Standing Up for Democracy Beyond the Supreme Court

21 June 2023

“We will persecute you!” shouted Jewish Power Member of Knesset Limor Son Har-Melech at the director of a youth village during a Knesset discussion. Almog Cohen, another Jewish Power MK, added “We will come to you and blow up the summer camp!”

Last Monday night, the current far-right government convened a Knesset meeting to declare an Israeli summer camp for Jewish and Palestinian children a “security threat.” The summer camp promotes values of peace and reconciliation, and it is put on by Parents Circle — Bereaved Families Forum. It brings together children whose families have lost loved ones—both Palestinains and Israeli Jews—to help both better understand the other, and see that grief is deeply present for both sides. But during the committee meeting in the Knesset, these angry MKs were trying to cut the state’s budget for this summer camp. 

It is precisely for moments like these that the New Israel Fund established “The Hub for the Protection of Civic Space,” a first-of-its-kind initiative that provides legal, public, organizational, psychological, and security solutions to civil society organizations and activists – in order to stand strong against attempts to silence them.

The threats against this summer camp are intended to redraw the bounds of discourse, to instill fear in those who do not toe the line of the right-wing and leaders of the judicial coup. The goal of the Knesset discussion was clear: to intimidate those who dare to dream and promote a better future for the next generations.

It is clear that anti-democratic legislation is not the only way to shut people up. Defending democracy does stop with preserving the power of the Supreme Court. It is, first and foremost, the work of upholding “democratic space”— where the right to speak, to be heard, and to influence is respected. Campaigns of intimidation severely affect Israeli democracy and no less than the structural and organizational changes that other officials are working to push through. 

NIF will never let this kind of bullying go unnoticed; we will always speak truth to power.