The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights:
The Shahak Papers
Compiled and Edited by Adnan Amad
Palestine Research Center, Beirut, Lebanon
Introduction (p. 1 – 3)
Since the end of World War II, the movement for the international protection of human rights has won considerable importance, both at governmental and public opinion levels. This importance grew not only out of the painful experience of the war but also from the realization of the intimate connection between the civilized treatment of the individual by political authorities and international peace. This realization was best reflected in the importance given to human rights in the preamble and articles of the Charter of the United Nations, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Geneva Convention on the protection of war victims.
Although the movement for the protection of human rights has not so far led to effective adherence to its standards on the part of governments, especially in times of wars and crises, the movement represents a significant current in public opinion. A good example of this significance is illustrated by the activities and publications of the «Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights» and its chairman Dr. Israel Shahak.
Reports on conditions of human rights in Israel and the occupied territories are rare and difficult to obtain, due to the strict censorship on the flow of information about these conditions. Nevertheless, the Israeli League of Human and Civil Rights was able, under very difficult circumstances, to investigate and publish a large number of violations of human rights committed by the Israeli government against Arabs. The collection of reports of the League published in this volume contains samples of such violations with a special stress on concrete cases such as the physical and psychological torture of political prisoners, preventive detention of innocents, expulsion of opponents or collective punishment of whole areas ( e. g. Gaza ). The cumulative effect of these cases already indicates the Israeli design and strategy vis-à-vis the Palestinians under Israeli control. These cases coming from Israeli sources also indicate that the questions Arabs have been posing concerning the Israeli system and its disturbing role in the area are worrying Israeli citizens as well. Originally, these crimes were prohibited by the formulation of a number of covenants of human rights. They were essentially promulgated for the protection of Jews in Europe. However, since the creation of Israel in 1948, the Israeli government boasts the highest record of condemnations by the international society for its violation of human rights, exceeding the record of the colonial French era in Algeria, the American war of aggression in Vietnam, the fascist dictatorships in Asia and Latin America and even the racist Apartheid regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia. In its annual sessions in 1972 and 1973, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions on Israel's violation in the occupied territories and considered these violations as war crimes and crimes against humanity ( see Doc. 22 ).
Israel's relation to International Law was well analysed by the distinguished Lebanese lawyer Dr. George Dib:
«There is a deeprooted aversion between Israel and International Law. which goes back to the establishment of the state itself. This aversion is best confessed in Israel's treatment of civilian Arabs, children, women and old men. It is an irony of history that Israel becomes the first and, maybe, the only state today which was internationally condemned for violating those principles of International Law which were originally issued to protect Jews from such discriminatory measures taken against them in Nazi-Germany, i.e., the Fourth Geneva Convention concerning the protection of civilians which was signed in Geneva in 1949. Since the convention was drafted with the aim of avoiding the repetition of what the Jews had to suffer during the war, Israel was one of the first states to sign the convention without reservation. From then on, and especially after 1967, Israel has continuously violated this convention by practicing mass and individual murder of Arab civilians, torturing political prisoners, expelling opponents and destroying housing facilities. These acts are, according to the convention, acts against peace and humanity. The United Nations condemned Israel in 1969 for these crimes, and has been doing so ever since. The great irony is that Israel is practicing these acts against humanity at a time when the Arab states are abstaining from such actions and are abiding by the divine value of considering human life as the most precious substance in the world. This makes the war one between two unequally balanced powers: humanity and barbarism. It is a war between Palestine, which represents a world determined to be liberated, and Zionist Israel which represents a barbaric world descending towards total decline.»
(Translated from the Arabic magazine - Al-Usbu' Al-Araibi, Feb. 27, 1973)
The situation of human rights in Israel and the occupied territories is, of course, a matter that involves more than international law. The complexity of strategic and economic interests in the area make it the scene of the historical struggle of the entire Arab peoples against the Zionist-Imperialist pact. But human considerations and the question of human rights, in some way, produce a common platform for the parties of different political and cultural backgrounds to start a dialogue concerning the solution of this problem from within their societies, by affecting the course of the struggle towards the creation of a secular democratic state in Palestine for Arabs and Jews. The activities of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, equivalent to the activities of several Palestinian and Arab groups of similar convictions towards human rights, is a step in this direction.
Chapter 17: (pp. 185 – 197)
Attempted Coup Against the Shahak Group from within the League
On the 16th of November 1972, the annual meeting of the League was interrupted by a group of Young Israeli Labour Party members who tried, by undemocratic methods, to overthrow Dr. Shahak and his group from the chairmanship of the League. The «coup» was publicly encouraged by rightist radical circles in government, parties and press with the aim of bringing the League under control. The meeting was postponed, and Dr. Shahak, defending his position and convictions, raised the case in the High Court which upheld his rights and those of the League. The following documentation published by the League tells the story of the «coup.» (Editor).
Published by the Committee of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights (Tel-Aviv, November 17, 1972).
(i) A Public Statement
On Thursday, the 16th of November, 1972, at 19:30, a general meeting of the members of The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights was to be held in the «Bnai-Brith» House in Tel-Aviv. The agenda was to include: 1) reading of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights and a short lecture on the Situation of Human Rights in Israel; 2) the reporting on the League's activities from the time of the last general meeting; 3) elections of the League's committee.
At 19.30, before the opening of the meeting, the members of the League found themselves surrounded by some hundreds of persons, who were not members of the League, but who demanded to join on the spot and to take part in the meeting.
We should make it clear that in the whole history of the League (37 years) not once was membership ever refused to anyone. Everyone who wanted to become a member and declared so in writing was gladly accepted. But it never happened that somebody asked to join at the very moment of the opening of the general meeting, much less hundreds of people coming in organized groups and threatening violence.
Some of the organized groups had taken by force the blanks bearing the League stamp which were prepared for the members of the League for the purpose of entering the hall and participating in the elections.
The organized groups seized the entrance of the hall and pestered the members of the committee. The obvious spokesmen of these groups were Uzi Bar'am, Yehiel Leket, Gyora Rozen, Nathan Ra'anan and Amnon Golan – active members of the Labour Party Youth Division. Because of the danger of violent riots, the League's committee decided to accept the unreasonable demand to register all the hundreds of the new «candidates» – an activity which took nearly half of the time fixed for the meeting. But since the disturbances did not cease, the chairman of the League, acting on decision of the League's committee, had to cancel the meeting.
We note that on the 17th of November, the day after the planned meeting, The Jerusalem Post had a notice saying that the chairman of the League had refused to accept any new members into the League. It will be seen that this notice is wholly incorrect.
Members of the League will receive an invitation to a general meeting to be held on another date.
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE KEEPS LABOUR MEN OUT
(ii) Document Published by Dr. Israel Shahak
The following typical falsification made by The Jerusalem Post, and the answer of Mr. M. Avi-Shaul, are given below without comment:
(Jerusalem Post Political Reporter)
Tel-Aviv – A meeting of the «Israeli Committee for Human Rights» held at the Bnai Brith hall here last night was broken up after the chairman, Dr. Israel Shahak, refused to admit people outside his own leftist group as members.
«About two years ago the founding members of the Committee complained at being pushed out by Dr. Shahak and elements close to Matzpen. Since then, this Committee has been a platform for complaints against Israel's treatment of the Arab population in the territories.
«Last night, it was understood, members of the Labour Party Youth Division sought to join the Committee's activities, but Dr. Shahak refused to let them in – although, according to regulations, the Committee is open to everyone.»
The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 17, 1972.
November 19, 1972.
To the Editor
The Jerusalem Post
44, Rehov Yehuda Halevy
In your paper's issue of November 17, 1972, I found a report under the headline «'Human Rights C'ttee' keeps Labour men out.»
I wish to ask you to publish my following remarks regarding the contents of the report:
- To the best of my knowledge, there is no 'Human Rights Committee' in Israel. However, on November 16, 1972, at 19.30, a General Meeting was scheduled to be held at Bnai Brith Hall in Tel-Aviv by The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, in which I have the honour to serve as Vice Chairman.
- While it is true that the scheduled meeting «was broken up» the real reason for its eventual cancellation by the League's Chairman, Mr. Israel Shahak, was that organized groups of hundreds of persons who had never taken any interest in the League's activities aggressively interfered with orderly proceedings, thus preventing the League's General Meeting from being held.
- Obviously a general members' meeting, which had on its agenda a report by the League's Committee and Committee elections, was not meant or timed for registration of new members. New members have always been welcome to join the League on the basis of individual regular application considered by the committee following the signing of a statement by the applicant accepting the aims of the League. However I cannot remember a single case when such an individual application has ever been rejected by the Committee. Clearly, attempts of collective joining by mob pressure and violence for the obvious purpose of breaking up a general membership meeting cannot be possibly tolerated by any democratic body. In view of these facts, the statement by your political reporter that Dr. Shahak refused to let members of the Labour Party Youth Division in, «although, according to regulations, the Committee is open to everyone» constitutes a misrepresentation of the truth.
- Also your reporter's remarks that allegedly «about two years ago the founding members of the Committee complained at being pushed out by Dr. Shahak and elements close to Matzpen» is astounding in view of the fact that, to my utmost regret, I am the only surviving founding member of the League who has remained in the League Committee throughout the past 37 years of the existence of the League, and I have never been pushed out. Incidentally it was I who prepared the first draft of the League's statutes. In this connection may I suggest that your reporter read the British Mandatory District Commissioners letter to the League as published in the Palestine Postand Davaron May 27, 1937. Incidentally, the League was founded in 1935, but applied for registration in 1937.
- The only correct portion of your reporter's account is his remark that the League «has been a platform for complaints against Israel's treatment of the Arab population in the territories» but we must add, for truth's sake, that the League has also been dealing with very many complaints in the Human & Civil Rights field on a much broader scale, especially of course within the territory of Israel proper, concerning Jews and Arabs alike, and by no means only in the occupied territories.
- I find it an alarming and shocking symptom that leaders of the Youth Division of the ruling Labour Party in Israel have been misguided to such an extent as to disrupt, with the help of hundreds of their organized membership, a General Meeting of the League for Human & Civil Rights which is the most veteran local society active in this field.
Yours very truly,
founding member and vice chairman
The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights
TEL-AVIV, P.O.B. 14192
(iii) Document Published by the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights on the Israeli Labour Party (Dec. 14, 1972) [p. 189]
We are bringing to your attention the translation of the following document distributed by the Israeli Labour Party, with our comments. (All emphases in the original):
The Israeli Labour Party/District of Tel-Aviv
The Department of Youth (HAMISHMERET-HATZ'IRA)
Internal, not for publication
For the purpose of enabling our party to have a predominant influence in The League for Human Rights, we are making a national operation of registration of new members.
This association is now under the rule of the people of the Israel Communist Party (Rakah), and we see it as a duty of the State to change this characteristic.
You are asked to fill up the questionnaire attached here and to bring it to the Club «Bustan,» Frug Str. No. 1, Tel-Aviv, not later than 14 of December 1972, which is the latest date for admitting new members, according to the decision of the Court.
The members who will register will be invited to a meeting for the election of representatives.
I hope that you will help in the success of this operation.
PLEASE FILL THE ENCLOSED QUESTIONNAIRE AND SEND IT IMMEDIATELY.
THE EXPENSES OF THE MEMBERSHIP DUES WILL BE COVERED BY US.
THE SECRETARIAT OF THE YOUTH DEPARTMENT, TEL-AVIV.
Before we comment on the whole of this extraordinary document, let us deal with five specific points:
- The Israeli Labour Party does not even pretend that it is concerned with Human and Civil Rights per se, neither does it expect from its members to be interested in this topic. Its main interest lies in having «a predominant influence.»
- It is a complete lie that The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights is ruled by people of the Rakah Party. As a proof, the present chairman (since March, 1970), Dr. Israel Shahak, is neither a communist nor a socialist. While the League accepts people of all parties, it is our belief that the majority of the members of the League's Committee are not members of Rakah. We did not, nor will we ever, ask the individual members about their political beliefs, so long as they express commitment to the cause of Human Rights, as expressed in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights (1949). In this, we do not behave like the Israeli Labour Party, which is interested in having «a predominant influence» only!
- Since the Israeli Labour Party declares itself that it sees in this «operation» (a revealing word from the military lexicon, rather unsuitable to Human Rights!) «a duty of the State» — a strong suspicion arises, that some authorities of the State of Israel had decided on this operation and had used the Israeli Labour Party only as a docile instrument. The most probable «authority» for deciding and ordering such an operation is the notorious «Shin-Bet» (the Israeli secret police).
- The decision of the Court was exactly the reverse. The judge, Mr. Lowenthal, had reiterated again and again that organized and fabricated «mass-joinings» are to be condemned.
- The bosses of the Israeli Labour Party have such small faith in their members, that they have to pay their expenses of membership dues. The whole dues are 10 Israeli Pounds a year! (less than two and a half dollars, a little less than one English pound).
Apart from this, some comment on the document as a whole is needed:
We have here a shocking case of political corruption. Money of the Israeli Labour Party, which comes from donations free from income-tax, both inside Israeli and outside it, is used simply to pay for people to join an organization.
Secondly, we have here a complete subversion of the principle of free organization. People devoted to some principles have a complete right to associate together in order to propagate and support those principles, by all legal means. But if the ruling party of the State is allowed to hire people – with public money – in order to subvert and swamp each organization by a hired mob which is not interested at all, even pro-forma, in the principles of this organization, then the principle of free organization becomes nullified.
Thirdly, it is natural that people devoted to the struggle for Human and Civil Rights would struggle mainly, or perhaps only, against their own government. The Israel government, specially in those areas which affect the cause of Human Rights, is ruled completely, and, to all appearances, permanently by the Israeli Labour Party. To make a shameless claim for «a predominant influence» in the League for Human and Civil Rights, is tantamount to making a claim for a completely totalitarian rule, which would not be affected by the least voice of opposition and critique. It would mean that the same body will rule, judge, criticize, all in one. It will mean that the last feeble sparks of freedom and democracy in Israel will be extinguished.
We do not know how the situation will develop. We are determined to resist the commissaire of the Israeli Labour Party, with his thousands of hired and dishonest questionnaires. (The Israeli Labour Party has also falsified the questionnaire of membership of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights). We are determined, in any case, to continue in our work, to uphold the cause of Human Rights in Israel and the conquered territories, and to fight for each human being there who is persecuted and who suffers unjustly.
We ask all those who receive this publication to uphold our just cause, and to help us as much as they can – and specially in the publication of the above document.
(iv) Clarification (Israel League for Human and Civil Rights, December 14, 1972) [p. 192]
Since various conflicting and misleading reports had appeared in newspapers both inside and outside of Israel (Jerusalem Postbeing the most mendacious) about the recent events in the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, we would like to clarify the situation:
- The attempt of a hired and violent mob, organized by the Israeli Labour Party, to take over the general assembly of the League on the 16th of November 1972, failed. Judge Lovenberg, of the District-Court of Tel-Aviv, had pronounced the events of that night to be null and void, and that the former committee of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights could continue with their duties as the only lawful officers of the League.
- Some of the members of this committee are: Dr. Israel Shahak, Chairman.
Mordechay Avi-Shaul, Vice-Chairman.
Yaffa Gavish, Treasurer.
Lea Tzemel, Secretary.
- According to the decision of the judge, Mr. Lovenberg, new elections and a new general assembly will be held in the beginning of 1973. The applications to join the League can be made to the existing committee of the League until the 15th of December.
- In view of what had happened already, and of the known plans of the Israeli Labour Party (see the attached communication) the committee of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights had decided to accept only individual applications.
- In the meantime, to the best of our abilities, we will continue with the usual work of the League.
(v) Personal Comment by Dr. Shahak on the Preceding Document (Released on December 15, 1972.) [p. 193]
I wish to make an additional, personal comment, to the document of The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights of the 14th of December, about the plan of the Israeli Labour Party to use its money for an organized «operation« in order to obtain a predominant influence in The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights.
I wish to raise two political issues which will not be obvious for those who are ignorant about the Israeli situation, or for those who have been brainwashed by the official Israeli propaganda.
- [p. 194] The first issue is: Where does the money of the Israeli Labour Party come from?How can this party be so lavish with it, so that it can subsidize membership dues in The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights for people who are not interested at all in questions of Human Rights? Can a party, whose money comes from membership dues or from individual donations, be so lavish?
The answer is that the Israeli Labour Party's big money does not come from the above sources. Some of the big money comes from inside Israel, mainly from rich industrialists and monopolistic concerns, which constitutes the smaller part. The chief part of the money, which the Israeli Labour Party acquires, has come from outside Israel various so-called «charity» appeals, deductible from the income-tax of their respective countries. The main source is the United Jewish Appeal of the U.S.A., through its contributions the Zionist Federation and the Jewish Agency, which are both controlled by a coalition of parties, of which the Israeli Labour Party is the chief. They are used by those parties, and specially by the Israeli Labour Party, in the same manner that a farmer uses his cow for milking.
Therefore, what the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights fights now is not only a local case of political gangsterism, but a case of political gangsterism financed by the faked "charity" organizations through all the western world directly and indirectly (and no doubt unwittingly) by the treasuries of those countries, and therefore by their citizens.
To put it in plain terms: The majority of the money (doled out this week by the treasurer of the Israeli Labour Party to pay for the membership dues of the people he wants to put by fraud inside the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights) came from income-tax fake "charity" deductions from the U.S.A., Great Britain, France and various other countries. Therefore, and indirectly, it came from the pockets of all and every citizen of those countries whose taxes are so much higher that they can make payments to fake "charities" which corrupt and subvert free associations in Israel.
[p. 195] I said that this is political gangsterism. But I should make it plain that it is unprecedented gangsterism. Al Capone subverted and corrupted a whole town (Cicero, Illinois) in the twenties. The corruption of Tammany Hall is notorious. But what is noteworthy is that the money that has been used for corrupting a free organization should officially come from funds described as «charity» and, as such, deductible from the income-tax. Even Al Capone did not claim this privilege.
I do not make this point for the sole reason-that this is the truth as I see it, even though the first step in every situation is for everybody to try to learn the true facts and not allow himself to be deceived. There is an additional pragmatic point: as a citizen of Israel, I am committed to use all legal and democratic means at my disposal to convince people about my ideas. But the financial power of my enemies, those who try by means of corruption and fraud to fight me, is not based mainly or chiefly on Israeli sources. In fact, it is based chiefly on you — you who will read this outside Israel – for without your unwitting complicity in faked «charities» used for corruption, the Israeli Labour Party would not have the money available to corrupt the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, and to rule, by fraud and corruption, the whole Israeli society.
- The second issue is the question of racism. Should institutions and organizations be open to members of all races, to all human beings agreeing on a principle, believing in an idea, irrespective of race or nationality, or should they not? For, while The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights is open to every adult human being who accepts its principles, the Israeli Labour Party is not. It is a party which, on principle, openly and officially, accepts only Jews, and rejects Gentiles (Goyim). This includes especially the Palestinian-Arab miniority – 400,000 people – 13% of the Israeli population.
A minor exception in this official racism is the treatment of the Druze minority. (Druze are a small, secret, peculiar sect).
They number about 30,000 people. As a special favour (and as means of dividing them from other Arabs) those of the Druzes who served in the Israeli Army, and only those, are allowed to become members of the Israeli Labour Party. You can imagine the situation: a son is allowed to become a member of Israeli Labour Party and his father is not, for he was too old to serve, Perhaps his brother would also be excluded, because he broke his leg and could not serve!
[p. 196] The saying that it is the exception that proves the rule has never been better justified than here: this apparent exception in the official racism shows the true character of the Israeli Labour even better.
Of course, there are no such limitations on Jews. A Jew can be a cripple, can come to Israel as an old man, or can be a female (all Druze women are automatically excluded by this limitation), and still be eligible for membership in the Israeli Labour Party. An Arab, an American non-Jew (Goy), a Druze woman, are not eligible, solely for racist reasons. This, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why the Israeli Labour Party had decided, by fraud and corruption, to obtain «a predominating influence» in The Israeli, League for Human and:Civil Rights. A racist society, party, or establishment, is bound, by its very nature, to try to increase the limits and influence of its racist doctrines and extinguish all free and non-racist bodies.
There is here an additional point about the future fate of Jewish communities in countries outside Israel. Like slavery in the U.S.A. before 1860, racism, by its very nature, cannot be divided. As Abraham Lincoln said rightly about the situation of the U.S.A. before 1860: «A house divided against itself cannot stand;» and the «Union could not stand half-slave and half-free.» Exactly the same is true about the situation of Jews in Israel and outside it. They cannot apply racist principles much longer, in what is falsely called the «Jewish interests» (falsely, for the interest of each community is first truth and justice) and claim, at the same time full rights as citizens on the principles of democracy and liberalism in other countries! Either racism will be eradicated from the Israeli society and, for example, every human being will be equally eligible for membership in the ruling party and all parties, [p. 197] or it must follow that the same racist rules will be employed against Jews in all the other countries. For, after all, why should it be that what is good in Israel should not also be good in England, in the U.S.A., or any where else? If the racist principles of the Israeli Labour Party are «good,» why should not, for example, the Democratic Party in the U.S.A. expel all Jews? (Perhaps a partial example on the Druze model will be applied for those Jews who served in the U.S. Army, but Jewish cripples, old men and women must surely be expelled). Why should not the British Labour Party do the same?
If racism in Israel is not eradicated, and if the «double standard» of racism and pluralism is continued to be employed, then a similar pattern of racism against the Jews will certainly take place.
In closing I would like to address myself to those of my readers who are Jews, like myself. It pains me very much that the majority of my people are, in what I can only describe, in a state of apostasy. Instead of worshipping God, instead of following and being true to the idea of Justice, instead of remembering the saying of Hillel the Elder: «Do not do to others what is hateful to yourself,» they are not only doing the reverse, not only taking refuge in the most crude tribalism and worship of force, but literally they are cutting the branch on which they are sitting. I should make it clear that for me this last consideration is not the most important. I do what I do for I consider it my duty to say the truth and to strive for equal justice for all human beings. But since, obviously, for the majority of my fellow Jews, who worship the material State of Israel like our ancestors worshipped the Golden Calf and Baal, this consideration is not important, I will say to them: by your hypocrisy and double-thinking, by your condoning and supporting racism and oppression, you are bringing a calamity on your own heads. Everything that is done to Palestinian-Arabs, with your encouragement and support today, will be done to you tomorrow.