Anyone who wants to experience the Wild Wild East should try driving in Israel. You’ll witness Israeli chutzpah, surprising improvisations usually reserved for stunt drivers, and an ambivalent approach to law and order.
It’s not uncommon for cars in Israel to have bumper stickers that ask: “How is my driving?” alongside a phone number you can call to complain. I have tried calling these numbers, either after accidents I avoided by the skin of my teeth, or after seeing someone commit four traffic violations in two seconds flat. Usually no one answered the call. In one case, the offending driver answered himself. I could tell because I could hear the siren of the ambulance that was passing us by on the other end of the line.
Bumper stickers will not help reduce lawlessness on the road unless citizen involvement in maintaining law and order is taken seriously.
Israeli human rights organizations fulfill this role. By challenging Israeli authorities to investigate, prosecute and deter civil and human rights violations wherever they occur, they serve as a crucial compass in places where there is the greatest potential for moral failure. For many years Israel prided itself on the existence of these organizations, but times have changed.
Yesterday, Israel’s cabinet approved a bill that would silence the voices of many of these important organizations. The bill, if passed by the Knesset, would require nonprofit groups that receive funds from foreign countries to declare themselves as AGENTS of that foreign country. Our human rights activists would have to wear a special badge that would say, next to their name, “Agent of Switzerland.”
The law is designed to demonize nonprofit organizations who are critical of Israel’s policies towards Arabs and Palestinians, and label Israeli citizens who work for these organizations as foreign meddlers.
IRAC is not directly affected by the law, but we strongly identify with our fellow human rights activists. If the Knesset passes this law, we too will wear the yellow badge, as an expression of solidarity. Mine will say: “Anat Hoffman, Agent of the Reform Movement Worldwide.”
Israeli human rights workers have dedicated their lives to promoting and preserving the values enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. Silencing their voices is like putting a sticker on Israel’s bumper saying “How am I driving? Call 1-800-NO-ONE’S-HOME.” It won’t make us any safer. It will just make us take our eyes off the road.
Send an email to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him not to submit the bill to the Knesset for a final vote. Then make an end-of-the-year, tax-deductible donation to IRAC so that we can continue our fight for an Israel that respects democracy, equality, and human rights for all.