Over the last 10 years we have witnessed unprecedented, intensive legislative activity, emboldened and influenced by the growing power of the right wing in the Israeli Knesset, to strengthen efforts to undermine Jewish and Arab democratic and liberal forces on one hand, and violate the rights and interests of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza (OPT) on the other.
These laws discriminate against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line and are being used to entrench the Jewish character of the state of Israel and deny the Arabs their right of self-determination or affiliation with the state. Some of these laws aim to “legalize” the expropriation of private Palestinian lands in the West Bank for the use of settlements. The new laws lay the groundwork for the demolition of thousands of Arab homes inside Israel and facilitate the grabbing of Arab land for the benefit of Jewish settlements in the OPT.
The aim is to silence civil society organizations as well as individuals who express criticism of the right wing policies or defend the rights of the oppressed Palestinians. They deny the rights of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and Palestinian, to freedom of speech or cultural activities and serve to intimidate individuals and civil society organizations who are active in defending human rights and democracy for all, regardless of religion or ethnicity.
The right wing in Israel is waging systematic incitement against Arabs, stereotyping them as a threat to the security and stability of Israel and portraying them as a demographic threat to the Jews. Any criticism, internal or external, of the Israeli occupation or the settlements is defined as anti-Semitic or as delegitimizing Israel, and anyone who criticizes Israeli government policies is subject to persecution.
The Palestine-Israel Journal has been following this trend and is deeply disturbed by its implications for the future of relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, as well as the prospects of a future political settlement to end the occupation of the OPT.
Middle East Publications was established and published the first issue of the Palestine-Israel Journal in early 1994, inspired by the Oslo process with the goal of promoting dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and encouraging free and open debate on sensitive issues related to the Oslo peace negotiations. The policy of Israel’s current right-wing government during the last 10 years discourages such dialogue, undermines any possibility of a political compromise between the two parties, and converts the status quo in the OPT from a temporary to a permanent one that amounts to de facto annexation, though not yet de jure annexation of the OPT against the will of its people.
Witnessing this dangerous trend, we decided to devote a special issue of the PIJ to examine the latest legislative trends in the 20th Knesset, which is considered the most extreme right-wing Knesset in the history of the state of Israel. What are the “hidden agendas” behind these laws, what is their impact on democracy and freedom of expression in Israel, future relations between Arabs and the Jewish citizens of Israel, and what do they mean for the future of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands in the absence of peace and security for both peoples?
This issue contains articles by legal experts, academics, public figures and politicians who try to give answers to the above-mentioned questions and many others. This issue is an important resource which provides a comprehensive assessment of recent legislation, which many consider to be fascist and dangerous. As always, we welcome our readers’ responses to what we are doing.