Israelis arrested as part of Government team blueprint to quash free speech
It appears the UN and other international bodies are abandoning Human Rights Activists in Israel. This is due to a major campaign to discredit the messengers who are seeking legal remedies and help internationally. One by one, the fathers who are fighting for their children are being arrested or targeted.
The all pervasive question must be - why is the System spending millions on silencing people rather than on reforming family laws? Here below is the writer's reply to the representative of the Ministry of Justice, Dina Dominitz, who has been given a mandate to close down all avenues of human and civil rights in family matters and violations of the judicial system. As an increasing number of men are taking their lives; when will the abuse stop?
Thank you for the opportunity to send you further information, and arrange to meet on the dialogue you invited. I wish to clarify some points which you made in your report. Your key statements are in italic, with my response:
Most of the activists in the struggle are united in various organizations (ngos) such as the Movement for the Future of Our Children, Bereaved Fathers for Living Children,(?) Aleph ze Aba, Zakaat Ha'amot (Mothers Cry), the Coalition for Children and Family in Israel, and more. The struggle of these activists focus on welfare workers, both in local authorities and in the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, among others, Legal social workers Law (welfare officials, as they were called in the past) and employees of the Ministry of Justice, attorneys, boarding school managers and boarding school workers, psychologists and experts, judges, lawyers, academics and in fact anyone who is associated with family law procedures by professional and therapeutic aspects.
This is incorrect. There are no ngos on the list you made. These are Facebook groups, one is misnamed. The only civil society on your list is the Coalition for Children & Families (Israel). As current acting head of this society, it is on this basis I wish to respond, prior to meeting. You correctly identify this as a struggle for these activists. A struggle which has lasted over decades, and has included lobbying, attending committees and putting requests for reforms which have fallen on deaf ears. It has resulted in some activism becoming more pointed. Understandably, this is not well received by the authorities.
Appeals to the UN Human Rights Committee against the State of Israel, including the filing of false reports to these committees; filing lawsuits in Israel and abroad against judges, religious judges, legal advisors, ngos, government ministers and other functionaries. In accordance with a directive of the of the Ministry of Justice, in May 2014, an interministerial team was set up to coordinate and integrate the information and activity in various aspects, and to examine how it is possible to promote and make it more efficient to deal with the phenomenon, using the various tools available in the criminal, civil and administrative fields.
This is completely erroneous. Appeals have never been ‘against’ the State of Israel. This would imply that any civil or human rights violations against citizens who wish to complain, is an act by them of treason. Any democratic country has routes both domestically and internationally for a complaints procedure. Israel signed up to treaties to allow this process. The only name mentioned in your list is Ccf Israel, a civil society registered in Geneva. We welcome the debate on points of disagreement, however have never filed one single false fact.
You write that false reports are filed. Could you expand on what is termed as false? Reports were submitted based on countless cases, and data which was collected with great difficulties, due to the lack of freedom of information being readily available. The experiences of thousands of people cannot be dismissed as false. Why would a team be established without publishing this information, rather than entering dialogue?
“filing lawsuits in Israel and abroad”
We find this a remarkable statement when encompassed in the paragraph. It appears to be a concern as you have written it. In a democratic country, it is the constitutional right of an individual to pursue any course of justice possible. Does this mean the interministerial team set up to deal with the phenomena, using tools, is to actually prevent citizens having the right to a fair hearing, or to overcome injustices done to them?
Following an in depth examination led to the consensus that this phenomenon constitutes a significant risk to the functioning of the family and welfare systems, and efficient and effecting coping with this phenomenon necessitates the full integration of ministries and the use of all the existing legal tools, both the criminal and civil, economic and administrative fields, to protect public officials who are attacked just for performing their work faithfully, or performing their duties in particular and for the purpose of protecting the proper functioning of the legal, judicial and welfare system, which deals with the most sensitive and important field of family law and safeguarding the best interests of children, in general.
As a civil society, we have pressed for the protection of the risk to children and families, as a priority over the public officials. The groups you mention earlier have activists who took to the streets in protest, again as any democratic State should welcome. It is a sign and message from the people who elected the government to serve them. There are thousands of people who feel it is the other way around, and they have the right to express this. Reports from the UNCRC have expressed concern at the high number of private outplacement facilities and foster placements. The parents themselves are the victims. A documentary aired on mainstream TV highlighted the need for reform. Welfare Minister Haim Katz also concurred. Nothing has changed, other than a new report in 2018 from a Knesset committee now showing that children taken from home doubled from 10,000 in 2016 to a staggering 20,000 in 2017, with admissions that children are being literally lost and unaccounted for. You mention the need to protect public officials from activists, yet many professionals try to speak out, and many more are afraid to. Can you expand on the issues of protecting a public official if they have actually lost or broke a procedure to remove a child from home unnecessarily – as has been confirmed with a plethora of facts and data. We can discuss the grief of a parent whose child has been ‘lost’ after removal from home.
Due to lack of transparency in accountability, we want to ask how you can show us measures of a public official performing their work faithfully. In our debate, we can bring data from across the legal profession to counter this blanket concept.
Regarding protection of the proper functioning of the legal, judicial and welfare system. Can you expand on the measures available which help the citizens in the event of failures? All methods of writing, lobbying and appealing have been fruitless, which is why so many people take to the streets in desperation for a solution.
The team includes members from the Ministries of Welfare, Foreign Affairs, Health, Law, the State Attorney's Office - the departments for special functions and international roles, consultants in legislation (international law ), cyber and technology, the courts administration and the Israel Police. The team formulated methods of action and procedures through various contacts, as detailed below, collaborates closely with other relevant bodies such as the Civil Enforcement Department of the State Attorney's Office(prosecution), consultants in legislation criminal, the Tax Authority, the Corporate Authority, the Cyber Department of the State Attorney's Office, and more. Its activities are accompanied and guided by the Management of the Ministry of Justice.
Are you able to expand on the quantity of members of teams which help citizens prior to the need to set up a team of this size to protect public officials? We are not aware of such a magnitude of services and fully independent ombudsmen for the citizens. The size of this team to attack citizens only serves to prove the discomfort the Authorities are feeling at being challenged by the public for their right to family life and to raise their own biological children. Can you expand on this heavy handedness and the huge cost to the taxpayers? Is the power exerted on citizens really equal to the perceived threat?
We emphasize that the guiding principle of the team's activities means that it is not possible to deal with this severe phenomenon, as it is not possible to deprive any individual of his or her right to freedom of expression or the struggle to promote the public interests that are important to him, including criticism of the state's actions in general, and the system which deals with protection of minors in particular and even if this criticism unpleasant to the state, provided that these are legal and legitimate actions that do not undermine the rule of law by being intended to paralyze the system, and do not cause serious personal harm to public officials solely due to the performance of their duties according to law, in order to discourage them from doing so.
This statement is core to your paper. Whilst saying it is not possible to deprive individuals of their freedom of expression, many of them have been deprived of their freedom and put in prison. We are not aware of any individuals who protest who have an ‘intention to paralyse the system’. How are you able to determine these thoughts or intentions? At the time of writing, the subjects you introduced in your paper have been held in detention for 16 months for ‘insulting public officials’, and even declared in a judgment as being ‘worse than ISIS or Hamas, having an ideology of evil, and the worst people on earth’. This written in a protocol by a judge, who it is your express intention to protect as one of the public officials. What kind of proportion is this to declare those struggling for civil rights to be such extreme and violent people?
Where is the protection for the citizen? As your report brought up some key activists, I would like to ask you to expand a little. It is agreed that extreme insults are illegal, upsetting and disturbing. There are few who would dispute this. However, can you explain why the defendants are unable to acquire all the materials for a full defense? Why cross examinations are barely allowed as the trial begins? Could we ascertain why a lawyer, who has been acquitted for any writing, never been to a protest, is held on conspiracy charges after prison, and now house arrest, for which there is no law in Statute? This is a serious breach of human rights; liberty, dignity and freedom. Many in the legal profession are appalled at the breaches in procedure. We can debate the principle of innocence before guilt if possible.
Can you expand on the illegitimacy of procedures in the courts, for which we now have thousands of documents of evidence to prove this? With several lawyers having committed suicide, it seems only one side is presented in your report.
The existing mechanisms to deal with this phenomenon and to defend against the slander, humiliation, violence and harassment experienced by the workers under attack are both on the criminal and civil levels. On the criminal level, the main offenses which are at the base of the humiliating publications and attacks public officials include:
The offence of threats, harassment of a witness, offenses under the contempt of court order; the offense of insulting a public official: offenses under the Prohibition of Defamation Law; Violations under the Protection of Privacy Law.
There are hundreds of examples of activists in other fields, who you could fit into the description above, yet they are not imprisoned. But, one glaring error is the assertion of threatening. In other areas, the campaigns against tax corruption, banking, gas, housing etc are shown with equal veracity, so can you expand on if the large team set up is for all, or just the ‘handful of disgruntled fathers’ you describe, who have a problem merely with ‘adoption laws’. We are not aware of any fathers fighting or campaigning in a struggle against adoption laws, rather their being separated by feminist family laws, preventing them access to their own children.
Regarding offenses in court, can you expand on how judges can write protocols BEFORE they hear witness?
The definition of defamation provides broad protection for a good name - that the publication "may" humiliate, degrade or harm a person (Lashon Harah) is an objective test: If the reasonable person saw the libel statement, the libel suit is examined according to a flow chart:
First, whether the expression constitutes defamation, then it is necessary to examine whether the publication enjoys immunity, or whether there is a defense of substantial truth or fair comment. A basic condition for the realization of the constitution is that a person will be at the center of the "victim". Ie, an individual or a corporation, as opposed to a "public".
This is actually the requirement of identification. In the matter of defamation of the public, the legislature chose to submit claims in the criminal track and with the approval of the government legal advisor only, attesting to the legislator's tendency to reduce the state's power to cases in which significant public interests are involved and when the intensity of the expression and the harm it entails is particularly high.
The definition for lashon hara is objective. The exemptions are if there is a political aspect to it, or if the comments serve the interest of the public. Can you expand on the differences in sensitivity of a politician or policeman, judge, social worker – all of who are public officials? Are those who are in direct contact with the public afforded more protection? We have protocols in which judges have said ‘the truth is not a defense’. As a civil society, we have a duty to defend the truth.
The insult of a civil servant is a crime in which the criminal norm prohibits a person from expressing in words or behaviour offensive messages against a public servant. The nature of this transgression creates a clear tension between the purpose of prohibiting the expression of offensive messages against a public servant and the inherent harm to the freedom of expression and freedom of the individual's criticism of public servants and public services. The Supreme Court has often ruled that the civil service is an essential component of the democratic regime, and the need to defend it also requires protection of the individual public servant through whom the public service operates. Without such protection, the employee will find it difficult to carry out his duties properly, and therefore the system under which he is appointed will not be able to fulfill all of its public goals. The public official becomes a target of ridicule, abuse, cursing, mockery, slander and false accusations, and liable to be afraid to carry out his duties, and therefore the acts of slander undermine the public service and significant social and public interests.
It is clear that a political figure is also a servant to the public, and currently many politicians are being ridiculed, mocked etc. Can you expand on why this is legally not a crime? If a public servant is exposed despite gag orders as having committed a crime, can we talk about why the exposure of this is a bigger crime than the crime itself?
These publications are intended to undermine the stability of society and to harm the human dignity of its victims in their own eyes, and society as a whole, but because of characteristics such as race, religion, gender or other group affiliation, which ultimately lead to the violation of the legitimacy and equality of those groups as part of society. The author of the book also proposes to impose certain regulations by means of legislation and procedures, which will restrict such publications and protect the victims.
I would like to include in our debate how the publications of violations of citizens are intended to undermine the stability of society? There is a discussion, of if these violations are kept a secret, is that not creating an instability in itself, as those seeking reform, or are reduced to desperate screaming or suicide have no outlet for justice? Your report quotes from a book, stating the human dignity of the public official is harmed in their own eyes. We would like to debate the loss of human dignity of the thousands of citizens, and how they are helped.
Many complaints have been filed against these activists, for which the deputy Attorney General has given the approval to open an investigation into the offenses of expression, and one of the prominent activists was sent to prison for about a year because of this phenomenon. In addition, discussions have been held regarding increasing the efficiency of work and control among the various entities under the guidance of the deputy state attorney (special assignments).
We are aware of one activist who was imprisoned for a year for insulting a judge. We would like again to expand on the incarceration of activists for nearly 18 months already, until the end of proceedings, classed as a danger to the public. We would like to expand on the subtle differences between ‘danger’, and to whom. Civil rights are on the agenda.
For guidance and coordination regarding claims filed abroad., To date, ten personal lawsuits have been filed in the USA against ministers, judges, social workers, legal advisers and other officials in the system, as well as against associations and their employees who provide services for the state. The names of the plaintiffs and the defendants are frequently replaced, and from the point of view of American law, it is possible in certain cases only to file claims in the United States for activity that occurred of it. The arguments in general are - that the legal system in Israel is inappropriate, discriminates against men and violates human rights in terms of the law and from the standpoint of practice, that the plaintiffs are exposed to torture and abduction of their children and constitute an overall assault on the welfare system and the law of the State of Israel dealing with family law etc. This attack is based, inter alia, on allegations of human rights violations and international obligations of the state, and can cause damage beyond the narrow legal realm. In some of the claims, the plaintiffs were not required to pay court fees or expenses because they argue before the court that they are unable to pay themselves and in most cases they represent themselves. (Pro-se ). In such a case, according to the law in the United States, there is no possibility of demanding those expenses. Most of the claims are very similar to one another, and it emerges from them that the versions are coordinated among the various plaintiffs. Despite the claim that in most cases they represent themselves, it is apparent that there are lawyers who advise them how to act.
In order to defend themselves in US courts, the state hired the services of a leading US law firm through a form of tender process. As of today, all of the claims that were filed were ultimately rejected, and there are several procedures which are still being handled in various courts (California and New Jersey). The funding for legal protection for the State and her public employees in these cases was made from the public budget (from the budgets of the ministries in which the employees are employed or employed in the past) and is estimated at NIS 500,000 in the fiscal year 2014, and in 2015 it amounted to more than NIS 1 million. It should be emphasized that the high costs of the fee, which falls as a burden on the various ministries, are estimated at an average of hundreds of thousands of shekels per case. The state is forced to spend these expenses due to the fear of not being legally represented in these cases and from submitting requests for motions in limine that will lead to decisions against the public official.
The team accompanies and guides The American legal contractor in handling all existing procedures that have not yet been completed, including coordination of representation by American law firms, financial representations, etc. Coordination with the US Department of State through the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry in order to issue sovereign immunity notices that indeed have matured on issuing an immunity notice by the US State Department , which was filed with the US court , by way of a particular procedure, and leading to outright dismissal due to lack of jurisdiction. The same statement was also used successfully in another procedure. The team is also working on this matter, with other parties, in accordance to circumstances such as the High Court of Justice Department, the Attorney General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, etc.
The right for the State authorities and public to defend themselves is inarguable. Rather, can we expand and discuss the right of the citizens who have reached the point where there are no legal remedies left inside Israel, and how this can be changed? Is the right of a citizen to his family life worthy of such a high investment for the State to prevent? Does your new 'iron dome' international court now leave citizens with no democratic measures for justice, unlike all other countries worldwide? Can we discuss the myriad of judicial violations on citizens and any team which may be set up for the people as opposed to the State?
Coordination and guidance with regard to the representation of the State in the various UN committees - The ngo’s mentioned above appeal regularly to UN bodies involved with the implementation of the conventions on human rights including the covenant on Economic, social and cultural rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, etc. These petitions include the filing of distorted shadow reports, including the distribution of most blatant statements against the State of Israel, the court system, and the welfare services. Representatives of the organizations come to the committees in Geneva, pass among the members of expert committees various materials and work to influence the recommendations of various committees. The State is required to defend itself against these claims before the committee, which requires a great deal of preparation and the Ministry of Justice employees in charge of this field are being attacked and blatantly threatened by activists in that field. Moreover, the members of these organizations and their representatives appear in various forums in Geneva and denigrate the state, by presenting the "modern Holocaust in the State of Israel" with regard to the "divorced fathers". ". It should be noted that in these performances, they present themselves as members of organizations with consultative status in the UN - and this is not the case. The team has been coordinating diplomatic activities with the representatives of the state in the United Nations and the embassies. There have been several discussions in these committees and in various forums of the UN, which are accompanied by various activists who submit particularly harsh reports against the state, and intensive preparation is required in order to protect the country and present the facts as they are. In addition, there are also diplomatic activities in an attempt to prevent the various organizations from misleadingly presenting themselves as consultative status in the various UN committees or using official logos illegally.
As previously stated, there are no ngo’s in your mentioned list. The only one who attends is Ccf Israel, the civil society. I understand that you would consider a shadow report to be distorted, this is a common reaction of State Parties (particularly non democratic countries) to any criticism of procedural violations in their judiciary, or where these issues are not readily known to their own citizens. To enlarge on blatant statements against the State of Israel, is to a) assume a level of treason, or more mildy b) extreme dissatisfaction of the thousands of citizens suffering. We have NO awareness of any blatant threats from members of our society attacking Ministry of Justice employees through the UN in Geneva. We take this seriously, and would like some data and evidence of this, so we can address it as a matter of urgency. The only persons who have accompanied me were a family lawyer and one or two men. Can you expand on the visits I made alone, and if you are referring to my attendances? There is a slight tone in using the word ‘perfomances’. We are speaking with a voice that thousands of Israelis cannot use themelves.
When you say ‘protect the country’, can you explain? Is this an intimidation that the citizens affected are trying to destroy it? Harsh the reports may well be, but it is a far cry from a State required to protect itself. You stated in this report, it is just a handful of men.
The facts ‘as they are’, are in the reports sent to the UN, evidential and also provided from research of government reports. Can you explain the difference between those facts, and your views of them?
On the preventive level, meetings were held with representatives of the Ministry of Welfare in order to think about how to reduce the friction and conflict between the parties. Several proposals were suggested and will be brought before the relevant parties. In addition, following the request from psychologists and psychiatrists who are experts on behalf of the court in family and welfare proceedings and are also humiliated by these same factors, a dialogue with them was held with the relevant ministry - the Ministry of Health - together with the assistance units of the court, to formulate joint procedures that will help reduce the phenomenon and prevent abuse of disciplinary committees Of the Ministry of Health.
We are delighted you are considering the above measures. Given that most of the Facebook pages you mention as ngo’s are now deleted by the authorities, Ccf were fortunate to discover this document almost a year after it was published on the internet, having had no invitation to debate, yet a major part of your concerns internationally. We have a number of expert independent psychologists, psychiatrists and professionals, including lawyers, who will be more than happy to present the facts as they are in a meeting.
In recent years, there has been an increasing need for coping with the various aspects of the phenomenon of harm to public officials engaged in family and welfare. We are speaking of a small group of fathers (and sometimes mothers) who - following the divorce proceedings and the custody disputes they experienced or the implementation of the Youth (Care and Supervision) Law, or the Adoption of Children Act - take harsh and harmful measures against public officials from the welfare and legal system. Their clear goal is to discourage public servants, intimidate them, and deter them from carrying out their duties. Moreover, the increasing phenomenon over the recent period raises serious concerns about the potential harm to the principle of the best interests of the child and the attempt to paralyze the entire system. It should be emphasized that unfortunately, signs of the effect of the phenomenon on the system are already evident. Among other things, there is a phenomenon of the resignation of public officials from their positions and the difficulty in recruiting suitable replacements.
I would like to conclude, by addressing the beginning of your report. You describe a small group of fathers, yet groups of fathers amount to tens of thousands. You state they are upset by the Adoption of Children Act, or the Youth (Care and Supervision) Law. This is barely mentioned as a topic of discussion. The issues are much deeper. The removal of a father from access to his children, the world’s highest use of Child Contact Centres, which are used as a first resort. The disregard of public officials and politicians who agree with their struggle. The staggering amount of 20,000 children removed from homes, with official reports showing professionals stating that a minimum of 50% do not need to be; the epidemic of false claims in courts against men, the almost daily suicides of fathers; the exhorbitant financial demands of Jewish fathers for child support (which is actually religious discrimination); the use of the No Exit Order; the real evidence of abuse of procedures in juvenile courts. The children who have no rights, and when they speak out in court, evidence of protocols being changed, daily events.
The extreme response of incarcerating activists, or other activists being attacked physically in democratic protests is now at a level which surprises the democratic world, and can only serve to bring more and more people to the streets, as the weekly protests for 2 years indicate. The majority of people you refer to, love their country, their land, and their fellow citizens. They want a country to be proud of, with public officials who protect them, and not public officials who are protected at great expense from the public themselves. Ccf is not an enemy of the State, it is a voice of the truth for the people who need that voice.
I welcome our opportunity to fix a face to face appointment, and look forward initially to your response to the points stated above.
This report and response will be sent to the international human rights organisations and the UN in the hope that our voice will be heard.