The reasons why Israelis don't speak out against corruption (Part 1)
Lory is a prolific Israeli blogger and mother of 2 children. She fought the system in Israel to get her children back when they were taken from her. Mistake. They don't like fighters. Today (28th March), she sits in the infamous Abu Kafir detention centre in Tel Aviv, where she has been since 26th February. She is interrogated for 9 hours a day, by a police officer who screams in her face all day - every day. She is denied newspapers, gifts from home, contact with anyone. She has been placed in confrontation with others to 'get them to fight and betray each other'. Lory fights the welfare - she has no fear when it comes to blogging the truth. In Israel it is termed 'insulting a public official'. There are 67,000 public officials, costing the State over 175 billion Shekels a year. They are unassailable; unapproachable, and definitely immune from questions.
The 30 day detention has been extended with the approval of the Attorney General - Mandleblitt - who has also endured 4 months of weekly protests demanding an investigation into alleged corruption. Multiple arrests have occurred there also.
She doesn't want much. Lory has no money; her tools as a journalist were removed over 9 months ago. She became the target of Homeland Security and the USA investigation teams, enlisted by Israel in 2016. They wanted to 'take her down'.
Lory was relentless. She wrote and wrote about the 'crimes' of social services - how children were being wrenched away from parents by social wowrkers, breaking legal and judicial procedures.
She had nothing to lose. She knew they were coming for her. Not fully understanding the consquences, or did she? Lory was penalised over and over again for insulting officials, currently running at over $1 million in financial penalties.
Nothing could stop her. She saw children hurt. She saw desperate parents, and was compelled to continue. But in Israel, this is a dangerous pastime. For no matter what is portrayed about democracy, it is well known by those whose eyes have opened that there is none. Criticism of the welfare - it just isn't done. To criticise a judge? Even more heinous to the system.
How long has Lory been a target of harrassment by the authorities? Here is a letter written to ask for help to the UN as early as 2013, which includes her in the report:
Ccf Israel went on further to write again about the concern of freedom of speech, again begging the UN to make a return visit to help the people of Israel.
It was early as 2013, the civil society became aware of the persecution of Lory.
Let us read this in more detail: this is part of the report sent to the UN:
1. Lori Shem Tov is a journalist and blogger who exposes and writes about decisions of family judges who offend due process, and abuse citizens’ rights, especially denials of rights to access children. Ms. Shem Tov was called to the police and to the FBI Unit (Lahav 433) to respond to complaint initiated by Judge Tova Sivan in connection with a demonstration in front of her mansion in the city of Ramat Hasharon, and in connection with criticism on some of this Judge’s decisions and judgments. Also her own Judge Naftali Shilo complained against her. Possibly other Judges complained against her as well.
At police interrogations, the policemen refuse to tell her who the complaints are, and what is the substance of the criminal complaints. Again, if an indictment is filed against her, she will not be able to summon as witnesses the same Judges that complained against her.
2. Status of victim as human rights defender: Shem Tov’s blogs and critique of family Judges on he internet serves as one of the primary and only tool for parents abused by the system to learn how to cope with abuse and denial of parental rights. Her blogs network is one of the only sources of information to parents in distress, as the Government does not publish the laws anywhere, and the cases are also unpublished, thus leaving the public without any information to learn how to cope.
3. Description of the violations: In order to deter Shem Tov from publishing corruption and abuses of parents at family and juvenile courts, she is often called to be interrogated at the Police Lahav 433 unit. She has been prevented from seeing her children, in particular the older one, and is threatened that if she does not delete the critique she will never see her children again.
In addition, because she participated in demonstration in front of Tova Sivan’s house, Tova Sivan filed criminal charges against her.
Also two figures at the Ministry of Welfare, Meir Cohen and Yosi Silman have threatened her that she will be punished, unless she deletes information as to the work of social workers who separate between children and parents.
4. The Perpetrators: Judges Tova Sivan, Naftali shilo and Michael Schpitzer (head of Court Administration) who complained against her. Also, from the Ministry of Welfare Meir Cohen and Yosi Silman.
5. Action by authorities: Shem Tov is called to the police every few months to be investigated about critiques of the family judiciary. In addition, the officials at Court Administration reported on Haaretz newspaper that they have asked law enforcement in Israel to approach Google and YouTube to delete critique and blogs, and to direct Israel’s internet suppliers to block contents in Israel, so the public cannot read the criticism.
6. Link between the violation and HR work. Shem Tov is educating the public how to defend themselves against social workers and Judges who abuse parental rights. She also represents a non-profit charity “Alia”, to support women whose children are taken for foster care and adoptions. That is the reason why the officials want to silence her.
7. This complaint is presented to the UN-HRC by the Israel Coalition for Children and Family (www.ccfisrael.org/eng), a civil society listed with the UN.
It was ignored. The UN didn't respond to the requests. In 2016 Lory became a major target of the government. They decided it was time to remove her. All her wordpress sites, and others, were targetted for removal. She did her best to fight in 2016 for her right to freedom of speech:
Asking as a news reporter:
It is clear she was fighting with all the legal precedents she could use:
Whilst she currently is enduring interrogation, help is limited. She covered the alleged crimes in the system, whilst comparing it to the USA, who were helping Israel authorities to operate against her.
Lory finished her letter by asking to be allowed her freedom to speak and write:
The legal background Lory gave to request her freedom of speech was ignored.
Sites were targetted by Homeland Security from January 2016:
The net was closing in on her. Lory knew the authorities wanted her. She put out an international cry for help:
Lory published ferociously. She helped mothers and fathers, continuing to post and bog. On February 27th, whilst trying to save a colleague who was arrested, Lory was held at the police station:
Nearly a month has passed. Lory has been decreed a flight risk. The police claim she was planning to escape with a false passport. She had no intentions, and certainly no money to leave with, nor would she. For Lory made a life commitment to her cause.
This is not the first time that such a crackdown was attempted. In 2012, after a request by CcfIsrael for a UN rapporteur to visit Israel, there were arrests made after the visit, including an attorney.
In this article from 2012, two Members of Parliament conceded that the arrests then seemed to be similar to Syria, not a free country. Another MK Moshe Kahlon, said that children's visits in contact centres were 6 times higher than any other developed country!
That was 2012, and now in 2017 the scandalous arrests have stepped up a gear.
Lory's hair has grown, she has lost weight. Her plight is being sent around the world, to international organisations. She is a journalist. The right of public officials to humiliate and derade citizens is absolute. The right to fight back? It is this reason the Israelis don't speak out.