On Friday, Dec 9, thousands of Israelis marched through Tel Aviv for
international human rights day. The day before the Prime Minister,
Benjamin Netanyahu, made an address, emphasizing the right to protest
in Israel and comparing the J14 “Israeli Summer” protests to the Arab
Spring. However the rights the Israelis who protested for social and
economic reasons are not enjoyed by millions of Palestinians under
Israeli military occupation. While Israelis are subject to Israeli civil law,
Palestinians are subject to a set of military orders. Order 101 effectively
bans political protest of more than 10 people. The Real News’ Lia
Tarachansky spoke to Libby Lenkinski, the Director of International
Relations at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel about the difference
in the right to protest for Israelis and Palestinians.
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: On Friday, thousands of Israelis marched through Tel Aviv to mark International Human Rights Day.
CHANTING: Human rights right now!
TARACHANSKY: Various groups fighting for human rights in Israel came together in this march. They included African refugees, Bedouin communities, and the global Occupy movement.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Yes to recognizing (Bedouin villages), no to uprooting.
TARACHANSKY: But the march was organized to protest a wave of laws right-wing and religious parties are currently passing through Parliament. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called this collection of laws antidemocratic. Libby Lenkinski is their director of international relations.
LIBBY LENKINSKI, ASSOCIATION FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN ISRAEL: And by antidemocratic, we’re basically looking at four categories of legislative initiatives that are coming up at various speeds and with various fervour in our Knesset. The first is a whole slew of legislation aimed at limiting the rights of the Arab minority in Israel. And these are a spate of legislation that call into question various things like loyalty. The second trend that we see are a group of legislation, legislative bills, and now some laws which aim to limit the ability for civil society to operate, specifically targeting human rights NGOs and political NGOs that don’t toe the party line, as it were. The third re-arising trend are a group of initiatives aimed at the High Court of Justice. And then the fourth is direct freedom of expression limitations, both aimed at the press and again at civil society. So things like the most recent amendment to the libel law. And for us the most worrying thing about some of these trends is that they create a serious chilling effect, where people who aim to voice important criticism of Israeli government policy have to think twice before they do so.
TARACHANSKY: In preparation for Human Rights Day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recorded a special address claiming Israel is a model of human rights in the region. Specifically, Netanyahu outlined the right to protest, comparing the social justice movement of the summer to the Arab Spring.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: We’re proud to be a country that is governed by laws, not men, where protest in town squares is a way of life. It’s not a sign of revolution. People go to the squares. They give voice to whatever protests and grievances they have. They do it on the internet, they do it in the newspapers, they do it on television. They do it in our parliament, the Knesset, in a robust, dynamic, and free way that is an example for the entire democratic world.
TARACHANSKY: While the human rights march was held in Tel Aviv, an hour away in the West Bank dozens of Palestinian villages were holding their weekly nonviolent demonstrations. In Nabi Salih the protest ended when three demonstrators sustained serious injuries. Mustafa Tamimi is a 28-year-old resident of the village. He was shot at close range with a high-velocity tear gas canister by a soldier from a military jeep. The army then delayed the ambulance, and Tamimi died from his injuries the next day. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, he is the 20th protester since 2004 to be killed by Israeli soldiers in such protests.
LENKINSKI: And it’s important, when talking about the freedoms that the J14 movement experienced throughout the summer, to point out that at that same time, and for years before this, and continuously until today, Palestinians in the West Bank are not given that same right to protest. Palestinians living in the West Bank are subject to Israeli military law. They’re not tried in the same legal system as Israelis, the civilian courts inside Israel. Military Order 101 creates a situation or states fully that any gathering of Palestinians of above 10 people, 10 people or more, needs to require a special permit–needs to obtain a special permit from the occupying power, from the Israeli authorities. The backdrop of those protests is that Palestinians are protesting against the occupation. They are not going to request a permit from the occupier in order to do those protests. So, ostensibly, Military Order 101 creates a situation in which every protest in the occupied territories of Palestinians is illegal.
TARACHANSKY: Military Order 101 forbids displaying the Palestinian flag, printing of political posters, and bans the gathering of more than 10 people for a political purpose, or for a matter that may be construed as political.
LENKINSKY: Often people’s freedom of movement is limited as a means for blocking protests from occurring, so either by putting into place closed military zones around the specific areas that protests are taking place, or simply blocking cars from arriving at the protest site. Another way is through excessive use of force in crowd dispersal. Often protests which haven’t even started yet are already dispersed. The villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin were declared closed military zones semipermanently, every Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. So it’s clear that that’s being used in order to limit the possibility of protests from happening. And we see a lot of misuse of weapons, for example, shooting projectile tear gas canisters directly at protesters instead of in an arc fashion, which is how they’re meant to be used. And then another topic is a whole system of arrests, both that take place during the protests, where, you know, whoever is standing near the soldiers could potentially be arrested and, you know, often it’s youth that are involved in stonethrowing or other parts of the protest. But also night arrests that happen during villages during the night in various Palestinian villages, where Israeli military or security forces will go into a village and arrest people that are suspected of being part of protests. So you can see direct campaigns in particular villages of arresting the protest leaders.
TARACHANSKY: The difference between the Israeli and Palestinian right to protest was especially evident during the summer social justice movement, known as the July 14th or the Israeli Summer.
CHANTING: Mubarak! Assad! Bibi Netanyahu!
TARACHANSKY: While many were arrested, not a single protest was met with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber, or live ammunition, as is common in the West Bank. Even during Mustafa Tamimi’s funeral on Sunday, the army again invaded the village and showered the mourners with tear gas and skunk–a fluid that smells like sewage is shot from a water cannon truck. Three people were injured and eight arrested. The Tel Aviv march was also challenged by nationalist and settler organizations waving Israeli flags and singing the national anthem.
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): East Jerusalem settlers have human rights, too. Settlers have human rights, too. Who’s not jumping is red.
TARACHANSKY: Hanin Zoabi is a member of the Israeli parliament. Her parliamentary privileges were revoked because she participated in the Freedom Flotilla humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza in 2010.
HANIN ZOABI, KNESSET MEMBER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The racism didn’t start two years ago. It didn’t start with the Netanyahu government, the racism against the Arabs, dozens of laws, expropriation of lands, not recognizing the Palestinians as the indigenous people of this land. It’s the left in Israel, too. When we say we’re fighting racism, the entire concept of a nation exclusively for Jews is the basis for the racism. This awakening is partial. And I think until today it hasn’t put forward a real, brave alternative to the racism.
TARACHANSKY: In a form of political satire, antiracist protesters dressed up as the KKK as politicians and tycoons.
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Privatize the world! Eradicate human rights! Equality is a disaster! Power to the wealthy!
TARACHANSKY: For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Tel Aviv.