More important now than ever: end the violence, incitement and racism.
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Dear friends,

During these crazy times a conversation with my colleagues reminded me just how frightened we may be to even leave the house. One of my Arab colleagues told me this week, “I am afraid to speak Arabic on the street and to be attacked.”  Whilst we are all frightened and concerned about the security situation, Arabs in Israel are also experiencing exclusion from everyday life: at work, at educational institutions and in public spaces.

An atmosphere of incitement, racism and violence has taken over the public sphere, and I regret the fact that public representatives are not doing enough to fight it. It is clear that undermining the most fundamental right to life pains us all. Our hearts are with the families of the victims of the attacks and those injured on both sides. The government must ensure the safety of its citizens and the lives of the Palestinians in the territories and in East Jerusalem. Public representatives must combat incitement and protect human rights and the rule of law – by which the resilience of democratic countries is measured. However the opposite appears to be happening.

“You must shoot to kill those who take out a knife or screwdriver…" said MK Yair Lapid. Jerusalem Chief of Police Moshe Edri elaborated: “The police do their jobs and arrive quickly. In under a minute and half, the terrorist is already killed. Anyone who stabs Jews or harms the innocent – shall be killed.” This statement cannot be taken lightly. The most senior official of the Jerusalem police has explicitly called for taking revenge against those who have stabbed Jews by killing them. When public figures encourage citizens to walk around armed in public, the danger only increases. The State of Israel is a state of law, and consequently the army and police must stop those violating the law and bring them to justice. This week, we contacted Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein with a request to instruct the security forces and public figures on this issue.

This week we also grappled with another proposal, which has never been raised before: officials are calling for a closure of East Jerusalem. It appears that a large group of people who are primarily concerned about safety support this measure. But we must clearly state that a closure on East Jerusalem is invalid and illegal. There is no doubt that handling the security situation requires various measures which are likely to restrict the personal liberties of  us all, but closing off 300,000 Palestinians constitutes collective punishment against an entire population group, the vast majority of which is innocent. This measure is illegitimate in all circumstances.

During these times, we sometimes receive hostile comments about our work. I believe that as a human rights organization, our role is not to be silent when human rights are all too frequently undermined, but rather to protest these violations. Every one of us, whether we are in Israel or abroad, can do something: talk with your friends and family, speak out against incitement and racism, and raise your voice against excluding Arabs from your communities and workplaces. It is more important now than ever to end the violence, incitement and racism.

Sharon Abraham-Weiss
Executive Director
Association for Civil Rights in Israel
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