Human Rights Day addresses right-wing freedoms

Human Rights Day address

The Knesset marked International Human Rights Day on Tuesday with a series of events, including a number of sessions focusing on the rights of settlers and of those protesting the government-imposed construction freeze in the West Bank. "We are obligated to return the discussion of human rights to its correct boundaries," said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin at the opening of a special panel conducted with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Rivlin criticized the organization for what he considered a "one-sided" annual report on the state of human rights in Israel, but added that he, too, was disturbed by phenomena of discrimination and inequality here. For some right-wing MKs, those boundaries seemed to parallel the Green Line, as committees met to discuss the rights of settlers and right-wing protesters, which they say have been violated in recent years. The only one of those hearings originally scheduled to discuss the subject in the framework of International Human Rights Day was a meeting to discuss treatment of minors during evacuations of outposts - a follow-up discussion to a previous meeting. But in the 24 hours before the Tuesday hearings, right-wing MKs succeeded in placing three more aspects of settlers' rights during demonstrations on the table during various committee hearings. Late Monday, MK Michael Ben-Ari announced that he had initiated a hearing in the Women's Rights Committee to discuss the police procedures used against female right-wing protesters, particularly strip-searches. In the Interior Committee, the discussion regarding protocols for evacuating minors was supplanted by a more politically charged discussion of arrest protocols against local civic and political leaders who protested the moratorium. "We have heard in recent days that the settler leaders are breaking the law and so they deserve what they get," said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. "What have they done? They have torn up the injunctions [that announced the 10-month moratorium on new Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria] and have thwarted the work of civil administration inspectors," said Dayan. Imagine that the interior minister decided to forcibly import the children of foreign workers, he said. If in that moment the mayor of Tel Aviv were to symbolically tear up that decision and if the heads of other cities would try to prevent the police from rounding up those children, they would be seen as heroes, said Dayan. "That is what we have done. Our conscience is clean. We are fulfilling our obligation. We are doing what we can within the democratic struggle that we are waging, against a decree that forbids Jewish building from the back end of Afula to Arad," said Dayan. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee was also a venue for settlers' advocates, who called for the removal of Assistant Attorney-General Shai Nitzan in light of recent revelations regarding his "Judea and Samaria Enforcement Team." "We feel that we are really advancing on these subjects," said Itamar Ben-Gvir, a prominent right-wing activist and spokesman for Ben-Ari. "In recent years, we on the Right have more awareness regarding civil rights. We learned from the Left, from the way that they talk about democracy and basic rights." Ben-Gvir agreed that the right-wing MKs were interested in promoting awareness of civil and human rights, particularly regarding what they say is a bias against right-wing protesters. "The hearing on the treatment of female protesters was proof to all of the left-wingers who talk about human rights, that they are talking about rights for very specific people," explained Ben-Gvir. "I can only imagine what would happen if they strip-searched a woman from Peace Now or a female Israeli Arab." He added that in the hearing, the insistence on the right to privacy, including refraining from strip-searching the women as part of protocol, won the support of a wide range of MKs, "from MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) on the radical left, to MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) and committee chairwoman Tzipi Hotovely." Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.