Fighting Anti-Democratic Legislation
New Voices of Conscience: Idit Menashe
Idit Menashe, 31, a lobbyist at the Center for Policy Change, joined SHATIL (NIF's action arm in Israel) less than a year ago. After several years working in the Knesset as a legislative aide, Idit decided that she wanted to give back what she had learned to civil society. She says: "I had seen how hard it was for all but the most established organizations to make their voices heard and to have any influence in an environment as complex as the Knesset." Idit first heard of SHATIL as a student activist at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, where she worked to lift the ban on political activity on campus.
Anti-Democratic Legislation: Over the past few years, Israel has faced a democratic recession. Over 25 bills have been introduced in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) threatening freedoms of speech, conscience, religion and other freedoms that were central founding principles of the State of Israel. The fight against these initiatives is essential because--as Naomi Chazan, NIF's President, has eloquently put it--"it is a struggle for our very soul."
Committee of Inquiry: Of the many anti-democratic initiatives that have been brought to the Knesset floor, three attempts were made at a formal committee of inquiry to look into the funding sources of progressive Israeli NGOs. Specifically, human rights organizations like Breaking the Silence were targeted as anti-Israel, even when they provide essential information and services to protect Israel's values--as does the American Civil Liberties Union in the United States.
Idit's Role: Most recently, a Yisrael Beitenu initiative to establish a committee of inquiry into the funding sources of progressive NGOs was met with loud protest from the Israeli public. Idit played a critical role in defeating the initiative, convincing Knesset Members to attend the vote and express opposition, rallying civil society organizations on the left and right against such invasive measures from the government, and all the while fighting other initiatives that would threaten Israel's civil society. To read a full account of what Idit did, read this.
Here is an interview with Idit Menashe:
For more information about the democratic recession, watch this panel from the J Street conference with Naomi Chazan (NIF), Hagai El-Ad (ACRI) and MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor):