A few women scare the Jewish state

The persecution in Israel of the feminist peace group New Profile is a worrying sign of that country’s fear of robust debate. Are they seriously afraid of a few women criticising the state? Clearly, yes.

Rela Mazali of New Profile gave a speech on May 14 in a Tel Aviv University public forum titled:”Freedom of Speech – Between Theory and Practice: On the limits of free speech in light of the recent detainment and interrogation of nine New Profile activists.”

It’s a powerful piece of work, cleverly outlining the troubles in the Jewish state. These are views that I’m hearing in Israel; fear of Arabs, fear of terrorism, fear of Iran and fear of Obama:

They, I, we, the New Profile movement, are suspected – according to the police and the Attorney General – of the offense of “incitement”. This criminal offense has yet to be enforced in the state of Israel. It has never yet led, to date, to indictments or trial in an Israeli court, for the law that prohibits it is viewed as problematic and overly vague. The authorities, however, have not stopped at pulling this questionable offense out of the law books; for good measure we are also suspected of counseling young men and women to lie to the military towards procuring exemptions from service.

The powers that be are spreading a broad and intentionally ill-defined dragnet; it’s not hard to imagine it snagging something – some word or sentence torn out of its careful context, as already experienced by some of those interrogated.

New Profile is an open, feminist movement of resistance, very rich in words, formulations, challenging viewpoints, unconventional civil-critical thinking and strong public declarations. Of course we’re being criminalized for verbal offenses – what else? For alleged incitement. For alleged lies. Verbal offenses nevertheless punishable by serious sentences.

But the preposterous suspicions we are being framed for are not the real motive for the Attorney General’s instructions or the army’s concerted pressure or the police’s hyperbolic production. All of these were motivated not by lies but rather by the truth we speak; the truth that we’ve been speaking over every available channel for more than a decade, the truth that we are a state trapped in militarized patterns of action, a society addicted to militarized mindsets and the use of force.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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