Last week, Bezalel Smotrich made clear his hostility towards human rights activists, stating that, “Human rights organizations are a threat to Israel’s existence, and the government must deal with them.” Smotrich, the leader of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, is poised to become the finance minister in the new government being formed by Benjamin Netanyahu and to take over the Civil Administration in the West Bank as a reformed Ministerial role.
NIF Israel Executive Director Mickey Gitzin said in response. “The struggle for human rights and for populations that are discriminated against and marginalized is the lifeblood of organizations and activists who are used to being harassed. The only question that matters is what will be done now by all those who were frightened and did not take action in the past. If we all stand in solidarity against the threat to democracy, they have no chance.”
The impact of Smotrich’s words has been seen over the past week, when IDF soldiers attacked Israeli human rights activists in Hebron.
A video showed an Israeli soldier in Hebron brutally pushing an Israeli activist to the ground and then punching him in the face. In a separate clip from Hebron, another soldier is seen confronting an activist and boasting about a new reality under far-right Knesset Member Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is expected to become the next public security minister. The soldier said, “I decide what is against the law and you are against the law. I hate leftists and I’ll beat them up.”
Several soldiers have been suspended for the attacks on the activists, and senior officers including the IDF Chief of Staff have condemned their immoral behavior. The question is whether such behavior will become normalized once the new right-wing government is sworn in.