Defending human rights in Israel is harder now: Israeli activist
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Thursday, June 17, 2010
It has become harder to defend human rights in Israel over the past few months as rights defenders are increasingly branded as betrayers of the Israeli state, according to a prominent Israeli activist.
Since the U.N.’s Goldstone Report about the Gaza conflict was published in September 2009, human rights organizations and activists have faced increasing challenges from the Israeli state and media, who blame them for collaborating with the “enemy,” said Professor Anat Biletzki, who works at B’Tselem, an Israeli center for reporting on human rights in the occupied territories.
“Today, we have to emphasize that we are not on the Palestinian side but that we are Israeli people,” Biletzki said. “Doing human rights in Israel today is not a matter of supporting Palestinians, but it is necessary to uphold the democracy in Israel.
“The Goldstone Report, named after the Judge Richard Goldstone, was a U.N. mission, not an enemy,” said Biletzki, speaking at conference in Istanbul on Thursday, titled “Gaza: A Forgotten Prison,” organized by Maltepe University’s Human Rights Center and the UNESCO Philosophy Chair. However, Israeli authorities refused to collaborate with the reporters and it was human rights associations who gave Israeli information to the UN reporters, said Biletzki, also a lecturer in Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.
“After the release of the Goldstone Report as well as the incident of the Mavi Marmara, human rights associations, including B’Tselem, are mentioned as betrayers in many talk show programs in Israel,” she said.
“We used to be thought of as completely reliable organizations. We are now not only doing our work but also constantly dealing with saying we are not biased, one-sided or collaborating with any enemy,” said Biletzki. The security issue is always coming before human rights in Israel, according to Biletzki. “The argument of ‘the security of the Israeli people’ is always winning, even in the courts.”
She said military prosecutors allowed the prosecution of two Israeli soldiers for human rights violations recently thanks to evidence collected by human rights activists. “We are improving slowly,” she said.