Those who care about Israeli democracy can’t stay silent about the new spate of dangerous rhetorical attacks by Prime Minister Netanyahu and members of his government on B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad.
In the wake of El-Ad’s testifying before the UN Security Council on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the Prime Minister directly accused B’Tselem of joining “a chorus of slander” against Israel and announced that his government would consider punitive steps against them. Now the chairman of the governing coalition, MK David Bitan, has accused El-Ad of an “explicit breach of trust by an Israeli citizen against the state” and said that he will work to have El-Ad’s citizenship revoked.
Language that suggests that B’Tselem is guilty of treasonous behavior for presenting their view of the occupation to the UNSC is outrageous and irresponsible. It has the potential to incite real violence, and reinforces the activities of extreme right-wing NGOs like Im Tirzu, which last December released a video portraying B’Tselem activists as foreign agents stabbing Israel in the back. Looking back on Israel’s history shows us where such accusations can lead.
These type of charges and threats might be expected from an undemocratic country – but they are unacceptable in a democracy. Prime Minister Netanyahu should rebuke Bitan and reconsider his own statements. The Prime Minister would be well-advised to take these steps in defense of Israel’s democracy.