39. We refuse to comply

In response to the Israeli government’s latest assault on democracy, the anti-boycott law, the people of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel have just announced their refusal to comply with “this deliberate violation of basic human rights”:

“Passed by the Knesset on July 11, 2011, the ‘Bill to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott’ constitutes a harmful blow to egalitarianism, free speech, and the right to organize, and seeks to de-legitimize non-violent protest.  Boycotting is a legitimate act of non-violent political protest.  It allows followers to express opposition to policies that conflict with their core political beliefs and principles.  The right to protest is an integral component of the practice of free speech. Israeli citizens should be permitted and entitled to protest peacefully, so as to prevent the prolongation of controversial or illegal policies.

“We are aware of the complex environment in which the State of Israel exists, yet as human rights activists, we do not accept this deliberate violation of basic human rights.  As citizens, we are convinced that there is no other way to contend with this law but to engage in civil disobedience.  Out of a deep concern for democratic values, a firm commitment to human rights and a genuine concern over the path our elected officials are taking, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel expresses our firm opposition to the Boycott Law and announce that we will refuse to comply with it.  We call on NGOs, activists, members of civil society, and fellow citizens to defy the boycott law and join us in insisting unequivocally on our right to practice and engage in free speech.”

In the continuous wash of propaganda from the Israeli regime and its backers, the essential goal of boycott, divestment and sanctions is easily forgotten or obscured: to end the illegal, ever-deepening military occupation of Palestine, to attain human rights and equality for Palestinians, and to win a just, enduring peace in Israel-Palestine.

In pursuing its mandate, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has been openly critical of Israeli government actions more than once; as a result, it has become a target for right-wing attack.  Another bill currently before the Knesset would ban funding to political organizations and human rights groups, including PHR-Israel, making their work even more difficult than it is now.

Their current call for defiance is a stark recognition that in a context where human rights are under escalating assault, silence is complicity.

For an inside look at Physicians for Human Rights, see Our Way to Fight, chapter 9.

About Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.
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