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Israel Crackdown Puts Liberal Jews on the Spot
Posted on Mar 15, 2010
By Chris Hedges
The purge is under way because of the belief within the Netanyahu government that these groups and activists provided evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza to Justice Goldstone. Israel has no intention of lifting the blockade on Gaza, halting settlement expansion, including the 1,600 new homes to be built in East Jerusalem, or reversing its division of the West Bank into impoverished ghettos of Palestinians. The growing brutality and violence of the occupation, no longer easy to deny or hide, coupled with Israel’s growing status as an international pariah, have unleashed a crackdown against all those within the Jewish state who are blamed for the bad publicity. Yuli Edelstein, the Diaspora affairs minister, summed up the witch hunt when he announced that the Cabinet had been “concerned for a time with a number of groups under the guise of NGOs that are funded by foreign agents.”
The Knesset bill, if passed, will force human rights groups to register as political bodies and turn over identification numbers and addresses of all members to the government. These groups will lose their tax-exempt status. Most governmental organizations, such as the European Union, which is a large donor to Israeli human rights organizations, cannot legally pay taxes to another government, and the new law will effectively end European Union and other outside funding. The groups will be mandated to provide the government with the records of all foreign donations and account for how these donations were spent. Any public statement, event or speech, even if it lasts half a minute, by these groups must include a declaration that they are being supported and funded by a foreign power. Those who fail to follow these guidelines, including local volunteers, can face a year in jail.
“This is the first time the human rights dimension of the Israel Palestine conflict has moved center stage,” Finkelstein said. “It has temporarily displaced the fatuous peace process. It is the first time that human rights reports have counted. There are literally, because I have read them, tens if not hundreds of thousands of pages of accumulation of human rights reports condemning Israel going back roughly to the first intifada to the present. The human rights organizations since the 1990s have been quite sharp in their criticism of Israel human rights policy, but nobody ever reads the reports. They are never reported on, with maybe a couple of exceptions, in the mainstream media. The Goldstone report was the first time the findings of these human rights organizations moved center stage. People stopped talking about the peace process and started talking about Israel’s human rights record.”
There is a growing disenchantment among Israelis with the endless occupation of Gaza and the West Bank as well as endemic government corruption. Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, the head of the Israeli military’s Personnel Directorate, admitted recently to UPI that increasing numbers of Israelis are refusing to serve in the occupied territories. “Taking into consideration Israeli Arab youth, we’re facing a situation in which 70 percent of youths will not enlist in the military,” the general told the news agency. The discontent, along with the international condemnation, is inhibiting Israel’s ability to muster international support for further attacks.
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“Israel attacked Gaza to restore what it called its deterrence capacity, its ability to terrorize the Arab world into submission,” Finkelstein said. “But it actually diminished its deterrence capacity because it can’t attack. If they were to attack now, anywhere, all hell would break loose and they wouldn’t get sympathy.”
The numbers of so-called refuseniks are proliferating with groups such as the Courage to Refuse, Shministim and New Profile supporting those who will not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. It is not that many Israelis lack a conscience, it is not that many cannot delineate right from wrong; it is that the Netanyahu government is determined to see that these courageous voices within Israel will be silenced along with those of the Palestinians.
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