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MASHA GESSEN: Inside the Israeli crackdown on free speech

TJI Wrap
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MASHA GESSEN: Inside the Israeli crackdown on free speech

Published: 14 November 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

In the national trauma following Hamas’s massacre, those who query or express dissent about the government’s response are being trampled on.

A week after the October 7 Hamas attack in the south of Israel, Israel Frey, a thirty-six-year-old Haredi journalist who focusses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, had just returned to his apartment on the outskirts of Bnei Brak, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox town east of Tel Aviv, when he began to hear noise outside. It was after 10pm, a few hours past the end of Shabbat.

Someone — he doesn’t remember who — messaged him to say that his address was circulating online, along with calls to join La Familia, a far-right group that started as a fan club for Jerusalem’s largest premier-league soccer team, in an attack on Frey’s home. When Frey tried to check if there was anyone outside his apartment door, he discovered that someone had blocked the viewfinder. The sounds in the street were getting louder. 

He could hear people shouting “traitor.” They seemed to be hurling firecrackers at the building. He rushed his wife and two children, aged eight and thirteen, out of the living room, which has a large window, and frantically texted friends: “People are attacking my house. Please come and do something.”

A neighbour approached the crowd to negotiate safe passage for Frey’s family. Before the children left the apartment, Frey covered their faces with scarves so the crowd could not see them. He stayed inside, listening to the sounds of the gathering grow more frantic and rowdy, until the police approached his door at around three in the morning and told him he needed to leave. 

A firecracker hit the window of Frey’s downstairs neighbour, shattering the glass. As three policemen escorted Frey out, one of them grabbed Frey’s arm and spat at him.


Inside the Israeli Crackdown on Speech By Masha Gessen (New Yorker)
Since the October 7th attack, Palestinians and peace activists in Israel have increasingly been targeted by employers, universities, government authorities, and right-wing mobs.

Jerusalem Court Extends Remand of History Teacher Over Posts Against Israel-Hamas War (Haaretz)
In his decision, the judge cited the teacher's post which said 'our outstanding boys' executed two Palestinians in the West Bank and added that 'they never knew one day of true freedom'

The Voice of Israeli Arabs Opposing the War Is the Voice of Democracy (Haaretz)
Most Arab responses center on calls to refrain from collectively punishing 2 million Gazans who don’t support Hamas. If those in Washington and Berlin can protest what's happening thousands of miles away, surely it should be permissible to rally in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm

Haaretz Editorial: Israel Is Undermining Its Citizens' Right to Protest (Haaretz)

Photo: An Israeli woman calling for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip is comforted by another protester after an argument with a right-wing Israeli in Tel Aviv, November 4, 2023 (Bernat Armangue/AP)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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