Human & Civil Rights: 2017 Success Story

High Court Rules that Human Rights Ad Is Not Controversial

Over the past year, democracy in Israel has received a number of blows. Anti-democratic legislation is pushing for discriminatory policies against non-Jewish citizens of Israel and minorities, and proposes diminishing the power of the courts. Government efforts to control news media and to silence corruption investigations against Netanyahu aim to preserve power and control without regard to human rights, threatening to weaken the democratic character of the state. As a lawyer for Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Debbie Gild-Hayo, stated, “The democratic space is shrinking.”

In this anti-democratic climate, NIFC’s partner ACRI is standing up for human rights and Israel’s democratic values. So when a public service announcement they created to promote human rights was considered “too controversial,” ACRI filed a petition with the High Court of Justice (HCJ), arguing simply that promoting human rights should not be considered controversial in a democratic state.

This September, the HCJ accepted ACRI’s petition against the Second Television and Radio Authority, regulators for commercial TV in Israel, who had disqualified three sentences from the ad, sentences such as “The right to speak Arabic without being afraid” and “The right to love, even if I’m gay.”

In handing down the High Court’s decision, Justice Anat Baron stressed, “We cannot accept the position that a public service announcement that promotes human rights will constitute a controversial social and political message; recognition of and commitment to human rights are inherently related to the very existence of a democratic society.”

In a society where equality and minority rights are now up for discussion, the High Court’s decision doesn’t just signal a victory for freedom of expression in Israel; it is also a defense of the public’s right and responsibility to keep human rights a front and centre concern in Israeli society.

There is more work to do, however, as the HCJ ruled that the word “marriage” could still not be used in reference to same-sex couples.

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