critical Israelis in the Netherlands

Academic symposiums


Silencing Israel – critical voices under siege

November 3 – November 5, 2010, University of Amsterdam

While Israel is often referred to as “The only democracy in the Middle East”, it has always been a rather partial democracy, mostly restricted to its Jewish majority. During the last decade there has been a serious and consistent decline in the democratic standards to which Israel claims to adhere, particularly since the attack on Gaza in 2009. Increased attacks on the freedom of expression in Israel include among others: delegitimizing the of work of Human Rights activists; the detention of demonstrators by police during legal protests; and the “invitation” of human rights activists for cautionary talks with the  secret security service. Additionally, the Israeli parliament is pushing for a series of new legislations that aim to revoke the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as other Israelis who are “not loyal to the country”. Disturbingly, most of these undemocratic measures are widely supported by large constituencies and Israeli society at large. In 2009, a survey published by the Israeli Institute for Democracy indicated that 54% of the total population agrees that “only citizens loyal to the state are entitled to civil rights”.

Israel has never been a full-fledged democracy. For more than sixty years it has treated Palestinians in Israel as second class citizens, and for forty-three years it has occupied the territory of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza strip who go without any rights. To date, almost half of the population under Israeli control has no citizenship. The rights of many citizens, members of ethnic minority groups as well as Jewish human and civil rights activists, are now under threat more than ever before.

Human rights organizations and concerned activists represent a hope that one day Israel will be a democracy for all. With the rapid changes in the ‘democratic climate´ of Israel, this hope is swiftly shifting to despair. By bringing together activists and researchers, this symposium examines the anti-democratic forces at work, those targeted by them and those resisting them. It will furthermore consider the possible contribution of international awareness and engagement.

The symposium is organized in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam, Democratie en Media and Cordaid.



Wednesday, 3 November, Amstelkerk, Amsterdam

 20:00 |The Criminalisation of the Political Act

Abeer Baker, Advocate: Senior Attorney, Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Protestors Behind Bars

Dr. Dov Khenin: Member of the Israeli Parliament (‘Hadash’ party), Chairman Joint Committee for Health and the Environment

The Struggle on Israel’s Democratic Space and What Can Democrats Abroad do About That.

Miri Weingarten: Director, JNews – Alternative Jewish Perspectives on Israel and Palestine

Threats to dissent in Israel: Silencing opposition through law and incitement.

 Dr. Erella Grassiani: Lecturer at the VU University Amsterdam, and board member of gate48.

Thursday, 4 November, Doelenzaal at the University of Amstedam Library

20:00 | Culture and Media: the Right to Remain Silent

 Galit Eilat:  Writer, curator and the founding director of the Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon, and research curator at the Van Abbe Museum

 Freedom of Expression and Whom it Serves

Anat Saragusti: Journalist, executive director of Agenda, Israeli Center for Strategic Communication

Media. Democracy and Human Rights

Discussant: Prof. dr. Niko  Besnier: Professor for Cultural Anthropology, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Moderator: Dr. Barak Kalir: Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam

Friday, 5 November, Doelenzaal at the University Library

20:00 | The role of the Public Intellectual

 Dr. Hilla Dayan: Lecturer, Amsterdam University College, and co-founder of gate48

the State of Affairs in Israeli Academia.

Prof. dr. Yossi Yonah: Professor of Political Philosophy, Department of Education, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Ethno-Nationalism and the Closing of the Israeli Intellectual and Public Mind.

Moderator: Shifra Kisch:  Ph.D candidate, University of Amsterdam