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The Attack On Democracy

Dear friends,


The current Israeli government’s attacks on democracy continue at a dangerous and fast pace. But, the regime change promoted by the new government to destroy the judiciary has been held at bay due to a collective effort of activists and advocates. Yesterday, we had an extraordinary victory as the government was unable to choose their candidate for a judicial selection committee that is key to their regime change aims.


ACRI is so proud to be part of this community that is vigilantly fighting to maintain Israel’s democratic institutions-and to deepen it.


Still, we can’t let up even for a moment as the government constantly attempts to force anti-democratic measures.


Second only to their efforts to change our judiciary, this government consistently attacks Palestinian citizens of Israel (who comprise 21% of the Israeli population), introducing bill after bill that aims to create a dangerous situation of a separate and unequal regime that will ring sadly familiar to American readers.


The government is promoting several bills that deeply threaten not only freedom of expression, freedom of protest and civil society organizations in Israel, but also indiscriminately target Palestinian citizens of Israel. Here are a few issues that we are following closely:


Murders in Arab society in Israel have reached historic and inhumane highs, with over 100 Arab citizens murdered since the beginning of 2023. Almost all of these murders are related to organized crime syndicates working in the Arab communities where access to bank loans and building permits is scarce due to long standing endemic racism and inequities in Israeli society. This has created a black market economy, putting criminals in charge.


Rather than deal with the endemic inequalities at their core, this government instead seeks a quick anti-democratic fix that will not only be invasive to citizen’s rights, but will further exacerbate the problems. Minister of National Security Ben Gvir seeks to include the Shin Bet security services in fighting Israeli crime (something the Shin Bet themselves oppose). This would set up an horrific precedent-using security forces against Israelis in domestic settings. Another proposal aims to set up administrative detention denying basic legal rights for presumed criminals.


ACRI’s Arab Society Department has been focusing in recent years on issues of land, policing and representation. We have long fought for equal rights for all Israeli citizens, whether in cultural identity, education, or housing. But, this government seeks to entrench racist law in all three areas.


ACRI has a decades-long record of fighting for the defense of waving the Palestinian flag in public places, which are rights guaranteed as freedom of expression. Most Palestinian citizens of Israel consider this flag an expression of their collective identity. The current government wants to further exclude Palestinians from the public sphere, including introducing two bills relating to the Palestinian flag. One bill would make it illegal to raise the Palestinian flag in public. The other bill would bar the display of Palestinian flags on Israeli university campuses. Students caught violating the ban would be suspended or even blocked from receiving a degree.


Another completely unnecessary and harmful bill was introduced to engage the Shin Bet security services in monitoring Arab teachers inside of Israeli schools, creating a racist and divisive atmosphere in these schools. This bill would harass and control teachers.


Another bill that was introduced by the Otzma Yehudit Party (Jewish Strengh), which is part of the government, that would entrench racial segregation within Israel and advance the physical exclusion of Arabs. This bill will allow communities of 1,000 families or more to make decisions of who gets to live there-or not. These committees can accept or reject applicants at their own discretion based on arbitrary and discriminatory criteria of applicants’ “social suitability” to the “social and cultural fabric” of a community, a clear practice of housing segregation against Arabs, Mizrahi Jews, Ethiopians, and others in Israeli society. ACRI has led the struggle against “acceptance committees” in the past, and will take up this struggle again.


Meanwhile, there is good news. We are also grateful for the role that the US government and the EU have played in defending democratic norms. ACRI is in close contact with the embassies here in Israel. Thanks to diplomatic pressure, multiple pieces of legislation have been shelved, including an NGO tax bill that would have taxed donations from foreign entities to NGOs doing human rights work especially in the Occupied Palestinian Territories at a rate of 65%, clearly an attempt to de-fund the human rights advocacy community.


Our work continues around the clock. We are heartened by the partnership we share with all of you, knowing that we are all propelled forward by shared values and belief in a democratic future.


Thank you for your partnership. It means a lot to all of us-and it is making a difference. Please stay in touch. Query us with any questions. And, come visit us when you are in Israel. Noa Sattath Executive Director Association for Civil Rights in Israel

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