Netanyahu needs to learn some democracy lessons

The Israeli group Breaking the Silence recently released a report about alleged crimes by IDF officers during the Gaza war. The response from many in Israel was to attack the messenger rather than examining the charges.

Benjamin Netanyahu continued this onslaught during his visit to London:

“They are breaking their silence about the only democracy in the Middle East that has an independent legal system and an investigative press that does not cease dealing with these issues. There is no silence to break. What are they talking about?”

Netanyahu criticized non-government organizations like Breaking the Silence and others for not documenting human rights violations in the Gaza Strip and other Arab countries.

“Why don’t they break the silence over what is happening in some of the regimes in the Middle East?” Netanyahu said. “Let them do it in places in which there is silencing of others, like the Hamas regime in Gaza.”

“In the case of Hamas, I have not seen the same enthusiasm and the same concerted effort to break the silence over what is happening in Gaza,” the prime minister added.

The Foreign Ministry is lobbying European governments, including those of Holland, Spain, and Britain, to cut off its funding of the group’s activities. Israel says foreign funding of the group is tantamount to interference in the country’s internal affairs.

During his meeting with [Gordon] Brown, Netanyahu raised a number of sensitive issues, including efforts by some in Britain to charge IDF officers with war crimes for actions in the Palestinian territories.

“This is something that does not go hand in hand with morality and clear logic,” Netanyahu told Brown. “Israel, like Britain, is fighting terrorism and is exercising its right to self-defense. There is no place for accusing IDF officers just as no one can accuse British officers operating in Afghanistan or Iraq. Ultimately, these things will also hurt [the British].”

Haaretz rightly reminds the Israeli leader that he’s not the head of North Korea:

The strength of a nation depends not only on its ability to fight its enemies, but also on its willingness to listen to critical voices from within. Breaking the Silence acted in order to provide details to the public about IDF behavior in Gaza, behavior which the official establishment had played down. The democracy of which Netanyahu is so proud is also tested by its openness to listening to additional viewpoints, and not only by declaiming government policy.

According to Netanyahu’s line of thought, criticism of the government is legitimate if it comes from the right wing – that is to say, the state is not militant enough and its excesses should be glossed over. Funding is fine as long as it comes from various foreign groups of conflict-mongers, and on behalf of settlements endangering peace and security, but not to warn of injustices.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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