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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Living in a fear society

Once again, we are hearing a deafening silence from the media and Israel's political left regarding the anti-democratic assaults on civil rights which have arisen since President Bush arrived in Israel yesterday.

This silence is apparently because the right of peaceful assembly/demonstration has only been suspended for those on the political right.

Protesters posting pictures depicting Bush, Peres and Olmert wearing Kafiyas (see below) have been arrested.  No charges have been brought (since no laws were broken... except perhaps some littering statute), but the 'suspects' were relieved of their posters and detained by the police long enough to neutralize their efforts. [sorry, the link I had to the article has been broken]


Other protesters (well know far-right activists) waving the above-mentioned posters outside the President's residence have also been arrested.  Again, no laws were broken, but since their ideas (and ideology) were considered objectionable to the occupant of the house, the police were given a blank check to arrest/detain these people... just long enough to neutralize them, of course.

A third peaceful protest yesterday against Olmert's plan to discuss core issues with the PA - this one on a hilltop near Hevron -  was also broken up by police.  Once again, there was nothing illegal about the protest itself, except that the protester's ideas/ideology were considered objectionable and embarrassing to the current government.

Lastly, a small group of protester demonstrating for the release of Jonathan Pollard (a topic that , IMHO, should not be a partisan issue) were dispersed by police in Jerusalem.  Again, no laws were broken... just a clear message sent and received that nobody is allowed to mention uncomfortable and/or embarrassing topics in public while Olmert is claiming to speak for all the people in front of his out-of-town guests.

PM Olmert has made public statements that Israelis are ready to make serious concessions in order to arrive at a final status agreement with the Palestinians.  Yet every poll conducted to date has indicated that the overwhelming majority of Israelis are against dividing Jerusalem, and that a more modest majority hold an unfavorable view of any discussion of territorial concessions before a full cessation of terror activities (e/g/ rocket, mortar, shooting, Molotov cocktail and stone attacks on Israelis) is enforced.

It is clear to me that the only way Olmert can claim to have a mandate borne of national consensus is to illegally quash all public debate that opposes his views.

I have long defended the rights of groups like 'Women in Black' to protest 'the occupation' and have been pleased to see that their weekly demonstrations are not disrupted by police.  So why is it that when anti-democratic, heavy-handed tactics are employed to stifle dissent from the Israeli right, the media and the Israeli left suddenly go deaf, blind and mute? 

Are we really going to see the media and the left give their tacit approval to near-dictatorial abuse just as they did during disengagement?  Didn't we learn anything from that dark period???  Doesn't anyone care the Israel doesn't come close to passing Natan Sharansky's famous 'Town Square Test'?


Update:  Here is a well written 1st hand account from a new immigrant who was detained by the police for passing out literature (a Young Israel-sponsored pamphlet) about Fatah's alleged standing as a 'moderate' body.  The author is the brother of a close friend (not a hot-head by any stretch of the imagination) and has been in the country exactly 2 weeks.  Welcome to Israel!

Posted by David Bogner on January 10, 2008 | Permalink


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Pathetic. It's like Israel's turning into a third-world tinpot dictatorship, with a horse-and-pony show whenever the Americans come to town. "Oh, of course we're happy here, Mr. President - and just look at our paintings of cheerful proletarian workers in the fields of the kibbutz. And pay no attention to the people screaming from the jailhouse - they're just a bunch of worthless hooligans, always making trouble." This nonsense should be giving Sharansky some very unpleasant flashbacks.

Posted by: psachya | Jan 10, 2008 11:01:22 AM

I wrote about Susie Dym getting arrested yesterday.

For what?

For hanging out outside the Dan Panorama Hotel and handing out a booklet that details and documents Abbas's government's involvement in terror.

Who was she giving it out to? Foreign journalists.

What radical organization was involved in getting this booklet out?

The National Council of Young Israel - now that's a radical organization for you.

Posted by: JoeSettler | Jan 10, 2008 11:22:15 AM

some perspective perhaps. let us frame these police activities by remembering that israel experienced the assassination of a prime minister 10 years ago by a right wing extremist. some of the rhetoric then matches some of the rhetoric now -- kafiya on the head of rabin, kafiya on the head of bush.
and about that town square test: clearly it too claims elements of rhetoric, and could use some nuance. fire in a crowded theater, anyone?
now i am not saying treps explanations for the police activity are wrong. im just asking for a touch of perspective.

Posted by: fred | Jan 10, 2008 2:51:21 PM

JoeSettler... Well said, thanks for sharing the link.

fred... Respectfully, are you rocked in the head? Are you seriously justifying totalitarian behavior on the part of the government based on the act of a lone lunatic. Are you seriously saying that the Israeli right forfeited its protection under the law the moment Yigal Amir (his name should be obliterated) fired those fatal shots? Is it really your position that the use of rhetoric by the right (which is no less graphic or extreme than the rhetoric employed by the left) is somehow justification for the suspension of the right to free speech, peaceful assembly, etc. to nearly half the population??? If so, you are advocating an extremist position that is (IMHO) more dangerous to the security of Israel as a free society than 1000 armed Yigal Amirs. Here's some perspective for you. The quashing of words and ideas is far more dangerous to a democracy than the weapons of any assassin. Dead politicians are replaced... but democratic freedoms, once taken, are gone forever.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 10, 2008 3:35:44 PM

For what's it worth, there was a small demonstration (less than 10 people) in front of the White House criticizing Bush's plan for a two-state solution. The leader of the group was talking about Grand Mufti al-Husayni's links to the Nazis and how Mein Kampf is a bestseller in the Arab world. He was using a megaphone so he was pretty loud. You could probably hear him throughout Lafayette Park. As I walked by, I did not see any police rushing to stop them.

Posted by: Jon | Jan 11, 2008 1:29:17 AM

To anyone who cares, I'd like to publicly apologize for my country's "leadership" -- er, spaghetti-spined rolling over -- in any Mid-East peace "process." I still like my idea better (see the bit about automatically shooting anyone going about in public wearing a mask and toting a weapon, below).

Mr. Bush has not yet asked me for input, however. Oh well; his loss.

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jan 11, 2008 5:54:20 AM

I too am deeply embarrassed by President Bush's idiotic attempts to play mediator between a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Western civilization and a pro-western democratic society, but (unlike Wry Mouth) I stop short of apologizing for fools like Jimmy Carter (and sadly now George Bush).

Regarding the Israeli government's violation of its citizens' civil liberties, it never ceases to amaze me that the Left is so certain of its rectitude that it invariably believes silencing its critics is claiming the moral high ground -- it seems you have freedom of speech only to the extent you stay with the Left's script.

Posted by: Bob | Jan 12, 2008 7:11:36 PM

Dave, I may have stones rolling around in my head as well, because the events surrounding Rabin's assassination as a possible motive for the government's quashing of this form of public dissent by the Israeli right occurred to me also. In no way is it justified, and maybe Fred wasn't justifying it. "Perspective" was the word he used. (Granted, I have not read Sharansky's "test").

For the record: I heard about the Bush/Olmert kaffiyeh-wearing posters on a radio report (likely NY's CBS "NEWS 88"), although not of any arrests. So, in my opinion, arrests made for the sake of "appearances" by the Olmert government were senseless since the "word" of these posters was already out...

It should also be noted that this kind of thing, albeit in a different form, has taken place in the US. Anyone protesting the Bush invasion of Iraq was hauled out of any public appearances or "town meetings" held by Bush. Indeed, at least one person also claims to have been "escorted" out of early Clinton campaign rallies because she was wearing an anti-Iraq war t-shirt. So anything along these lines is certainly not unique to Israel.

Back, briefly, to "perspective." You have cited Yigal Amir as a "lone lunatic." But... He didn't act solely in a vacuum. A reading of Michael Karpin/In Friedman's "Murder In The Name Of God" suggests otherwise.

Now, I may not buy any "conspiracy theory" as far as certain rabbis declaring Rabin a "rodef" and calling for his death, but there is enough in Karpin's account taken from police sources/interviews to suggest that the tenor of those demonstrations and declarations at that time have left an understandable, albeit unjustified, caution on the part of the Olmert crowd.

Yes, it is an ethical crime that the "left-leaning media" would remain silent about these arrests. And that the Israeli political "left" chooses to not recognize that when a precedent of liberty's denial is set, it is set for all- not just those with whom one disagrees.

But, what do I know? I'm one of those reviled "liberal Democrats"...

Posted by: Mike Spengler | Jan 13, 2008 2:15:06 AM

Mike Spengler, I most heartily agree with you -- you do have rocks in your head. And if you believe the government's silencing its critics should be put in any "perspective" other than tyranny, then you also have a funny "perspective" on what it means to be a liberal.

Since you brought up the subject of "perspective", let's put a couple of things in their proper perspective by noting that:
(1) Disrupting a town meeting by shouting down the speaker is not the same as wearing a T-shirt that bears a message that criticizes the government, and
(2) Being removed from a meeting for disruptive behavior is not the same as being arrested for peacefully passing out literature.

Freedom of speech is not the right to outshout or silence those who disagree with you.

Posted by: Bob | Jan 13, 2008 4:10:20 AM

update 29/1/08
today the Knesset debated an amendment to the BAsic Law: Jerusalem, to prohibit any Gay Pride marches!

Posted by: asher | Jan 30, 2008 2:50:12 PM

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