Tel Aviv moves away from peace

Israel would rather erode its institutions than face the consequences of its occupation

A general view shows the plenum during a session at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
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On Monday, Israel’s parliament passed a law that will place special scrutiny on non-governmental organisations. It voted to impose special reporting requirements on NGOs that depend on foreign funding. While it dropped a provision that would force NGO representatives to wear special badges in parliament, the new law targets human rights groups such as B’Tselem that provide critical reporting on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

At its core, the new law erodes Israel’s democratic institutions by targeting organisations that call for an end of the occupation and hold a mirror up to society about the true face of Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians. The law comes amid a wave of anti-democratic legislation and threatening rhetoric from senior Israeli officials. This month, public security minister Gilad Erdan attacked Facebook with claims that it had “blood on its hands” for failing to curb Palestinian incitement.

The direction of travel with these unfounded outbursts and attacks on anti-occupation organisations is clear. Israel prefers to criminalise dissent and shoot the messenger rather than face up to the horrific nature of its occupation. For Palestinians, and the rest of the international community, this is sobering confirmation that Tel Aviv is unable and unwilling to find the desire to implement an equitable settlement to the conflict.

With a new prime minister in Britain and new president on the way in America, the international community must recognise the message that Israel is sending with these anti-democratic laws. Dissent about the occupation and constructive calls for peace with the Palestinians are becoming illegal in Israel. Organisations that document Israeli human rights abuses are monitored. Israeli leaders attack social media platforms.

In essence, Israel is not interested in peace and its extremist leadership captures this current mood with laws. Constructive forms of international pressure such as boycotts should now be considered for peace to have a chance.