By Tal Schneider countup Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not given a single interview to the Israeli press since January 19, 2013. Not one question answered at a press conference, not a single one-on-one, and forget about a roundtable. In a democracy, this is incomprehensible. Amit Segal’s Channel 2 story on the matter (‘A year since the elections – the prime minister refuses to be interviews’, [Heb]) says it all. Nothing happened even after that. Netanyahu grants numerous interviews in many languages to the foreign press -- but not in Hebrew to Israeli reporters. As a political blogger, I…Read More... | 17 Comments
The absurd contradiction between advancing bills with paranoid, dictator-style accusations of 'foreign meddling,' while throwing temper tantrums over the loss of that meddling for the sake of strengthening the occupation is deeply disheartening. Knesset members from two right-wing parties in Knesset have revived a bill to limit foreign government funding of left-wing Israeli NGOs. The original legislation was halted by the previous Knesset following both domestic and international criticism, including from Israel’s Attorney General. The current version of the bill is being described as “softer,” version but as a fine op-ed in Haaretz by Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy…Read More... | 21 Comments
One simple answer to the question of why elections matter is that I feel part of something when I vote in Israel. Being away for four months, living deep inside the world of other peoples’ conflicts, provided a few more answers. For the first time since moving to Israel 15 years ago, I was not in the county on election day yesterday. Since Israel has no absentee voting for regular citizens, I was not able to participate. Given the wild demonization of the Left over the last few years, some people probably wonder why I even care. My colleagues at…Read More... | 7 Comments
The New York Times continues to push the myth that Israel was once liberal and democratic, and is now growing detached from these values. Now it publishes an op-ed by a former Knesset speaker, which promotes this notion and similar misconceptions about the United States and the U.S.-Israel relationship. Only a couple of weeks after its unusual editorial arguing that Israel’s democracy is in peril, the New York Times has published an op-ed in the same vein, written by a prominent Israeli public figure. Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, who almost became leader of the Labor party in the early 2000s,…Read More... | 102 Comments
The New York Times published a laudable, bold editorial this weekend that highlights a number of creeping threats to Israeli democracy. The article is vital for reaching audiences who really care about Israel's future. After three years of onslaught on Israel's democratic foundations (which were already deeply flawed), the situation is now urgent. Every day, truly scary signs of under-the-radar McCarthyism can be seen – just this morning Haaretz reported on the attempt to oust an official (Hebrew) in the Education Ministry responsible for civics education, who has come under a right-wing witch-hunt, despite protests by both left- and right-leaning colleagues. The legitimization…Read More... | 9 Comments
Haaretz reports that a new bill for a Basic Law currently being debated would allow the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings that a law is unconstitutional, by a 65-member Knesset vote, neatly killing off one of the last traces of checks and balances in Israel. It is particularly disturbing that Reuven Rivlin, Speaker of the Knesset, supports the bill, which as a Basic Law would have constitution-like status. Rivlin up until now has been one of a small group of Likud parliamentarians who could actually be counted on to preserve at least the structures of democracy, and has repeatedly…Read More... | 16 Comments
If the threat against Israeli democracy is not recognized and opposed, it will gather momentum until inevitably, one of democracy’s vital organs – tolerance, enshrined in law, for minority groups and minority opinions – will cease to function. By Rachel Liel One thing on which virtually all Israelis, from right to left, can agree is that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, whose 16th anniversary was marked this past Saturday night with the traditional annual rally, proved that something had indeed gone horribly wrong in this country’s democracy. The chants of “Rabin is a traitor,” the oft-seen posters of him wearing…Read More... | 8 Comments
For the first few weeks of the housing-cum-social protests in Israel, nothing else seemed to matter. For at least a week or two after the “J14” protests began (on July 14, in Tel Aviv), the press happily let it muscle out everything else – Palestinians, Iran, September, democracy barely reached back pages of the papers. The boycott bill (remember the boycott bill?) was quickly overshadowed. A new bill to cement Israel’s Jewish identity in a Basic Law – perhaps the most vicious attack yet against the 20% Arab minority – hardly made the same waves. Everything seemed drowned out by…Read More... | 4 Comments
As Arabs across the region struggle for freedom and democracy, Israeli law seems to be headed in the opposite direction. By Neve Gordon "Bad laws," Edmund Burke once said, "are the worst sort of tyranny." The millions of people who have been protesting - from Tunis, Egypt and Libya, to Bahrain, Yemen and Syria - appear to have recognised this truism and are demanding the end of emergency law and the drafting of new constitutions that will guarantee the separation of powers, free, fair and regular elections, and basic political, social and economic rights for all citizens. To put it succinctly,…Read More... | 12 Comments
It has been a troubled year for Israeli academia. The rising nationalist sentiment in the government, legislature and civil society has spilled over into bitter struggles on campuses throughout the country. Nationalist groups such as IsraCampus, Israel Academia Monitor, and the ultra-nationalist Im Tirtzu have set their crosshairs on academia, seeking the dismissal of faculty members and control over curricula, and urging foreign donors to withdraw funds unless the faculty they have targeted are removed. They have published blacklists and ranked each university and department according to political legitimacy. Much of the fire has been directed at Ben Gurion University…Read More... | 22 Comments
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement endorsed by Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005 has become one of the most controversial issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the spirit of the boycott movement against Apartheid South Africa, BDS activists have racked up a number of successful cultural, academic and economic boycotts of Israel over the country’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. This afternoon, the state of Israel took steps towards criminalizing support of BDS by Israeli citizens. A Knesset bill (Hebrew) that would criminalize support of BDS by Israeli citizens passed its first…Read More... | 7 Comments
Despite the hysteria of the past week, Israeli democracy is in perfect health. Well, for the Jewish citizens of the country anyway. Avigdor Lieberman's push to investigate leftist NGO's is a political trick which lacks significant power to change the situation on the ground. Lieberman's trick was designed to cast the Israeli left as reactionary and quick to cry wolf. It largely achieved its goals. The incredible mobilization to 'save Israeli democracy' reinforces the notion that democracy for Jews is in perfect health. The left was attacked, people took to the streets and the system worked. If Lieberman's desire to…Read More... | 8 Comments
Ronen, I am the person who was talking to a friend of yours at the human rights rally a few weeks ago. Your Im Tirzu group was hanging out behind the other demonstrators, calling for human rights for Israelis too, said the young man, for settlers and the people of Sderot. He was a nice kid, I was rapping with him, trying to understand him. We had a good rapport. Then you suddenly noticed us. You walked over with a tense look on your face and asked him who he was talking to – then asked me if I was…Read More... | 8 Comments
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