pledge loyalty to the state.

These mostly target Arab Israelis and get strong government backing. Also introduced was a bill almost completely banning demonstrations adjacent to the homes of public officials and service providers, or others responsible for public welfare. After passing its first Knesset reading, the Internal Affairs Committee asked for revisions.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.
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