The Netanyahu government went off the rails this weekend

In under 24 hours, Netanyahu and his cronies attacked left-wing NGOs, tried to shut down Israel’s public broadcaster, and starting advancing a law that would give the prime minister immunity for corruption charges.

By Yossi Dahan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem, October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly government conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

What transpired in the Israeli government over a 24-hour period this past weekend is nothing short of nauseating.

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It began with a scathing attack by Prime Minister Netanyahu on top police officials in response to news reports that police renewed the investigations against him in a number of corruption scandals. Netanyahu attacked the national police commissioner for allegedly leaking details of the investigations.

Immediately after that, on Sunday morning, the government approved a new law, allowing ministries to make certain political appointments bypassing normal civil service norms and bidding processes.

Later that day Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) proposed shutting down the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), in order to fund new settler roads in the West Bank, which Netanyahu floated funding with across-the-board cuts. The interior minister could have solved the budget problem in other ways but it turns out what worries him most these days is the months-old public broadcaster’s low ratings.

It is difficult to know whether Deri’s sudden interest in the corporation’s ratings was the result of an investigative report it aired, according to which Israeli police have gathered enough evidence to indict him and his wife for tax offenses, money laundering and breach of trust.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks during a conference of the Shas Party, Jerusalem, July 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks during a conference of the Shas Party, Jerusalem, July 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu said that he will consider Deri’s proposal. Comedic relief came from Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, who wrote on Twitter: “I was happy to receive the prime minister’s blessings to shut down the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, an end to wasting public money.” Kara, who is Netanyahu’s puppet in the Communications Ministry, clearly misread the instructions and quickly erased the Tweet, publishing a clarification that mostly likely came from above.

During that same meeting, the heads of the coalition unanimously agreed to establish a parliamentary committee to investigate foreign government funding of left-wing NGOs, and the involvement of those governments in internal Israeli politics. In order to prevent any surprises, coalition head David Bitan proposed the committee be headed by a member of Knesset from his Likud party. Netanyahu supported this move. Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin updated the coalition heads on the progress of a new government-supported bill to outlaw left-wing NGOs. At the end of that day, it was revealed that Likud MKs close to Netanyahu are currently promoting a bill that would would effectively extend the prime minister’s parliamentary immunity to corruption charges.

The most common explanation given by commentators for the relentless attacks by Netanyahu and his cronies is that they are trying to terrorize anyone who is directly or indirectly involved in the decision whether to indict him — to make sure he doesn’t stand trial.

The attempts to portray the prime minister as a victim has a long-term goal, however. Going after police investigators, limiting the independence of the courts, violating the media’s independence, politicizing and taking over the civil service, persecuting civil society organizations that work toward social justice and for human rights, and treating Arab citizens as a fifth column — all this so that when the damage is done, if and when he is proven innocent, Netanyahu will be able to continue to rule endlessly, with no investigations or real political opposition. An authoritarian leader in a regime that pretends to be a democracy.

Yossi Dahan is a law professor, the head of the Human Rights Division at the College of Law and Business and the co-founder of Haokets. This article was first published in Hebrew in Yedioth Ahronoth.

Scientists in France say they’ve found a cause of dyslexia – The Local

The team used an LED lamp, flashing so fast that it is invisible to the naked eye, to “cancel” one of the images in the brains of dyslexic trialparticipants while reading.In initial experiments, dyslexic study participants called it the “magic lamp,” said Ropars, but further tests are required to confirm the technique really works.About 700 million people in the world are known to suffer from dyslexia — about one in ten of the global population.

Source: Scientists in France say they’ve found a cause of dyslexia – The Local

Imprisonment of Catalan independence leaders gives movement new momentum

Predictable by any who really thought out what might happen if…

The imprisonment of two prominent separatist leaders has emboldened the Catalan secessionist movement, which was feeling frustrated and divided over the symbolic declaration of independence made last week by regional premier Carles Puigdemont.

Seguir leyendo.

Foreign Minister takes up #metoo campaign

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Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.

Lyssna: Foreign Minister takes up #metoo campaign

As the #metoo campaign against sexual harassment and assault spreads around the world, Swedish politicians are taking notice. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström praises women for standing up for themselves, and says their appeals need to be followed up by review of legislation.

The campaign has gained a lot of attention in Sweden, with several well-known women taking a stand and speaking out in public about their experiences of sexual harassment. The foreign minister has also talked about an unwanted experience of her own, during an EU-dinner.

“I can confirm that this happens also at the highest political level and I too have experienced this,” she told the news agency TT.

In a book by the Swedish journalist Jan Scherman, Wallström mentioned an incident that took place when she was working with the EU and was at a dinner with several EU-leaders.

“Suddenly I felt a hand on my lap. The man next to me at the table started to fondle me. It was surreal,”

Margot Wallström in the book Räkna med känslorna

Wallström left the dinner and later brought it up with the then Chairman of the EU-commission, José Manuel Barroso.

“Barroso thought it was completely unacceptable. But I do not know if he said anything to the person. I was shocked about what happened,” Wallström said in the book.

When asked today about her own experiences with sexual harassment, she told TT that she did “not want to speak about it too much from a personal point of view, but I can confirm that this happens also at the highest political level”.

Talking about the #metoo campaign she said:

“Brave women and girls around the world are stepping forward, but I am also thinking like a politician: What do we do about it? These kinds of appeals are not enough, they have to lead to measures being taken. We have to think about what our laws look like, and how do we change people’s mindsets, and how can we use all our channels to deal with this?”

The Minister for Equality Åsa Regnér, who used to be the general secretary of the national organisation for sexual education RFSU, also took note. She told Swedish Radio that these types of campaigns can make a difference.

“When women speak out about harassment and come up with proposals for improvement this puts it on the agenda. History has been driven forward by campaigns and testimonies from witnesses and lobbying from women and women’s movements,” she said.