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What kind of democracy deports human rights workers?

Israel is trying to deport Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir, claiming democratic states have every right to defend themselves. The only problem? Israel is neither democratic nor acting in self-defense.

By Hagai El-Ad

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch (Courtesy of Omar Shakir).

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch (Courtesy of Omar Shakir).

At the heart of the Jerusalem District Court’s recent ruling to authorize the deportation of Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, one can find the self-victimizing lie that views Israel as a “defensive democracy.”

The ruling, handed down by Judge Tamar Bazak-Rappaport, did not reinvent the wheel; she is only following the path paved by the Knesset members who legislated, the attorneys who defended, and the Supreme Court justices who made this all possible. Yet, as a glimpse into bankruptcy, self-righteousness and whining of Israel in 2019, the ruling is well worth reading.

The ruling is based on two items of legislation, as per Bazak-Rappaport: “The Entry into Israel Law refers to the definition of a boycott of the State of Israel in the Prevention of Boycott Law, which indicates the connection between the two legislative texts, which are based on the doctrine of ‘defensive democracy,’ and the right of the state to defend itself and protect its citizens.”

And what is the state defending itself from? From “a political-diplomatic boycott by non-state actors who wish to undermine the foundations of the existence of the state in question.”

But Israel is not a democracy, it is not defending itself, and the risk to the foundations of its existence stems from the moral decay it is engulfed in — not from “non-state actors.”

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Israel is not a democracy, as these elections proved once again. Democracy is the rule of the people, not the rule of one people over another. When the Yesha Council — the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank — recently highlighted the polling data on the settler vote, it made a point of celebrating the fact that “the residents of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley placed their voting envelopes in ballot boxes placed inside the settlements.”

Except it was not “the residents” who did so, rather only Jewish citizens. Millions of residents, subjects, non-citizen Palestinians — whose lives are determined by the very same regime – do not get to vote. No one takes them into account. Calling this a “democracy” is a falsehood divorced from reality.

Israel is not defending itself. How much cynicism and indifference is needed to describe the constant violence Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians whose lives it controls as “defense?” Israel is not defending itself when its soldiers kill Palestinian youths by shooting them from a distance in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel is not defending itself when it demolishes Palestinian homes, claiming it is only enforcing the law, after carefully creating a reality in which obtaining a building permit for Palestinians is an imaginary option.

Israel is not defending itself when its settlers, in conjunction with the army, raid Palestinian villages in the West Bank. Israel is not defending itself when it externally controls the largest open air prison in the world in the Gaza Strip. And Israel is not defending itself when it controls — with absolute arbitrariness — every aspect of Palestinian life. Control, dispossession, violence, and tyranny are not “defensive”: they are part of an organized, ongoing aggression.

Palestinian protesters take part in the weekly Great Return March demonstration near the Israel-Gaza fence, east of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 22, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian protesters take part in the weekly Great Return March demonstration near the Israel-Gaza fence, east of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 22, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel’s doctrine of “defensive democracy” is a lie, devoid of any intellectual integrity. Israel is carrying out a large-scale, violent national project, and the government seeks not only to protect this despotic project from criticism, it also refuses to pay any price for its cultivation. The Palestinians foot the bill; this is their exclusive domain. To achieve this, the state not only administers a tyrannical regime on the other side of the Green Line, it also legislates tyrannical laws. These laws have no moral validity and they have nothing to do with “defensive democracy.”

Yet Israel understands that for the sake of propaganda, it is worthwhile to continue holding on to this label of “democracy,” since it affords it economic, diplomatic, and public relations benefits. And it is precisely this brand that makes it easy to reject Israel’s comparison to countries such as Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Iran, or Venezuela, which have also prevented access to Human Rights Watch.

Bazak-Rappaport’s ruling is effectively a propaganda document based on previous propaganda documents in the form of High Court rulings. This is neither law nor justice — it is hasbara.

So, memorize this from now on: Israel is a democracy. A defensive one. We are the victims. The boycott seeks to destroy us. The Europeans are anti-Semites. The Palestinians are terrorists. Leftists are traitors. There is no occupation. The decision of the interior minister to deport Shakir is reasonable under the circumstances. The petitioner must leave Israel. Who’s next?

Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem. Translated from Hebrew by Yoni Molad for Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia.

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    COMMENTS

    1. itshak Gordine

      What nonsense. All Israeli citizens of voting age were able to participate democratically in the last elections, including members of the Arab minority. As for the Judea and Samaria Arabs who live under Ramallah’s rule, they can exercise their rights there even though democracy does not exist in the “Palestinian” administered territories. Must we be stupid to think that the State of Israel will allow foreign supporters of the BDS to operate on its territory while anti-BDS laws have been democratically voted by the Knesset? Israel is a true democracy, no offense to some leftists.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tom

        @Itshak : Democracy is not about the right to vote (they vote in Irak, China, Saudia, Iran or Gabon, they are not democracy !).Go in a dictionary and read the definition.

        Israel can’t be a democracy by definition because the souvegnity of Israel belongs to jewish people ONLY. The “minorities” are 2nd class Citizens (with,not equal rights, with more than 50 discrimination laws) because they are not part of the nation that belong to “the jewish people” ONLY.

        Regarding the palestinians under the palestinian Authority rules, you seem to forget there is no souvereign palestinian state. So in the meantime (since 50 years now) the “palestinian Citizen” are just under israeli rules, with a fake authority for bantoustan (area A&B) , and a complete israeli rules for area C and East Jerusalem . Basically you have two people living in the same area (Judea and Samaria) but with two set of rights : you can call it occupation if you want but it looks like appartheid right ?

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Re: “Basically you have two people living in the same area (Judea and Samaria) but with two set of rights….”

          That is prefectly correct.
          One set of rights for those seeking to put the other side in Dhimitude (The Fatah view) or to kill them all (the Hamas view).
          A different set of rights for those defending themselves from Dhimitude and / or mass murder.

          Reply to Comment
          • Tom

            @Lewis, well, I’m happy to see that we can be agree on something, Israel is not a democracy, whatever the grood reasons are(kind of needed appartheid for security if I understand what you’re saying).

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Lewis: No one believes this crap anymore. Stop insulting our intelligence with it. As Hagai says, Israel is not defending itself.

            Additional reading for those who would like to think for themselves:

            Soldiers Have to Shoot at Palestinians. It’s Israel’s Way to Keep Them in Check
            Israel admits it: The military is in the West Bank to protect settlements. The notion that we want peace is old fake news
            https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-soldiers-have-to-shoot-at-palestinians-it-s-israel-s-way-to-keep-them-in-check-1.7173443?ts=_1556581620899

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            The majority of Israelis do believe “in this crap” as you put it. This was clearly demonstrated in the recent elections.

            PS: The other side never has elections because your friends – Ishmael Haniyeh of Hamas Nutjob fame and Dr Abbas of Shoa PhD fame are each Presidents for Life.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Itshak: “The Israeli public relations firm Kaizler Inbar claimed credit for dispatching 1350 volunteers with cameras in a post on Facebook today, stating they pleaded “guilty” to suppressing Arab voter turnout and alluded to coordinating with the Likud party.”

        https://mondoweiss.net/2019/04/netanyahu-palestinian-suppression/

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Once in a while a landmark +972 piece comes along that sums it all up, penetrates all the hasbara, clarifies everything. This by Hagai El-Ad is one of them.

      The ruling by Judge Tamar Bazak-Rappaport, as El-Ad points out with great clarity, breaks no new ground but obediently follows a path paved, ratifies the established—that Israel has become a tyranny of the majority—not a genuine democracy, but Feiglinist. (See Tomer Persico, “A ‘truly’ Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud’s Moshe Feiglin,” Dec 17, 2012, +972). With a veneer of legalism and euphemisms for outside consumption. Judge Bazak-Rappaport serves as an obedient functionary, not a judge.

      Israel’s voters won’t put the pot-promoting, foot-massaging, odd duck Feiglin out front in the Knesset, they prefer more discreet, sly but respectable practitioners. But it’s the same thing. The spirit of a soft Feiglinism rules. Feiglin was just too blunt, too unabashed, too coherent, lucid and clear about what he means, to put him out front or admit to ourselves what we are really voting for. But the right wing is fundamentally, enduringly, Feiglinist. Behind the facade.

      Instructively, someone like Itshak Gordine understands none of this. It’s just lost on him: “All Israeli citizens of voting age were able to participate democratically in the last elections….” As if democracy were a matter of mere electoral mechanics. Someone might sit Halevy down and make him take a basic American elementary school civics class.

      Whether they know it or not, this (the spirit of Feiglinism, ethnocratic popular rule) is what right wing Israelis mean when they say the High Court needs to submit to the will of the people and they talk of Knesset “override” bills. They want an ethnocracy, a tyranny of an ethnic majority, not a democracy. When these Israelis say “Jewish and democratic” they really have no idea what they’re talking about. This incomprehension extends far beyond the extreme messianic-nationalist right wing represented by Itshak.
      (And that is not even getting in to the preposterous denial involved in Halvey’s brazen assertion about “the Judea and Samaria Arabs who live under Ramallah’s rule.” that Tom confronts.)

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Yes, its terrible when the electorate votes the “wrong” way, isn’t it. Ben ?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          This response betrays a lack of understanding that would be expected from an elementary school civics education, and a total lack of comprehension of anything El-Ad writes. So I find it meaningless. Not worth engaging.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben’s elementary school civics education = Leftist brainwashing into appeasing Hamas-style Islamic Nutjobs.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Lewis: Until you can recognize a basic truth of this article by Hagai El-Ad, and a basic truth of the following article by Amira Hass, there’s nothing to talk about:

            Soldiers Have to Shoot at Palestinians. It’s Israel’s Way to Keep Them in Check
            Israel admits it: The military is in the West Bank to protect settlements. The notion that we want peace is old fake news
            https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-soldiers-have-to-shoot-at-palestinians-it-s-israel-s-way-to-keep-them-in-check-1.7173443?ts=_1556581620899

            The hard truth delineated in these articles is that Israel is a terrorist. The settlers are terrorists. The Yesha Council is a terrorist organization. The Israeli army protects terrorists and engages in terror. You support terrorists. With unbearable self-righteousness. Your hypocrisy in this is glaring.

            Incessant Israeli hasbara and mindless American abetting of that project, has made it seem scandalous to state this grim, basic truth: Israel, Decrier in Chief of Terror, routinely, day in day out, as a well-organized and planned management strategy, commits terror against a population it has colonized and rules over militarily.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            We drown in propaganda. You know a person has no argument when they simply say “leftist” as if that were any kind of argument, because to the brainwashed Israeli ear now, “smolan” has simply become an epithet and a curse. As Bradley Burston remarked, Netanyahu Zionism condemns as smolan, literally leftist but more closely translated as filthy and stinking traitor, anyone and everyone who dares oppose the right wing.

            Israel Is the Terrorist
            Ilana Hammerman
            05.04.2018
            https://www.haaretz.com/amp/opinion/.premium-israel-is-the-terrorist-1.5976966

            “…The problem is that terror has long since become the reality, and the entity that has allowed and is allowing this to happen is the State of Israel. Look at the map and find Barta’a, and maybe you’d even be interested in going there and seeing and hearing how its residents live and what their surroundings are like. I happened to do so a few days before the car-ramming incident, and it was completely clear to me – and not for the first time – that this reality is a product of the ongoing policy of terror pursued by generations of Israeli governments, and that it is this policy that gives rise to the acts of resistance against it. What’s amazing is only that there aren’t more such acts, because it’s really and truly an intolerable situation….”

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            So The Haaretz is the paragon of truth ?
            Most Israelis say it is a sack of BS written by degenerates, self-haters and radical lunatics like G. Levy, Amira Hass and similar mentally-sick individuals.
            But who am I to judge ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Compared to most of the rest of the Israeli press? Yup, a paragon. Absolutely.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            But to keep things in perspective, Haaretz is centrist, or center-left, with several hard core right wing writers like Israel Harel and Jonathan Tobin (a blatant Trump apologist of the lowest quality IMHO) among others. +972 is on the left. It is only in the warped Israeli imagination that Haaretz is “leftist.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            I have never heard ofJonathan Tobin. I have heard of Israel Harel many years ago but he seems to have disappeared in recent years. However, I don’t read the Haaretz and I don’t know anybody else who does. As Itshak says, Haaretz is popular overseas for some reason but is unread in the Land it supposedly it represents.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Lewis: See my response to Halevy on this. In addition, it is quite amusing to read your pontificating on things never read. And Haaretz is read in Israel. It’s just not read in the Itshak-Lewis Jewish Caliphate, a Smotrichean federation-style subsection of the entity comprising Israel and the territories it occupies. The most telling thing you’ve ever said is that you know no one who reads Haaretz.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Abroad, too much importance is given to Haaretz which is finally little read in Israel and whose drawdown is constantly decreasing. It is read by a self-proclaimed elite which is defeated election after election.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy, as I think I have told you and your fellow Bezalel Smotrichean, Lewis, that is a cynical political-electoral-propaganda calculation, a brute power calculation, an amoral gangster-thought, not a truth proposition or an ethical one. By this you confirm you true nature.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben: Virtually nobody reads Haaretz. Maybe that is because it is a sack of BS. This was proven in the recent elections where the majority of the electorate voted for the Right wing block.

            Actually, there was a notable shift between the younger cohorts and the more elderly in terms of voting patterns. The more younger the voter, the more chance they voted for Netanyahu’s coalition. So under the 34 years age range, Labor and Meretz got no seats. Whereas in the 65+ years age range, the Left actually “won”.

            So in fact, people who think like you do, are on the wrong side of history.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben, you are on the wrong side of history.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Even funnier and more absurd:

            ‘Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, called the column “anti-Semitic,”’

            Reply to Comment
    3. Stephan Flach

      well written.. thanks!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      @Berel and Rosenberg: Is it really possible that you don’t understand something this basic?

      Specifically, that the Palestinian residents of the Israeli-occupied, Israeli-controlled West Bank cannot vote in any Israeli elections or otherwise participate whatsoever in Israeli decision making, but have their daily and nightly lives controlled and their human rights denied by Israeli settlers and the Israeli army and the Israeli Civil Administration–for fifty years now and with the Israeli leadership’s declared aim of making this as permanent as possible–and so the entity comprising Israel and the territories it occupies is NOT a democracy?

      What part of this don’t you understand?

      Reply to Comment
      • itshak Gordine

        You do as usual a confusion. The vast majority of Arabs in Judea and Samaria live under “Palestinian” rule and vote in it. They have the identity papers of this authority and can not participate in elections in Israel because they are not Israeli (just as a Swiss can not participate in elections in France, even if he lives in France ..) The Arabs who have an Israeli passport democratically vote in Israel for whom they want.
        There are even Israeli Arabs who vote for the Likud.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “The vast majority of Arabs in Judea and Samaria live under “Palestinian” [as opposed to Israeli] rule”

          This is blatantly false. A lie. Shamelessly. (It even contains the built-in, risible incoherence that the very authority you suppose rules, does not even exist, according to you, as denoted by your scare quotes. This highlights all the more your dishonesty.)
          The rest of your argument therefore collapses altogether.

          Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            You are in dreams and I in fact. More than 2 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria live under Arab rule and exercise their rights. They are not Israeli citizens and therefore can not participate in elections. As many work in Israel, they have enough to live on and benefit from social security and care in Israel. They are in a better situation than most Arabs in neighboring countries. All the rest is just the talk of leftists living in an imaginary world.
            The last paragraph of El-AD is strictly accurate.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “The last paragraph of El-AD is strictly accurate.”

            Hilarious. Like trying to talk to Tom Cruise and David Miscavage about Scientology!

            Reply to Comment
    5. Ray

      None do, actually. I’ve yet to see an actual, honest-to-goodness liberal democracy that deliberately set out to antagonize human rights NGOs. It only happens in phony/illiberal democracies, like Venezuela or Ethiopia. Israel is in good company.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Very true. The ngo treatment test is a good test of phoniness. Good point.

        Reply to Comment
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