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Occupation magazine - Activism

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The anti-democratic initiatives only strengthen our resolve
Jessica Montell

Last week the government proposed two bills to limit foreign government funding to organizations like B`Tselem. The Prime Minister has frozen these proposals for the time-being, however they are part of a broader attack on democratic institutions in Israel, like the High Court and the press, and on critics of current government policy.

We are working together with partner organizations to ensure that these bills do not become law. At the same time, we refuse to allow these initiatives to distract us from our work. In fact, I see this precisely as their goal: to silence criticism, whether by actually passing legislation that obstructs our work, or at a minimum by forcing us to divert precious resources in order to defend ourselves from these initiatives.

In response, we have redoubled our efforts to promote human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This month, our priority is to prevent the forced relocation of some 2,300 people living in communities around the Ma`ale Adumim settlement. We are also expanding our outreach to the Israeli public, through the launch of our Hebrew Facebook page, and regular publication of opinion pieces in the Israeli press, such as this piece last week on Hebron.

Government watchdogs like B`Tselem are an important part of any democratic society. I am proud of B`Tselem`s work to make Israel a more just and equitable society. The media and public attention generated by the Knesset initiatives provide us a valuable opportunity to reinforce this message.

Some members of the government are trying to make it suspect to support B`Tselem. They argue that support from abroad to groups like BTselem is akin to interfering in domestic political affairs. In fact, virtually every institution in Israel is dependent on donations from abroad, including donations from foreign governments. European Union support to human rights organizations, for example, constitutes just one percent of the EU`s total grants to Israel. I see it as a badge of honor that individuals, institutions and governments around the world support our work to ensure that all Israelis and Palestinians can live in dignity and in full realization of their rights.

I call on all those who share our commitment to human rights and want to ensure the health and vibrancy of the Israeli democracy to speak up now and help us stop these efforts to stifle Israeli civil society. I have full confidence that, working together, champions of democracy both inside Israel and around the world will overcome these dangerous initiatives.
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