Israel declares war on its own civil society

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Israel declares war on its own civil society

Ramzy Baroud

Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel’s security wall in East Jerusalem. (Reuters)

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However one interprets the findings of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem’s Jan. 12 report, it is earth-shattering. The official Israeli response merely confirmed what B’Tselem stated in no uncertain terms.

Those of us who have repeatedly claimed that Israel is not democratic, is governed by an apartheid regime, and that it systematically discriminates against its ethnic and racial minorities in favor of the country’s Jewish majority, purportedly have nothing to learn from B’Tselem’s declaration. Thus, it may seem that the report, which highlighted racial discrimination in four major areas — land, citizenship, freedom of movement, and political participation — merely stated the obvious. In reality, it went much further.

B’Tselem is a credible organization. However, like other Israeli human rights groups, it has rarely gone far enough in challenging Israel’s basic definition of itself as a democratic state. Yes, on numerous occasions it rightly accused the Israeli government and military of undemocratic practices, rampant human rights violations, and so on. But to demolish the basic premise that gives Israel its legitimacy in the eyes of its Jewish citizens, and many others around the world, is a whole different story.

“B’Tselem rejects the perception of Israel as a democracy (inside the Green Line) that simultaneously upholds a temporary military occupation (beyond it),” the report states. This was based on the fact that the “bar for defining the Israeli regime as an apartheid regime has been met after considering the accumulation of policies and laws that Israel devised to entrench its control over Palestinians.”

Let it be clear about what this actually means. Israel’s leading human rights organization was not arguing that the country was turning into an apartheid state, that it was acting contrary to the spirit of democracy, or that it is an undemocratic apartheid regime only within the confines of the Occupied Territories. According to B’Tselem — which has for decades diligently documented numerous facets of Israeli government practices in the realms of politics, military, land ownership, water distribution, health, education, and much more — Israel is run by a wholly apartheid, undemocratic regime.

B’Tselem’s assessment is most welcome, not as a belated admission of a self-evident reality, but as an important step that could allow both Israelis and Palestinians to establish a common narrative on their relationship, political position, and collective action in order to dismantle this Israeli apartheid.

Relatively speaking, Israeli groups that criticize their own government have historically been allowed much larger margins than Palestinian groups that have done the same thing. However, this is no longer the case.

Palestinian freedom of speech has always been extremely limited and mere criticism of the Israeli occupation has led to extreme measures, including beatings, arrests and even assassinations. In 2002, an Israeli government-funded organization, NGO Monitor, was established to monitor and control Palestinian human rights groups in the Occupied Territories, including Addameer, the Al-Mezan Center, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. An army raid on the Ramallah offices of Addameer in September 2019 was one example of Israel’s crackdown on such organizations.

However, government actions of recent years have pointed to an unmistakable paradigm shift, where Israeli civil society organizations are increasingly perceived to be the enemy, targeted in myriad ways, including defamation actions, financial restrictions and the severing of access to the Israeli public. The last point was put on full display on Jan. 17, when Israeli Education Minister Yoav Galant tweeted that he had instructed his ministry to “prevent the entry of organizations calling Israel ‘an apartheid state’ or demeaning Israeli soldiers from lecturing at schools.” However, by doing so, Galant only demonstrated B’Tselem’s point: After the group challenged Israel’s claims of democracy and freedom of expression, he curtailed their right to express dissent and challenge the government. Galant’s move was a definition of totalitarianism.

Galant’s move has expanded the restrictions imposed on Israelis who refuse to toe the government line. Ramzy Baroud

But B’Tselem did not back down. The group instead expressed its determination “to keep with its mission of documenting reality, analyzing it, and making our findings publicly known to the Israeli public, and worldwide.” B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad even met with hundreds of Israeli students on Jan. 18 to discuss the inconsistency between military occupation and the respect for human rights. Following the meeting, El-Ad tweeted: “The @btselem lecture did take place this morning. The Israeli government will have to contend with us until the apartheid regime ends.”

The B’Tselem-Galant episode is not an isolated spat, but rather is one of the many examples that demonstrate that the Israeli government is turning into a police state — and not only for Palestinian Arabs, but also its own Jewish citizens.

The decision of the Israeli Ministry of Education was rooted in legislation from July 2018, which was dubbed the “Breaking the Silence” law. Breaking the Silence is an Israeli civil society organization of army veterans who have taken it upon themselves to educate the Israeli public on the immorality and illegality of Israel’s military practices in the Occupied Territories. To silence these veterans, former Education Minister Naftali Bennett ordered schools to bar them from gaining access and speaking directly to students. Galant’s move has merely widened the definition, thus expanding the restrictions imposed on Israelis who refuse to toe the government line.

For years, a persistent argument within the Palestine-Israel discourse contended that, while Israel is not a perfect democracy, it is, nonetheless, a “democracy for Jews.” Though true democracies must be founded on equality and inclusiveness, this maxim gave some credibility to the argument that Israel could still strike the balance between being nominally democratic while remaining exclusively Jewish. That shaky argument is now falling apart.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books, the latest being “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Twitter: @RamzyBaroud

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

Attractive women’s claims on sexual harassment more credible: Study

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Washington [US], January 24 (ANI): A report published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, uncovers that youthful and appealing ladies who act in a ladylike manner have a higher likelihood of being accepted when making sexual harassment allegations.

The findings of this University of Washington-led study involved more than 4,000 participants, reveals perceptions that primarily “prototypical” women are likely to be harassed. The research also showed that women outside of those socially determined norms or “non-prototypical” women are more likely perceived as not being harmed by harassment.

That leaves women who do not fit the prototype potentially facing greater hurdles when trying to convince a workplace or court that they have been harassed.

“The consequences of that are very severe for women who fall outside of the narrow representation of who a victim is,” said Bryn Bandt-Law, a graduate student in psychology at the UW and one of the study’s lead authors.

“Nonprototypical women are neglected in ways that could contribute to them having discriminatory treatment under the law; people think they’re less credible — and less harmed — when they make a claim and think their perpetrators deserve less punishment.”

The study is co-led by Jin Goh, a former postdoctoral researcher at the UW now at Colby College, and Nathan Cheek of Princeton University.

The researchers said the idea for the study came from the #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke and popularised in 2017 after a number of actresses accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and abuse. #MeToo and related movements empowered individuals to come forward about their experiences with sexual harassment, which the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines as gender discrimination and/or unwelcome sexual behavior that can affect a person’s job performance and work environment.

The movement also encourages people to name perpetrators and in some cases pursue legal action. But as the study’s authors reflected on the celebrities who stepped forward, they wanted to explore further the notion of credibility. They set up a series of experiments to be divided among the 4,000 participants to address three research questions: who we think is sexually harassed; what constitutes harassment; and how claims of harassment are perceived.

The experiments largely consisted of written scenarios and digitally manipulated headshots. The researchers’ scenarios drew upon different ways that psychologists say sexual harassment can manifest: coercion, with a quid pro quo expectation; unwanted advances, with no quid pro quo; and gender harassment, which are hostile comments and behaviors tied to a person’s gender. In one scenario, for example, a supervisor puts his hand around a female employee’s waist; in another, a supervisor asks about a female employee’s boyfriend.

Some scenarios were clear and egregious violations of the law, some were clearly benign, and some were appropriately vague. To address the research question of who we think is likely to be harassed, some participants were asked to draw a woman who was harassed — or not harassed, depending on the assignment.

This approach reveals people’s conceptions and biases at a basic, freeform level, explained senior author and UW psychology professor Cheryl Kaiser. It has been used in other well-known experiments such as “draw a scientist,” which often reveals gender bias.

“When you make a perception of harassment, you also make a connection to womanhood, but the way we understand womanhood is very narrowly defined. So for anyone who falls outside of that definition, it makes it hard to make that connection to harassment,” senior author and UW psychology professor Cheryl Kaise said.

One area that merits further study of harassment prototypes, the researchers said, are the many other between-group variations among women — specifically, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Because white women are perceived as prototypical women, the researchers are currently exploring whether Black women are perceived as less credible and less harmed by sexual harassment.

Such a finding would be consistent with Tarana Burke’s criticism that the mainstream #MeToo movement has disproportionately centered and benefited a narrow group of women, such as white, conventionally feminine celebrities.

Overall, researchers believe their findings help illustrate how laws may not always protect the people they’re designed to. Accusations must be deemed credible, and the incidents harmful, for harassment claims to lead to legal resolution. By recognizing that harassment can happen regardless of a person’s fit within a prototype, the chances for justice are improved.

“If we have biased perceptions of harm for non-prototypical women, it will drastically change their legal outcomes,” Bandt-Law said. “If they are not being believed, they are effectively being silenced.” (ANI)

International Recommendations on Internally Displaced Persons Statistics (IRIS) - World

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A. Need for recommendations on IDP statistics

This introductory chapter aims to provide context for the recommendations and to introduce the rationale and scope of the report itself. It will briefly present background information, identify key linkages between these recommendations and other efforts, including the International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics (IRRS) (1 ), and provide a summary of the structure of the recommendations and the process through which they were developed.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are understood to be ‘persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have remained living in the country’s internationally recognised border’ (). This definition provides the basis for compiling official statistics and for the recommendations in this report.

Today, IDPs account for the greatest share of displaced populations globally. Data and statistics on IDPs are necessary to inform policy responses to internal displacement. IDP data are especially helpful for providing a yardstick from which the situation of IDP populations can be monitored and the achievements of related policies and programmes measured. Yet, to date, international guidance on how to best produce goodquality IDP official statistics remains scarce, and many of the available data are based on operational data produced by humanitarian agencies as part of their assistance programmes, rather than official statistics.

Since IDP data are collected for people impacted by conflict, disaster or violence, at the initial stage of displacement it can be difficult or impossible to collect official statistics, and operational data are often the best available; these recommendations discuss the roles of both types of data.

International quality standards () require official statistics to be consistent internally and over time and comparable between regions and countries, and to allow the organisations of a country’s statistical system to make joint use of related data from different sources. The Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics (EGRIS) reported on statistical quality issues as part of its stocktake of IDP statistics. The IDP statistics were presented in the Technical Report on Statistics of Internally Displaced Persons () to the 49th United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) session in 2018, where they were formally adopted.