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  • Noa Sattath

ACRI & Haaretz Joint Human Rights Conference

Since the start of the war, the progression of the regime change and their impact on Israeli democracy seemingly came to a pause. However, on multiple fronts, we are witnessing unprecedented attacks on human rights. Furthermore, under governmental auspices, there is a noteworthy escalation in human rights violations concerning prisoners within the Israeli prison system and Palestinian residents in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Simultaneously, the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza has detrimentally affected human rights for all Palestinians.  

Given the ongoing conflict, these violations are not widely discussed in the Israeli public. As we estimate that the impact of the war is long-lasting, we at ACRI are working on framing and naming these new trends in order to better understand them and create public discourse around them. For this purpose, we held our first-ever joint conference with Haaretz: “Silence: its Wartime, Human Rights is the Bullseye.”  

Amidst this crisis, it was crucial to come together to reestablish the foundations of human and civil rights protections with some of Israel’s leading influential figures and their accompanied expertise. The conference held unique importance due to its ability to bring like-minded individuals into one, open space where activists and supporters gathered to protect critical aspects of their livelihood. During a time of such deep turmoil for Israelis and Palestinians everywhere, it was inspiring to see over 300 in-person and over 8,000 online supporters join us in discussing such meaningful and thought-provoking topics; connected in our desire to safeguard human rights for all.  

In my opening statements I described since October 7, the reality we live in has been frightening and unbearable. The amount of death, human suffering, humiliation, and degradation of the most basic human rights is impossible to contain. The present is hard to bare and it is terrifying to imagine the future 

Human rights organizations and the struggle for human rights are always crucial, but during wartime, their role is even more vital. We planned this conference so that together, we can remember that the protection of human rights is a fundamental value for many. We will look at reality together and think about how we can deal with it because protecting human rights is the only compass we have. 

Watch my full speech below:

We have left the conference with feelings of dismay for the current period, but uplifted by the community that joined us. Both ACRI and Haaretz are in awe of the unwaivering support and passion to continue on this journey despite all the unknown that lies ahead. Continue with us on this path to rebuilding a future that is brighter for us all. Make a lasting difference today that will affect the generations of tomorrow. 

Photo credit: Moti Milrod, Haaretz

One-on-one with former Member of Knesset and current Head of High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens in Nazareth Mohammad Baraka and Haaretz Editor in Chief Aluf Benn  

Barakeh, along with other former Arab members of Knesset, was arrested while attempting to participate in a small protest advocating for an end to the war. In other instances, the police denied permits for additional protests by the follow-up committee. Barakeh attributes the mistreatment of the Arab society to the prime minister (who is hiding behind Minister Ben Gvir), alleging collusion between the courts and the government, failing to act as gatekeepers for freedom of protest and speech.

Barakeh contextualizes the events of October 7 and the ongoing war within a historical framework: "Everyone talks about October 7, but the decisive date for me is 1948. The State of Israel was established as an expression of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, but the State of Palestine was not established. Anyone who treats October 7 independently of the suffering of the Palestinian people over the past 75 years is sinning to the mark. But I have said again and again, all the suffering of the Palestinian people does not justify harming one Jewish child, and all the suffering of the Jewish people since the Holocaust until today, does not justify harming one Palestinian child. But everything that happened on October 7 does not justify what is happening now in Gaza. People should look in the mirror and be shocked." 

Barakeh highlights how difficult it is for Palestinian citizens of Israel to find allies within the current political climate. He believes that finding a path to promote equality for Palestinian citizens is the only way forward, and he is fully commtted to this cause.  

Photo credit: Moti Milrod, Haaretz

One-on-one with Noam Dan, relative of Gaza hostage Ofer Kalderon, and Shany Littman, Haaretz Reporter 

Dan is the cousin of Hadas Kalderon, whose ex-husband and 2 children were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7. She has emerged as a prominent advocate for the families affected by the hostage situation in Israel. Despite not being an immediate family member, Dan speaks out on their behalf, providing a voice for those too shattered to do so.  

She acknowledges the pressure for the families to conform to a certain image but emphasizes that their goal is not to be "national sweethearts,' but instead to secure the release of the hostages. She boldly asserts that being in the consensus is merely a means to an end, and the focus should be on restoring the fundamental right to live safely, which was violated on October 7th. Moreover, Dan demands a need for humanitarian assistance for the hostages and an immediate ceasefire. She further states her support for pulling out forces if necessary, for the sake of the hostages. 

Dan also calls to have more diversity in the war cabinet, by letting women and non-military professionals take part. She claims the use of force should be limited, and there needs to be willingness to use other courses of action. Dan reveals attempts by the government to divide the families (mainly on the issue of military operation vs diplomatic solution to release the hostages) and discrepancies in police treatment: the police (most likely under orders of the Minister) were very gentle with hostage families who tried to block humanitarian aid to enter Gaza while families who blocked the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv were violently arrested. 

Photo credit: Moti Milrod, Haaretz

Panel with former Head of Civil Administration in the West Bank, Ilan Paz and Shira Livne, ACRI’s head of the Occupied Palestinian Territories Unit. 

The panel delved into the developments in the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) since the commencement of the war and the underlying factors enabling them. The first being the ongoing occupation of territories under military control, where Palestinians lack political and civil rights, illegal settlements continue to expand, driven by a clear agenda of maximizing territory with minimal Palestinian presence. The second factor is the official government policy under the current administration, explicitly aiming for Jewish domination in the OPT. The coalition agreement further solidifies this by incorporating military mechanisms for naturalization and directing investments in settlement expansion, including funding, legalization of illegal outposts, land appropriation, and the establishment of new settlements. 

Since the war began, there has been a notable escalation in settler violence, already at an all-time high. This is not merely sporadic "revenge campaigns," but rather an organized effort to create sterile spaces around settlements, eradicating Palestinian presence between them. Various means, including violence leading to the death and injury of Palestinians, obstruction of the olive harvest, and destruction of agricultural resources, are employed to expel entire communities. Additionally, there is a discernible decrease in enforcement against settlers, both in cases of violence and illegal settlement construction, exacerbating an already low level of accountability. 

Concerns regarding the protection of human rights in the OPT have risen, with the army declaring its mission as safeguarding only the lives of Israelis. Under international law, the Israeli military is required to protect Palestinians in the occupied territories in which they have completely failed to do so. Moreover, following the war the Israeli forces have often aided in the violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. The panel went through various means that ACRI expertise have developed to more effectively require Israeli miliaty forces to protect Palestinian residents of the West Bank and mitigate further violence from settlers.  

Photo credit: Moti Milrod, Haaretz

ACRI’s Director of Political Advocacy, Debbie Gilad-Hayo shares her personal challenges working in human rights 

“...Three months ago, a frightening and threatening campaign of incitement and hatred was waged against me, stemming solely from the fact that I fulfilled my role as a representative of a human rights organization in a Knesset debate..." for the full speech please read here


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