ZOA: Principle Of Free Speech Undermined By Israeli Pres. Katzav’s Call To Imprison Those Who Say Gaza Retreat Is Dangerous
News Press Release
October 11, 2004

Is He Urging Arrest of Sharansky and Arens?

NEW YORK- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed its dismay at the statement by Israeli President Moshe Katzav that anyone who calls the Gaza retreat plan “a danger to security” or “a mortal blow at the State of Israel” should be “placed behind bars.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: “The cherished principle of freedom of speech, which is enshrined in Israeli and American law, gives every citizen the right to express his opinion on whether or not unilateral retreat from Gaza is a danger to Israel’s security. When I visit Israel next month, I will express my opinion that rewarding terrorists by unilateral retreating and giving Gaza to Hamas and Arafat is a danger to the security of both Israel and the United States.”

The ZOA president explained: “Rewarding terrorists endangers Israel because it will demonstrate to the terrorists that murdering Jews results in Israeli concessions, which will encourage them to murder more Jews in the hope of gaining more concessions. Giving Gaza to Arafat and Hamas endangers Israel because it means that a terrorist state will be created in Gaza, which will harbor and sponsor anti-Israel terrorism; it will have control of its ports and borders, making it easier to bring in weapons; it will reduce Israel’s intelligence-gathering capabilities in Gaza, making it easier for the terrorists to develop deadlier and longer-range missiles; and it will have sovereignty, which will make it much harder for Israel to pursue terrorists across the border.”

In an interview with the Israeli radio station Arutz 7 on October 11, 2004, President Katzav said those who “incite against the disengagement decisions of the government and Knesset, and call [them] a danger to security, should be placed behind bars… If one hot-headed individual hears that his leader says that Sharon is endangering the state, he is liable to decide to do something about it…One can talk about security dangers, that it gives a supporting wind to terror, and the like, but not to say that it is a crime against humanity or a mortal blow at the State of Israel.” He added: “Democracy is freedom of speech when the speech is considered, responsible, and restrained.”

The ZOA notes that numerous prominent Israelis have said that unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza will endanger Israel’s security, including cabinet minister and human rights hero Natan Sharansky, former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, Major-General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, chief of Israeli Military Intelligence, and Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli Military Intelligence. Does President Katzav believe they should all now be arrested?

The ZOA notes with concern that there have been a number of recent developments indicating that there is an effort to intimidate or silence those who have raised concerns about the risks of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. For example, Prime Minister Sharon barred cabinet minister Uzi Landau from visiting the United States after he expressed concern about the dangers of unilateral retreat. Also, in recent weeks, there have been repeated leaks to the media resulting in sensational headlines claiming that opponents of Gaza retreat might use violence — even though no evidence has been found to support that claim.

The ZOA recalls that prior to the Rabin-Peres government’s concessions during the Oslo process, false claims were likewise made in order to demonize opponents of concessions. Later it turned out that many of those false claims were the work of Avishai Raviv, an agent of the Israeli Security Services (Shin Bet), whose job was to make Israeli nationalists appear to be extremists.

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