Naomi Chazan, president of the New Israel Fund – currently attacked by the far right for daring to support human rights in Israel and Palestine – tells the Independent that the current climate in the Jewish state is highly dangerous (and yet where are the Diaspora Jews speaking out? You can count them on a few hands):
Ms Chazan does not herself talk about McCarthyism –though several of her agency’s defenders, including Isaac Herzog, a Labour party minister in the governing coalition, have done so. But she told The Independent: “Every country has its own version of things but the general climate is very problematic. It’s ugly.” She said the mood reminded her of the hate-laced run-up to Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in November 1995. “But it’s different, because that was an avowedly political disagreement. This is the beginning of a rather systematic campaign against really the very essentials of Israeli democracy.”
Ms Chazan cites the arrests of Israelis at demonstrations against the encroachment of Jewish settlers in the Arab East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah. And the interrogation and fingerprinting last month of her friend Anat Hoffman, of the reform group Religious Action Centre, who for 20 years has challenged ultra-Orthodox control of the Western Wall by seeking to entrench the right of women to pray in shawls there.
“There is an assault on the basics of law and order but most important I see this as part of a very pernicious attempt to stifle alternative voices, and most seriously to equate criticism with betrayal. And there is a very strong political underpinning to that. I would go further … behind this [is] a group of people who don’t want a political settlement. They don’t want peace, so they’re trying to delegitimise the human rights movement.”