The Israeli Knesset has passed a new law which will punish anyone who reveals the identity of any police or Border Police officer or IDF soldier accused of committing crimes against Palestinians. Named Azarya’s Law and championed by a Labor Party MK, it condones the crimes of an IDF soldier who murdered a wounded Palestinian in cold blood and currently faces a criminal trial.
Any Israeli who exposes the names of such individuals would face a six-month jail sentence. The law would apply only to the publication of such names in Israel. It would not directly affect the work of this blog.
In a totally selfish way, I should be happy. The more fascist Israel becomes, the more important this blog becomes as a locus of resistance. The more likely Israelis who dissent against such draconian, anti-democratic measures will see Tikun Olam as a suitable outlet to turn to.
Obviously though, the decline of Israel as a democratic state and its lapse into totalitarianism isn’t something to relish. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem that my opinions on this matter much. So I can enjoy the benefits of the ascendancy of Israeli fascism from afar without pangs of guilty conscience (please note the irony intended).
There is only one purpose for this law: to make the prosecution of Israelis who murder under color of uniform more difficult. The less the public knows about crimes committed in its name the less it will clamor for accountability. It is already almost impossible to bring such Israeli authorities to justice. With the new law, it will become virtually impossible.
Just by way of comparison, imagine a U.S. law that prohibited publishing the names of police officers who kill Black citizens. Any American who values civil liberties and virtually all minority Americans, would rightly decry this attempt to shield police from the glare of bad publicity. That is why such a law wouldn’t stand a chance of passage, even in the most conservative state. In Israel, alas, it’s considered a patriotic duty to protect law enforcement at all costs, no matter how heinous their acts.
The author of the bill which became law, Eyal Ben Reuven, is a former IDF major-general. It seems a glaring contradiction that Ben Reuven’s fellow generals are testifying against Azarya and claiming he violated military procedure in killing the defenceless Palestinian victim, while the MK sides with El-Or Azarya, the accused murderer. Sometimes, you have to wonder which side they’re on–the side of law or the side of anarchy. Sometimes it seems even they don’t know.
Need I remark on the bitter irony of an MK representing the so-called Israeli left sponsoring a bill to protect accused Israeli criminals and murderers? The Labor Party has long since renounced any right to call itself anything other than Likud-lite.
There may be those who cry out for the “victim,” that is, the poor Israeli soul charged with a crime. Isn’t he innocent till proven guilty? Yes, he is. But that presumes he will be tried and judged in a court. This provision would preclude any such thing. No one deserves to be completely shielded, before and after he’s charged.
The trial of Azarya is progressing according to the script written by army brass. Azarya, a low-level grunt who took his job of killing Palestinians a little too seriously, is being hung out to dry. Not because the army is interested in maintaining the rule of law, but only because a brave Palestinian videotaped the summary execution for the world to see. If there had been no camera, his superiors would’ve clapped him on the back and given him a promotion. That makes him a sacrificial lamb to protect the army’s reputation.
That is one of the reasons so many Israelis have flocked to Azarya’s cause. They see the hypocrisy of what the commanders are doing. They see that Azarya is a small cog threatening to bust a big machine. These Israelis also don’t give a crap about a lost Palestinian life. Which makes it even easier to side with the Israeli victim over his powerful bosses.
Israeli Supreme Court approves plundering Palestine’s cultural assets
In a separate blow to Israeli rule of law, the Supreme Court, once a bastion of liberalism and avowed champion of civil rights, continued its slide into mediocrity with a new ruling finding that East Jerusalem’s world-renowned Rockefeller Museum, which houses some of the most exquisite artifacts of West Bank archaeological excavations, must move its entire library and part of its collection to Israeli West Jerusalem (with the Court’s approval of this initial dispossession, the rest of the collection could be moved at any time). The Museum, founded in 1938, pre-dates Israel’s existence and contains a great deal of the cultural patrimony of the Palestinian nation.
Emek Shaveh, an Israeli NGO seeking to protect Palestine’s historic patrimony, brought a case to stop this plundering of that people’s heritage. The Court sided with the government effort to strip Palestine of is cultural treasures and absorb them into a sort of Greater Israel narrative.
The Court chose to ignore international law, which expressly prohibits the removal of cultural assets from an occupied territory to that of the occupying power. In doing so, it chose to view East Jerusalem as part of Israel proper. This is a claim rejected not only by international law, but by virtually every nation in the world (with a few minor exceptions).
This decision accelerates a process of cultural and democratic deterioration which has been ongoing for decades. One hopes the world takes notice.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.