How to track civil rights in Israel? Well the Israeli government is trying various things to shut down Adalah, a civil rights group in Israel that specializes in lawsuits over the violation of the civil rights of Israeli Arabs. As near as I can tell these guys are the Israeli equivalent of the ACLU, at least for Arabs. This is the sort of organization that is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy. If they are finally shut down this will speak volumes. That they are still open and able to operate gives me hope.
Talking about defending democracy, tonight I heard a radio program by Greg Palast, an investigate reporter. He is another example of what it takes to defend democracy. I just put in an order for his book.
Of late I realized that my whole attitude towards organizations like the ACLU,EFF and Southern Poverty Law Center are all wrong. I treat them as charities who deal with various nasty issues like the DMCA or the various awful bits of damage Disney inflicts on America. In reality they are really just a form of insurance. You have health insurance? Life insurance? Well now you have freedom insurance. The thing about insurance is that you have to pay your premium every year or your coverage lapses. Freedom insurance isn't any different. Unfortunately there will always be those who for greed or ideology will try and strip us of our freedoms. If freedom is to survive we have to make sure that there are always those who are in a position to oppose them. This is where your freedom insurance premiums come in. By paying up each and every year, year after year, you help to make sure that you get to keep your freedom. So pay your freedom premium today.
Traditionally Israeli Arabs have stayed out of terrorist activities. I can't speak for all the reasons this has been the case but mostly I suspect it's because they are scared of leaving Israel. Israel is a deeply biased society that treats its Arab citizens badly. They are discriminated against on every level. Each year a report from someone or another is released illustrating yet again that Arab citizens receive less government funding per capita than Jewish citizens, they are discriminated against in employment, discriminated against in house, get a worse education, etc. That Israel is party to such discrimination is a deep and lasting mark of shame on Israel. Something Israel needs to answer for to the world.
Yet, Israel provides Palestinians a material quality of life far higher than they can get any where else in the Arab world. More even than that Arab citizens are just that, citizens. They have the right to vote, form parties, etc. Legally speaking (in theory anyway) there is no difference between an Arab and Jewish Israeli. None of this excuses Israel's treatment of its own citizens. But in the middle of a bloody awful war of attrition most Israelis are not willing to overly concern themselves with the details of everyday Arab life in Israel. That all having been said the relationship of Jew to Arab in Israel has been predicated on Israeli Arabs not involving themselves in terror or more generally becoming a fifth column. That relationship now appears to possibly be breaking down.
My main concern is not so much that many Arab Israelis will start becoming part of terrorist attacks as much as many Jewish groups latching onto the growing figures as an excuse to make the lot of Israeli Arab citizens much worse. Collective punishment, in lieu of any other effective mechanism, is Israeli government policy. The threats to strip Israeli Arabs of their citizenship is a potent one and its possible abuses are obvious. Israel is going to have to find a way to be a state of all of its citizens. Discrimination against any of its citizens must stop.
War warps a society. Israel has had a practice of using human shields, local people who it grabs and forces to knock on the doors of houses it wants to enter in order to warn the occupants to leave or face the army. In theory this is a non-combat role, in reality it is threatening the lives of innocents to protect Israeli soldiers. The Israeli supreme court would have likely ruled this behavior illegal had the army not promised to stop it. Which of course makes the death of Nidal Abu Muhsein, a 19 year old human shield, all the more awful as it came long after the army's promise in May of 2002 to stop the practice of using human shields. This is just one example of the rot that sets in when one society occupies another.
My job requires me to give endless numbers of presentations to everyone from highly technical audiences to just general folks. Over the years I have developed a few heuristics that I share in my presentation Tips on Presentations [PDF] [PPT].