By RON FRIEDMAN AND JPOST.COM STAFF
Following the International Day of Human Rights, which took place on Thursday, and the publication of its 2009 "State of Human Rights" report, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) organized what it claims may have been the largest human rights march ever to be held in Israel.
On Friday, thousands of people representing more than a hundred Israeli human rights organizations came together at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, at 11 a.m. and marched to the Tel Aviv Museum, where they held a ceremony and concert, and award prizes for outstanding activism.
The march featured human rights groups, students, Arab rights advocates, social justice organizations, Gay and Lesbian activists, migrant workers, environmentalists and feminists, all coming together under the slogan "No way," to protest what they see as the continued erosion of Israeli democracy and in support of full realization of human rights for all human beings in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
The organizers say the event was not associated with any political movement and no politicians will be giving speeches.
ACRI's annual survey of human rights, published on Sunday, warns that the very foundations of Israel's democracy are in danger: "The realization of the entire spectrum of rights is now, more than ever, dependent on what we say or believe, what ethnic group we belong to, how much money we have," read the report.
"We have the freedom to express ourselves and demonstrate - only if we don't say anything displeasing; we have the right to equal treatment and opportunities - only if we are 'loyal' to the state; we have the right to health care - only if we have enough money to afford treatments and medications; and we have the right to adequate housing - only if our ideologies and lifestyles are acceptable," it stated.
ACRI's 70-page report points to a wide variety of social ills that either surfaced for the first time or grew in scope throughout 2009. The report covered issues ranging from unequal access to schools to discriminating road signs.
It speaks out against attempts to limit freedom of expression. It points to legislative efforts like the Nakba Law or the Loyalty Oath as examples of the restrictions to free speech and accuses the state of cracking down on anti-war protesters who demonstrated against operation Cast Lead.
The report gives examples of every sort of discrimination imaginable. It talks about discrimination based on age, gender, religion (both type and degree), sexual orientation, language, physical and mental ability, degree of newness in the country and the list goes on.
The report also drew attention to what ACRI characterizes as an ongoing delegitimization campaign by the government against human rights groups. "This included aggressive media campaigns, demonization, the diffusion of false information and attempts to sabotage their funding," reads the report.
ACRI cited as examples the IDF Spokesperson's statement against Breaking the Silence and Interior Ministry Eli Yishai's description of organizations defending migrant workers' rights as a "threat to the Zionist enterprise."
"Over the last year, we are witness to two conflicting trends: On the one hand the dangerous deterioration to human rights being carried out by the government and its officials, and on the other the personal activism and voluntary civil organizing being carried out to protect the civil rights of us all.
"People are coming out to defend our democracy and human rights, these are our rights and our future," said Hagai El-Ad, director of ACRI. "There is no way we can allow ourselves to fail."
"On December 11 we begin to change direction. We will not wait for the next elections. We will not continue to grumble in the privacy of our homes. We will no longer rely on 'someone' to do 'something.' We remind all those who perhaps have forgotten: We are here. And there is no way we will surrender our rights."
Following the march, ACRI president, author Sammi Michael, awarded the Emil Greenzweig Human Rights Award to Yesh Din founders Ruth and Paul Kedar and to the Family members of Nir Katz who was killed in the summer shooting that took place in the Gay and Lesbian Youth Center in Tel Aviv.
The event was followed by a concert featuring Hip Hop group HaDag Nachash and singers Alma Zohar and Salam Abu Amana.
video of the march can be seen at the link below:
Click to view image: '19b041cb084b-satellite.jpg'
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