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Attn: UN Human Rights Council, Re:Freedom of Expression

UN human rights mission

2) Regarding the Arab minority population, while discrimination is an issue, this is often confused with impact of security requirements to protect against violence and terrorism. The facts clearly show that there are no restrictions on freedom of expression or opinion beyond those often found in other democratic societies, which do not have such ongoing conflicts. In fact, to the extent that Israel has placed any restrictions, they do not rise to the level of those imposed by democratic countries such as France, Switzerland, the UK, etc.[8] Arab representatives in the Knesset frequently deny the legitimacy and advocate the destruction of Israel as the home of Jewish nation, for which they are strongly criticized as part of the political debate.

3) Arab-sector NGO officials and MKs have participated in activities such as the so-called “Free Gaza flotilla” (2010), which deliberately provoked a violent confrontation with Israeli security forces enforcing a blockade necessary to prevent deadly weapons from reaching Hamas and other terror groups. MK Haneen Zoabi was aboard the Mavi Marmara, a boat operated by the Turkish group IHH (which is a member of the Union of Good, a U.S.-banned terror organization), from which Israeli soldiers were attacked when they attempted to board. In most cases, participation in an armed attack against one’s own military forces would be considered treason, but no such charges were made against MK Zoabi. Although a Knesset committee recommended that her parliamentary immunity be revoked, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin declined to submit this to the full Knesset. Instead, on July 13, 2010, she was stripped of three parliamentary privileges. Nevertheless, Zoabi continues to freely travel around the world advocating against the State of Israel, leveling charges of “apartheid” and “war crimes.” In a regime that restricted free speech, Zoabi would not be able to conduct these campaigns.

4) In January 2010, MK Tal a-Sana addressed a rally of Hamas officials and 100 members of the Free-Gaza Movement chanting, “Katyshuas on Ma’alot, Qassams on Sderot.” In April of that year, a-Sana, Zoabi, and several other MKs met with Moammar Qaddafi in Libya – a country officially at war with Israel. In most other countries of the world, including many democratic states, the activities of Zoabi and a-Sana would have resulted in criminal prosecution,[9] forced removal from the legislature, or even imprisonment.[10]

Conclusion: We urge the Special Rapporteur to avoid repeating the practice of applying double standards and using false claims in order to condemn Israel, and to subject accusations from organizations and individuals regarding the state of freedom of expression in Israel to careful scrutiny and independent verification.

 

Originally published by Stonegate Institute www.stonegateinstitute.org

 

[1] Gerald M. Steinberg, “The Politics of NGOs, Human Rights and the Arab-Israel Conflict.” Israel Studies 16.2 (Summer 2011): 24-54; Robert Charles Blitt, “Who Will Watch the Watchdogs? Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations and the Case for Regulation,” Buffalo Human Rights Law Review 10 (2004): 261-398; Ben-Dror Yemini, “NGOs vs. Israel,” Middle East Quarterly XVIII.2 (Spring 2011): 67-71; Don A. Habibi, “Human Rights and Politicized Human Rights: A Utilitarian Critique,” Journal of Human Rights 6.1 (2007): 3-35.
[2] Gerald M. Steinberg, “Europe’s Hidden Hand: EU Funding for Political NGOs in the Arab Israeli conflict: Analyzing Processes and Impact,” NGO Monitor Monograph Series 2, April 2008; NGO Monitor, “Foreign Government Funding for Israeli Political NGOs 2009/2010,” November 15, 2011; NGO Monitor, “Analysis of UK Government funding for Israeli and Palestinian Political Advocacy NGOs: 2008-2011,” April 22, 2011
[3] NGO Monitor filed a complaint with the ethics committee of the Israeli Press Association regarding highly misleading and unprofessional coverage of NGO issues in the Ha’aretz internet edition, and the committee found the complaint justified, and ordered to newspaper to publish a correction. The text of the decision (in Hebrew) is available at http://www.moaza.co.il/BRPortal/br/P102.jsp?arc=128475.
[4] The Turkel Commission, established by Israel to investigate the 2010 “Free Gaza Flotilla” incident, criticized the credibility of political NGOs that present claims as if they are “completely disconnected from the activity itself” and “detach[] everything from the reality and placing it in one area without explaining why.”
[5] Richard Goldstone, “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” The Washington Post, April 2, 2011.
[6] Gerald M. Steinberg, “The Politics of NGOs, Human Rights and the Arab-Israel Conflict,” Israel Studies 16.2 Summer 2011.
[7] Gili Cohen, “ACRI report: less freedom for citizens, more harassing of demonstrators,” Haaretz, December 4, 2011.
[8] In 2011, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands banned Muslim women from wearing the Burka in public. A 2009 referendum in Switzerland made minaret construction illegal. In contrast, no such restrictions are in place in Israel.
[9] See for example UK Terrorism Act (2000) and the cases of Geert Wilders (Netherlands), Jean Marie Le Pen (France), Nick Griffin (UK), and Joerg Haider (Austria).
[10] In contrast, despite his long history of incitement and inflammatory remarks, MK Azmi Bishara was only sought for police questioning after he was suspected of engaging in money laundering and providing the Hezbollah terrorist organization with information on strategic targets for rocket attacks on Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War. Bishara resigned from the Knesset on his own accord.
[11] NGO Monitor is a Jerusalem-based civil society organization that provides independent information and analysis regarding the activities, campaigns, and funding of powerful political NGOs operating in the Arab-Israeli conflict. NGO Monitor publishes systematic studies on NGO transparency, accountability, fact finding, interpretations of international law, human rights, humanitarian aid, and the laws of armed conflict.

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