Israeli human rights organizations warn: Targeting of human rights organizations destroys Israeli democracy

Tue., February 2, 2010 – Thirteen Israeli human rights organizations sent an urgent letter (attached) to the president, the Knesset speaker and the prime minister, protesting the increasing and systematic campaign against human rights organizations in Israel: "A democracy must not silence critical voices; protecting human rights is vital."

In their letter, the organizations cite former head of the Oz unit Tziki Sela and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who accused organizations assisting refugees of "aiming to destroy Israel" and "undermining the Zionist enterprise;" Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, who said of human rights organizations "your enemies will come from within;” the summoning of human rights activists for investigation by the Israel Security Agency (the General Security Service) and warnings not to engage in "political activity;" an IDF announcement stating it was cutting off relations with the human rights organizations that operate in Gaza, including restricting humanitarian activity to save lives; and severe restrictions on the entrance of human rights activists into the West Bank, to provide nonviolent protection of Palestinians subject to violence by their neighbors.

Added to this are the events of the past days, which set new records in this dangerous trend in the form of the unbridled attack by “Im Tirtzu” on Professor Naomi Chazan, the Chairwoman of the New Israel Fund, and on human rights organizations in Israel.

Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel: "Human rights organizations are the moral conscious of our society. Their activity is a critical element of a healthy democracy. A democratic country does not support the deliberate silencing of the critical voices that operate within it but deals honestly with what needs to be corrected."