ACRI Will Not Succumb To Threats
I am writing to inform you that since yesterday one of ACRI's staff members has been subjected to relentless and sustained threats, endangering her life and the lives of her family. The gravity, pervasiveness, and specificity of these threats have necessitated enhanced security measures for her and for ACRI' staff and offices.
The threats began following yesterday's Knesset committee session during which Member of Knesset, Tzvika Fogel (Jewish Power Party), lashed out at the ACRI staff member and proceeded to state that the staff member should watch videos of the Hamas attacks. MK Fogel subsequently had her taken out of the room while creating a false narrative implying that she had come to the committee session to ensure family visits to Hamas prisoners. He sought to convey a narrative implying that our work to uphold the fundamental human rights of prisoners in Israel amounted to support for Hamas. He launched a disinformation campaign designed to redirect public outrage from government shortcomings to inciting against ACRI's staff.
Since the horrific events of October 7th, in which Hamas executed a heinous attack, the ACRI team, like all Israeli citizens, has been grappling with profound grief, mourning and anxiety. At the same time, we are swamped with non-stop work to protect human rights and civil libertiesthat are under attack. We take pride in this work, but it also subjects us to a surge in threats against us. We find ourselves faced with the question: Why should ACRI continue advocating for human rights, freedom of expression, and the rights of Palestinians in Gaza, as well as the rights of prisoners in Israel during these tumultuous times?
This question can be answered on several levels:
1. On a humanitarian level: human rights violations disproportionately affect vulnerable and underprivileged communities; they need our protection now. Families are currently struggling with mounting debts as the economy is shut down, Palestinians in the OPT are being denied access to crucial services such as healthcare, education, and employment, while Arab university students are increasingly becoming targets of hate and violence. New bills that threaten Israel's democratic pillars are being actively discussed in the Knesset. Especially after October 7th, each and every individual deserves protection of their fundamental rights.
2. On an institutional level: History teaches us that during times of crisis, human rights violations are more easily perpetrated with less public opposition. Anti-democratic governments tend to exploit statuses of emergency to undermine rights and weaken institutions, and these violations can persist even after the emergency subsides. Now is the time for human rights organizations to take bold action and delineate clear boundaries.
For me, the answer also lies in how we deal with the tragedy all around us. Recommitting to our core principles of humanity, democracy, and equality, is our only link to a vision for a hopeful future. In a time of uncertainty, when the path forward is so unclear, the commitment to protection of human rights serves as our one guiding compass on a long and challenging journey towards a better future for ourselves and the generations to come.
We are concerned about the incitement against us, but we are not deterred. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel will persist in its unwavering commitment to protect the human rights of all those under the responsibility of the State of Israel, especially the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society. Even now, especially now.
Freedom of speech
We firmly believe that when the cannons roar, we must not remain silent. We have approached the Attorney General with a request to clarify the police's duty to permit demonstrations even in these trying times. We opposed an anti-democratic bill proposal that sought to criminalize "systematic and prolonged incitement" to terrorism, and we cautioned against the growing trend of investigations initiated by social media posts.
Shelter and Evacuation
Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens live without adequate shelter or any protection, even in areas subject to frequent attacks. We have urged the government to take responsibility and ensure the shelter or evacuation of residents in neighborhoods such as the city of Bat Yam (near Tel Aviv), in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, and in Arab towns in the north.
Incitement Against the Arab Community
Growing incitement and violence have been directed towards the Arab community in Israel, often supported and led by senior public figures and elected officials. We demandedinvestigations against Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai for their incendiary statements.
ACRI appealed to the head of the Prison Service regarding the lack of protective spaces in detention facilities and the keeping of prisoners in their cells during rocket attacks. We also emphasized the urgency of reducing overcrowding in detention facilities.
Violence Against Palestinians in the West Bank
While the public's attention is focused on the war, there has been an alarming wave of violence committed by settlers in the West Bank against Palestinians. Entire communities are being forcibly displaced from their homes, subjected to threats, and witnessing their property being destroyed. There has been minimal to no military intervention to protect these vulnerable populations. We addressed this issue in our appeals to key decision-makers, including Security Cabinet members, the Chief of Staff, the head of the Shin Bet, and the Commissioner of Police. In a collective effort, with 30 other partner organizations, we are urging the international community to take action against this violence.
Economic Assistance and Support for Displaced Individuals and Workers
While addressing the assistance and compensation programs for those impacted by the conflict, it is crucial to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable groups are taken into account. Our input on various relief initiatives emphasizes the importance of recognizing the rights and challenges faced by temporary workers, female employees, individuals in debt, single mothers, people with disabilities, displaced residents in need of healthcare services, and many others.