40. First they came for the Palestinians….

An increasingly isolated and desperate Israeli regime is rapidly escalating its attacks on Israeli citizens that dare to criticize its actions.

On July 18, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman labelled as terrorist organizations several prominent Israeli peace and human rights groups: New Profile, Adalah, Yesh Din, and Breaking the Silence.

A glance at their websites makes quite clear the real threat they pose to the Israeli regime: they question and challenge, indispensable functions for any authentic democracy.

In the Israel context,  labelling a person or group as “terrorist” is dangerous incitement.  It provides automatic permission for a full scale attack on their civil rights, their freedom, even their lives.  After six decades of occupation, Palestinians experience the bitter results of this tactic constantly.  Now increasingly it’s the turn of Israeli citizens — in my view the best of Israeli citizens.

Several members of New Profile are featured in Our Way to Fight, chapter 11, and a prominent member of Yesh Din is featured in chapter 6.  They struck me as thoughtful, deeply principled, determined and courageous.

New Profile responded this morning to the attack:

“New Profile rejects and denounces Minister Lieberman’s choice to call New Profile and other human rights organizations “terrorist organizations”.

“New Profile is a civil feminist movement active against institutionalized violence and for dialogue and peace, for demilitarizing Israeli society, for freedom of conscience, equality and justice for all – Arabs and Jews, women and men, including those choosing not to serve in the IDF.

“New Profile persists in its commitment to non-violence and encourages true, open civil discourse in Israel.  Minister Lieberman kindles and leads incitement against human rights and civil society organizations in this country.

“The attempt to slur as “terrorist” any view critical of the ruling power’s ideas expresses a basic misunderstanding of democracy and presents any controversy as an existential threat that must be eliminated.

“We call upon the public in Israel to ask itself and its elected representatives why criticism and independent thinking threaten them as much as terrorist actions.

“Inflaming fear and trembling of real and imagined foes perpetuates the situation whereby war, inequality and racism are regarded a must, manifest destiny.  It is not.  The choice is in our hands, we the citizens – choosing to live in an egalitarian, non-violent, civil and democratic society.”

Adalah, Yesh Din, and Breaking the Silence announced on July 18 that they will sue Avigdor Lieberman for libel.  “His comments constitute mendacious, wild, and thuggish incitement,” their joint statement said.

The Israeli government continues to receive unconditional support from their counterparts in Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and other countries.  These elites collaborate to undermine democracy, human rights and the environment across the globe.

The only chance for positive change, for a just peace — perhaps even for survival — rests with us.  As New Profile says, “The choice is in our hands, we the citizens.”

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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