J Street is deeply concerned by numerous reports from our pro-peace, pro-democracy partners in Israel that Israeli authorities are acting to limit the free speech and free assembly of Israelis advocating for peace, coexistence and Palestinian rights.
Coexistence advocacy group ‘Standing Together’ reported that authorities this week shut down a joint Jewish-Arab rally, fining and arresting organizers and confiscating bilingual, pro-peace signs in Hebrew and Arabic. The group has also received hundreds of reports from Palestinian citizens of Israel who have faced threats, academic expulsion and professional repercussions for speaking out against violence towards Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
We have seen police break up anti-war protests in Haifa, and right-wing government ministers drafting regulations which may allow them to shut down media organizations or arrest individual citizens for speech which “undermines morale.” A left-wing, ultra-Orthodox journalist was targeted in his home because he publicly prayed for Palestinians killed in Gaza. Adalah, an organization that promotes the human rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, has reported that at least 100 Israelis have been arrested for social media posts related to the conflict in Gaza, and that 70 remain in detention.
This atmosphere of intimidation, repression and enforced ideological conformity is deeply alarming and wrong. Israel’s pluralistic democracy is a strength, not a weakness, and a cornerstone of the US-Israel relationship. Times of war test our values and democratic freedoms and we cannot allow them to become casualties of conflict.
J Street calls on Israeli authorities to uphold the rights of free speech, free assembly and non-violent protest, and we urge the Biden Administration to stress the importance of these rights and protections in their ongoing discussions with the Israeli government.