OCCUPIED SPEECH: Threats to freedom of expression and civil society in Israel

Oct 25 2017


Middle East Institute Ballroom
1319 18th St, NW, 2nd floor,
Washington, DC 20036


In recent years, civil society, human rights, and media organizations working in Israel and Palestine have come under increasing attack from the Israeli government and extreme nationalist groups. For their work advocating equal rights for all Palestinians and Israelis, furthering values of pluralism, and opposing the occupation of Palestinian territories, organizations and individuals have been discredited, called “traitors,” and received repeated threats.

Join us to hear from three leading activists and learn how their organizations – 972: Advancement of Citizen Journalism, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and Just Vision – are using alternative media, legal advocacy, and grassroots organizing to fight back.


Sharon Abraham-Weiss became the Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in May 2014. Previously, she served as ACRI’s Tel Aviv and Central Israel Region Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner (2009 – 2014) and as a staff attorney, also with ACRI (2001-2008). Sharon was among the founders of  Itach-Maaki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice, and serves as a board member. In 2005, she was featured in “The Marker” newspaper as one of the 10 most influential people working for social change in Israel.

Haggai Matar 
is an Israeli journalist and political activist. He is the executive director of “972 – Advancement of Citizen Journalism,” the nonprofit that publishes +972 Magazine, and previously served as co-founding editor of Local Call, the Hebrew-language news site, which co-publishes with Just Vision. The two sites offer independent journalism, which consists of on-the-ground reporting and in-depth analysis, and amplifying marginalized voices in Israeli and Palestinian societies.

Suhad Babaa is the Executive Director of Just Vision, an organization dedicated to increasing media coverage and support for Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders working to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity and equality in the region. She previously served as the Director of Programming, overseeing Just Vision’s educational and community outreach efforts across the United States, Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Suhad has addressed dozens of audiences at venues including the United Nations, Harvard University and film festivals, mosques, synagogues and churches across the country.

Lara Friedman (moderator) is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Prior to coming to FMEP, Lara was the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular focus on the Israeli-Arab conflict, settlements and Jerusalem, and on the role of the U.S. Congress.

Cosponsoring organizations:

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is the leading organization advancing and defending democracy in Israel. NIF believes that Israel can live up to its founders’ vision of a state that ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race, gender, or national identity. Widely credited with building Israeli progressive civil society, it has supported hundreds of cutting edge organizations that advance liberal democracy, including protecting freedom of speech and minority rights, and fighting the inequality, injustice, and extremism that diminish Israel.

The Foundation for Middle East Peace aims to promote a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through education and advocacy, publications about the conflict, a speakers’ program to introduce Israeli, Palestinian, and other experts to U.S. audiences, and a small grant program to support groups that advance the cause of peace in Israel and Palestine.