Difficult Times for the Israeli Civil Society
Source: Heinrich Boll Stiftung Israel

The number of attacks by the nationalist camp against Israeli human rights organizations and other non-governmental organizations has risen significantly in the past six months. The work of these organizations has always been disputed by certain parts of the Israeli society. In a state which is in conflict with its neighbors – a conflict  that frequently adopts violent and warlike traits, such disputes is are to be expected. Furthermore, a non-negligible part of the actors considers the conflict as an existential one.

In the public self-conception, the majority of Israelis see their state as Jewish and democratic. Continually, people are talking about Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East. For quite a long time the right part of the political spectrum in Israel has the tendency to shift the inherent tension between “Jewish” and “democratic” in favor of the “Jewish” aspect. Former member of Knesset Geula Cohen got to the heart of it with the following statement: “We need less democratic hysteria and more Zionist historia!”.

When in February 2010 the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem celebrated its 20th anniversary, some of the speakers remembered one of Yitzhak Rabin’s reasons for his decision to sign the Oslo accords: Yassir Arafat and the PLO were now able to deal with terrorists “without the High Court and B’Tselem”.

However, increased attacks on essential parts of Israeli civil society as they happened since 2009, above all as a consequence of the debates over the Gaza war in 2008/2009, are unequalled.

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