Rights groups attack Israeli bill to shut down military critics

[Israeli supporters argue that Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East: yet… The Guardian – Excerpts: Israeli human rights groups say they are deeply concerned about a newly proposed bill that could shut down any organisation that investigates and mounts legal challenges to abuses by the military. The bill was introduced in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, yesterday with the support of at least 17 MPs from different parties. If it became law it would prevent any organisation from being registered, or would close down existing groups if they were found to be passing information “to foreign entities” or were “involved in legal proceedings abroad against senior Israeli government officials or IDF officers for war crimes”. Rights groups said the bill, an amendment to the law of associations, was the latest in a series of efforts to curb their activity in the wake of Israel’s war in Gaza. Several groups produced evidence suggesting the Israeli Defence Forces had committed serious violations of international law during the three-week war and gave evidence to the UN inquiry led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone.

It also appears to have support among the Israeli public. An opinion poll for the Ha’aretz newspaper this week found 58% of Jewish Israelis believed human rights groups that exposed immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely. Slightly more than half said there was “too much freedom of expression” in Israel, according to the survey by the Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research, at Tel Aviv University. Most said they supported punishing Israelis who backed sanctions or boycotts against Israel, and supported punishing journalists who reported news critical of the Israeli defence establishment.

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