The Israeli government and its right-wing supporters have been waging a “McCarthyite” campaign against human-rights groups by blaming them for the barrage of international criticism that followed Israel’s attack on Gaza a year ago, critics say.
In a sign of the growing backlash against the human-rights community, the cabinet backed a bill last week that, if passed, will jail senior officials from the country’s peace-related organisations should they fail to meet tough new registration conditions.
The measure is a response to claims by right-wing lobbyists that Israel’s human-rights advocates supplied much of the damaging evidence of war crimes cited by Judge Richard Goldstone in his UN-commissioned report into Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.
"We are seeing the evaporation of the last freedoms of speech and organisation in Israel," said Amal Jamal, head of politics at Tel Aviv University and the director of Ilam, a media-rights organisation that would be targeted by the new legislation. The Israeli political system, he added, was being transformed into a "totalitarian democracy".
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