In 2011 the Coalition for Children and Family in Israel (Ccf Israel) wrote to the UN Rapporteur to express concerns of freedom of speech and how in particular men were being prevented from criticising the systems. The Rapporteur Frank Le Rue came in to Israel and did indeed express concerns about the extreme controls by the censorship board on freedom of the press.
Now, in 2016, the curtailing of freedom of expression has extended to social media and blogging. Previous articles have highlighted the plight of Lory Shem Tov, the journalist who was imprisoned for speaking out against corrupt judges. Last year a human rights activist was imprisoned twice for speaking against the Welfare Ministry.
These people and tens of thousands of others are fighting for a better Israel - a country which is fair, gives equal rights and supports the welfare of children. They complain about the corruption across the country, not because they hate Israel, but because they love it. Yet they are betrayed over and over again - arrests, investigations, harrassment and even prison. They are fighting for the right to express a view without being criminalised. Nothing has changed or improved. It has declined even further. When a journalist is imprisoned it cannot sink much lower, and should be a concern for all Israeli citizens.
It is due to this extensive censorship that so few people outside Israel know what is happening to the civil and human rights issues of the Jewish population.
Here is the report written 5 years ago. Today, it would be even more tragic as so many men have taken their lives since then.
REPORT OF THE COALITION FOR CHILDREN & FAMILY (ISRAEL)
ON THE USE OF INVASION OF PRIVACY, LIBEL,POLICE COMPLAINTS AND GAG ORDERS TOSILENCE FATHERS’ RIGHTS ACTIVISTS FROM EXERCISING FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CRITIQUE OF THE GOVERNMENT IN ISRAEL
To the Honorable Frank La Rue,
The public in Israel has only recently been exposed to the Government of Israel’s
attempts to curtail freedom of speech and freedom of expression by proposing a
bill to Amend the Libel laws by increasing no damages statutory award from about
$19,000 to $86,000 without a showing of actual damages. This is gaining support
in the Knesset and will surely affect the public and media’s ability to express
opinions and expose corruption.
However, some sectors in Israel have been exposed to Government sponsored
silencing techniques, for example, men in divorce. Briefly stated, the law provides
that women get automatic interim custody (“tender years presumption”), and men
are sent to a government appointed social worker to examine their parental fitness
for visitation rights. The Ministry of Welfare’s most frequent response is to
recommend visitations in a supervised contact center. Already Israel’s rates of
supervised visitation are the highest in the world (20% to 25%) as opposed to 1-2%
in the United States. Women are also exempt from paying child support. and are
immune from being prosecuted for false domestic violence complaints.
Currently parliamentary commissions are about to file reports on parental equality
(Schnit Commission) and fair adjustments of child support (Shifman commission).
However father's rights and men's organisations are not represented in these
commissions. They are not invited to regular sessions which affect their situation.
Fathers’ rights activists may be affected in any one of these ways:
1. Special Commissions established to make legislative recommendations that
affect the relationship between men and women, are populated with radical
feminists who disseminate anti-male speech, while no member of the
men’s rights organization is appointed as sitting members of the panel.
This is not just a matter of participating in the democratic process; it is also
an issue of exclusion of the same people whose lives are affected.
2. Regular sessions of the Knesset Committees (Committee for the
Advancement of Women, Committee of Labor and Welfare and Committee
for the rights of the child), are conducted without invitations to men’s
rights NGOs, while highly paid representatives and lobbyists of the
women’s organizations, are regularly invited, allowed to express their
opinions, and participate in the democratic process.
3. Social workers scan the various internet blogs and facebook groups to “fish
out” fathers who express frustration with the “system”. They are called to
interviews and being asked point blank if they are active in men’s’ rights
groups. Whether they admit it or not, their visitations rights with the
children are suspended, and they are sent to a Contact Center, where they
get one hour a week with the children in prison like setting.
4. Family courts judges, where proceedings are in closed doors, and no
genuine transcript is maintained, also ask men, who are usually the
Defendants, if they are active in men’s rights organizations, particularly the
Movement for The Future of Our Children. Here the consequences are
severe, because the man can be enjoined from entering his home, his
visitations suspended, and his half of the marital property confiscated to
“compensate the wife”.
5. Two more silencing tools are used to suppress fathers’ freedom of
expression and opinion, and to express criticism against the family court,
the social workers, and to fight to change the discriminatory laws. The
first is the automatic gag orders on anything occurring within the family
court and under direction of the family court. The second is the use of
“invasion of privacy” tort action against the father. (Men have no chance
in launching parallel tort actions).
6. Here are some examples: A father who wrote about his pain in a blog
without identifying the woman was slapped with $15,000 in compensatory
award. He merely described his pain that the daughter is not allowed to
sleep overnight over the weekend. The wife argued that her identity may
be assumed because the writer’s name was public, and she may be
presented as an emotional extortionist. Judge Mira Dahan stated that by
suing under “invasion of privacy”, “truth” in the publication is no defense.
7. Another father who wrote a literary book, laden with sexual descriptions,
although the wife was not named, and the literary creation may or may not
be fiction, the wife managed to enjoin the printing of the book, and
obtained $60,000 in damages. She argued again that her privacy was
invaded, because “a reader may attribute the character to her”. Thus, even
the freedom to express oneself in literary creations has become a very risky
matter in the backdrop of divorce. (Civ. Index 3213/09, Judge Gila Kanfi
Shteinitz, District Court Jerusalem, November 21, 2011).
8. A father appeared last month on television (for the first time) without
pixelating his face, with full name, and described the horrible experiences
of separation from his two year old. The Judge, Esther Shtein in Rishon
LeZion, immediately retaliated (case of Shipperman v. Shipperman).
9. A new cause for alarm is the announcement by the Minister of Welfare that
a new law is being promoted to direct social workers to file police
complaints against fathers (who are essentially coerced clients of the
welfare authorities), whenever they feel threatened. This means that any
time father may argue with a social worker about the extent of visitations
she allows him; she can terminate the “services” by filing a police
complaint. This silencing technique has been used in the past (complaint
of Ronit Tzur v. Yaakov Ben Isaschar), but not as a system wide operative
10. The Ministry of welfare has launched libel cases against such “coerced
clients” fathers, who write guides for the public warning them of nefarious
activities of welfare agents, exposing corruption and brutality used at
outplacement facilities for children.
• In one case, the father called the social workers’ discrimination
practices between parents “Apartheid” and “Hitler modus operandi”.
He was ordered to pay compensation in the amount of 206,000 NIS
• The Ministry of Welfare also petitioned the Court to compel
psychiatric commitment to a facility solely on account of public
activities expressing disdain from the Ministry of Welfare antifather
11. Although not directly on the freedom of speech in the public arena, at
family Courts, judges limit litigant’s time for evidentiary trials, and place
armed guards next to the fathers so as to intimidate them/silence them
(Judge Rivka Mekayes, Kfar Saba family court).
• In the case of Dr. Eric Cohen-Addad, when his wife got extensive
time to express herself, and he lifted a finger for the right to address
the Judge, the Judge gave a nod to the guards to brutally beat up Dr.
• In the case of Joel Leyden, also a litigant in front of Judge Mekayes,
the father who was in the business of news aggregation and
reporting regarding all aspects of life in Israel, The Israel News
Agency, the first Internet news organization out of Israel, est. in
1995 with credentials by the Government Press Office, when this
father reported stories from the courtroom of Judge Mekayes, the
Judge ordered the server to take the site down abruptly, thousands
of news stories were lost and Mr. Leyden was fined $14,000. The
site has been partly restored and is now operating in the U.
12. The Ministry of Welfare also targets the press when unflattering reports are
published by launching grievances with the Israel Press Council, which
conducts a full a blown trial based on the press ethics code. In one case, the
major newspaper overstated the number of children removed from parental
care to outplacement facilities. This creates a chilling effect on reporters
not to “mess” with welfare office, or else their integrity will be tarnished.
• See, Ministry of Welfare v. Yedioth Achronot, January 18, 2009.
The newspaper was directed to issue an apology, and since then
systematically refrains from exposing any issues that place it in
conflict with this powerful organ of the state.
• Reporter Meirav Batito on August 8, 2008 brokered a story about the
abuse of orphans at Welfare facilities. The newspaper received a
barrage of intimidating legal demands, and refrained from follow
ups ever since.
13. The Ministry of welfare systematically refuses to include representatives of
the serviced population in its various councils and policymaking meetings.
For example, the statutory Council of Social Work is an advisory body to
the Minister, Moshe Kahlon. The law provides that three representatives
of the serviced sector be appointed to the Council by the Minister. The
Minister appointed only one representative for the gay and lesbian sector,
and left two slots deliberately empty. Efforts to populate the slots by
authentic representatives who are not pacifiers of the ministers, failed. The
Council meets behind closed doors.
In conclusion, on the one hand the Government unnecessarily and unreasonably
interferes with people’s lives and liberties, (for example by turning all men in
divorce clients of the ministry of welfare), and on the other hand the Government
uses a myriad of undemocratic tools to silence discontent via “invasion of privacy”
and libel tort cases, penalties of disengagement from children, and initiated police
complaints to suppress public opposition.
The overreaching gag orders at family courts prevent fathers and men from
expressing natural feelings such as joy, or happiness (for example posting pictures
with the children on the net without the woman’s consent), or feelings of anger,
disappointment or frustrations, because those can be interpreted by the woman,
again, as defamation or invasion of privacy. There is also a widespread witchhunt
of those fathers wishing to participate in the democratic process to change the laws,
and render them gender neutral. Fathers and men’s NGOs are excluded from
parliamentary committee sessions and from commissions to investigate their own