Israel is attracting criticism for the controversial arrest of several human rights activists.
Human rights groups in Israel and elsewhere have accused the government of arresting increasing numbers of political opponents.
In a recent court hearing, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court described the arrests of 17 human rights protesters as having no legal or rational basis.
The arrested protesters, who included Hagai El-Ad, Executive-Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), were attending a vigil against the eviction of Palestinian families whose homes had been taken by Israeli settlers.
Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) commented: “We are deeply concerned that one of Israel’s top human rights leaders has been detained for peaceably expressing his views. Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a democratic society, and the ACLU stands in solidarity with groups around the world who work to protect this most important of rights.”
The New Israel Fund (NIF) joined the ACLU in condemning the arrests. Daniel Sokatch, NIF’s Chief Executive Officer, added: “It appears that a disturbing pattern of police intimidation is beginning to emerge.”
Worryingly, this is not the only area where Israel’s record on human rights has been criticised. In recent months, it has been reported that Israel is pushing aid workers out of Palestinian areas. Israel has stopped issuing work permits to foreign aid workers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Several organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have been declined working visas since December. There is verbal confirmation from the Israeli government that the non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) representatives won’t be prevented from working there.
A UN report leaked last September argued that Israel’s continued blockade on Gaza was “devastating livelihoods” and causing gradual “de-development”.
The refusal to issue working visas has made NGOs operational in these regions worried that they won’t be able to provide basic supplies to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in need.
These crackdowns on protesters and aid workers could potentially endanger Israel’s international relations. Israel is no stranger to receiving criticism, however these new developments seem to represent an unwelcome deterioration.