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Really thrilled to be at @paulweiss for a conversation between @AnthonyACLU of the @ACLU and @SharonAWeiss of @acrionline.
Both @AnthonyACLU and @SharonAWeiss came to civil rights work from an experience growing up as children of immigrants. Anthony, child of Puerto Rican parents, Sharona the child of immigrants in Israel’s periphery. Succeeded to break thru through #education. Realized disparities.
Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, asks where we are vs. last time. “It’s worse.” — @AnthonyACLU.
.@SharonAWeiss: when I started working at @acrionline as a legal intern I was a hero. Aharon Barak was Chief Justice of the High Court. By time I became ED, people on the street question value of human rights — even consider human rights orgs = traitors. This is the closing space
Democracy has two parts. Rule of majority and protection of minority rights. We have felt closing of democratic space: 1) assault on civil society by GNGO (government backed NGOs) who attack progressive civil society. 2) legislation to restrict human rights orgs.
What was called the “Transparency Law” was designed specifically to restrict the ability of NGOs who work on human rights in occupied territory.
New wave of anti-democratic assault is against the High Court — against the judiciary itself.” @SharonAWeiss
“The trend we are seeing all over the world is the shrinking democratic space.” — @SharonAWeiss
.@AnthonyACLU: “the last time we met was right after the 2016 election. I was defiant in saying the courts and litigation would be a bulwark against the worst abuses of the election. Our mantra was: we’ll see you in court.” In 3 years, we have filed 247 legal actions ag Trump.
Litigation allows you to play for time — to preserve the status quo. Even in our loss of SCOTUS decision on #MuslimBan, we delayed the implementation of this terrible policy by 3 years.
.@ACLU has 150 layers versus DOJ’s 11,000. Yet litigation allows us to frame the #publicdebate. Eg family separation policy. Litigation tells a story of actual people harmed.
We have become too united to the way that our president constantly lies in public, the assault on a free press, the denigration of civil service and law enforcement and intelligence for political purposes.
But if we can continue to build on the wave of activism to make government more accountable and responsive and transparent, we might see a better day.
R. Ayelet Cohen asks about the record of #votingsuppression in the US and in Israel. “We’ve seen the worst come out in the last two Israeli elections, including efforts to intimidate Palestinian citizens of Israel from voting. Where are we now?”
.@SharonAWeiss the main issue on the table for democracy are the rights of Palestinain citizens of Israel. It started in 2015 when the threshold for Knesset was raised to exclude the small Arab parties. They had a miracle: they managed to merge despite ideological differences.
The fact that they acknowledged their power in democracy. Palestinian citizens of Israel vote in lower numbers. But the Joint Arab List leveraged its power.
I’m 2015 @netanyahu sent an urgent message warning that “Arabs are flocking to the polls in droves.” When Israel joined the OECD, the condition was integrating Palestinian minority into the workforce. That has happened, but the message politically had been, “remember your place”
In 2019, the aim was to install cameras exclusively in Arab municipalities. Imagine in the US context installing cameras only in African American districts. Unthinkable. We did the legal work on this at @acrionline to stop this.
What will happen? We don’t know. At the #Rabin memorial rally, @AyOdeh was not invited to speak — it was a Jews only rally. That’s not a good sign for building a democracy.
Yet at the same time, this is the first election in a decade that @netanyahu did not win. — @SharonAWeiss
In the US context @AnthonyACLU explains the rollback of voting rights in Shelby by Justice Roberts which removed requirement of pre-clearance. We were left with an “empty gun.” You can bring litigation, but only after fact. But this is often too late.
We are seeing supreessjon happen in changes to voting sites, requirements for voting (like ID requirements, like allowing @NRA IDs but not eg student identification). Other issue is #gerrymandering.
SCOTUS case last term was a “heartbreaker of a case” for its refusal to take up these issues.
The audience wants to know about civic attitudes towards minorities, the politicization of judicial appointment, mass incarceration in Israel, the role of state AGs and the Supreme Courts composition.
.@AnthonyACLU we’re always in search of that fifth vote. We are not going to win 9-0. We need 5. The two folks are Justice Roberts who has now to vote the way of a Chief Justice — having to put a judicial ballast in his partisan court.
We have been stunned the times he has been on our side, eg abuse of census. I think he does take seriously that he has a responsibility to the political independence of true Court.
*the Court.
1964 discrimination against gender in statute forbidden. But we didn’t understand full spectrum of gender. Even Scalia said it also applied to male-male sexual harassment case ~ #gender discrimination.
In Israel @SharonAWeiss explains that in judicial appointments, the head of the appointments committee is the Justice Minister. Together with head of Israel Bar Assoc. (now under indictment) @Ayelet__Shaked appointed over 300 judges. High Court is just tip of iceberg.
Lower courts are equally problematic for being stacked. We see, gender based discrimination in budget allocations. I have seen the discourse shift away from Constitutional protections to formalist discussion. Not to mention occupied territories.
Because there is no separation of state and religion in Israel, the road to have civil marriage was paved in the 1950s. In the 90s we got same-sex couples as part of this. Quite substantial in terms of equality.
Trans rights: a case of a woman incarcerated for murder transitioned in prison and was successfully moved from a male prison to a female prison.
In terms of mass incarceration in Israel, statistically Israel is on par with Europe but there are massive disparities in incarceration between Ethiopian Israeli and Palestinian minorities. That stems from discrimination in policing, profiling. We are working on that at.
Major success story from @acrionline is the effort to stop the deportation of asylum seekers. We brought in allies like restaurant owners and airline pilots who said no— on principle and out of self-interest.
But with Palestinians, we never hear about Palestinians. They are totally erased from the public conversation. This is a major challenge.
But is change possible? R. Ayelet Cohen asks?
.@AnthonyACLU says you have to look at the last 100 years. The power of the human rights movement is not in thinking parochially. It’s about a universal claim to the rights and dignity of every human being. We need to remain focused on the global struggle for human rights.
I take inspiration from the work of @acrionline. It’s simply put one of the most powerful and effective civil rights and human rights orgs anywhere. — @AnthonyACLU
.@SharonAWeiss says that the work of @acrionline is the microcosm of Israeli as she wants it to be. We are a diverse team of Israelis and Palestinians. Every day we practice the muscle of living together.
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