Palestinian citizens in Israel: A fast-shrinking civic space

Nadim Nashif and Raya Naamneh write: Israel still portrays itself as a Jewish and democratic state. Yet in practice, as its Palestinian citizens can attest, it functions as a Jewish ethnocracy, leaving small margins of freedom for its Palestinian citizens that have been steadily shrinking in the past few years. Now the Israeli state has come under the complete control of the far right wing, which sees no need even for such limited margins of freedom. This is evident in the wave of discriminatory legislation and the use of the Emergency Regulations against established non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and movements such as the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

The many laws that Israeli Knesset (parliament) and government have passed to constrain Palestinian citizens’ political participation and activism include, in 2011 alone, the “Anti-Boycott” law, which prohibits the public promotion of boycotts; the “Nakba” law, which prevents Palestinian commemoration of their catastrophe due to Israel’s creation in 1948; and the “Foreign Government Funding” law, which places onerous reporting requirements on NGOs. These laws have severely damaged the ability of Palestinian parties, NGOs, and activists to freely express their opinions and protest Israel’s crimes, both within and outside the Green Line.

More recently, a bill proposed by former foreign minister and current Member of Knesset (MK) Avigdor Lieberman would prohibit the Israeli Supreme Court from interfering in the Knesset’s Central Elections Committee decision to disqualify MKs based on their political stances. If approved, this bill would directly target Palestinian MKs, such as Haneen Zoubi and her party, “Balad – the National Democratic Alliance,” who have previously been faced with attempts to disqualify them.

In addition to targeting political participation at the government level, Israel has limited or prohibited the work of several NGOs at the municipal level. It is important to note that the NGOs impacted include both Palestinian and Israeli organizations fighting to expose Israel’s human rights violations and the apartheid regime it maintains in all of historic Palestine. [Continue reading…]

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