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Unreported Israel

Marianne Azizi . 23 Sept. 2015
Freedom of Speech in Israel - no criticism allowed
Freedom of Speech in Israel - no criticism allowed

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

directive.


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

($59,000).

• 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

policies.


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.

Cohen-Addad.

• 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

miseries.





#government censorship, #Israel and freedom of speech, #family laws in Israel, #Closed doors courts, #Tender Years Assumption

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