The Shira Banki Clinic for the Struggle against Hatred in the Public Sphere

The Shira Banki Clinic for the Struggle against Hatred in the Public Sphere

In cooperation with the Berl Katznelson Foundation, at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya:

In the past few years, we have seen a worrying increase in racist expression and incitement to racism online and in the Israeli public sphere against various populations, such as Arabs, women, LGBTQs, Jews of Ethiopian origin, and other immigrants and refugees.  These acts are expressed in discrimination against various groups, exclusion of their members, and harsh incitement against these groups and their members, including humiliation and disparagement, and even physical violence against people living in Israel because of their belonging to different groups in the population.   According to the Hatred Report, approximately 3.5 million harmful, inciting, violent, or racist calls are uploaded annually in cyber space, and every three minutes, a woman is sexually harassed online.

In August 2015, following the murder of Shira Banki, we were surprised to learn from the Hatred Report that more than 4,000 people had openly expressed their support for the crime, which took the life of a 16-year old girl, and did not hesitate to openly express support of the murderer – support which is itself an offense under the Penal Law (Article 144D2 of the Penal Law, 5737-1977, entitled Incitement to Violence or Terror, which includes “praise, words of approval, encouragement, support, or identification with an act of violence or terror.”)

The grave figures revealed to us the depth of the social schism and hate in Israeli society and how far tolerance had drifted from us.  The figures also made clear that, despite the widespread phenomenon, few cases were brought to trial or are even covered by various laws. On the face of it, it seems that the public accepts that the “internet is a lawless Wild West” as a given.

Racism and incitement to violence are mainly treated by the Penal Law, but it has been little used, out of fear that use of criminal law to deal with cultural phenomena which are expressed in speech and due to the wish to refrain from harming freedom of expression.  Bills trying to deal with the hateful and racist dialogue in Israel have not passed the first reading.

The objective of the Shira Banki Clinic for the Struggle against Hatred in the Public Sphere – in cooperation with the Berl Katznelson Foundation – is to fundamentally change this mistaken perception.

The repercussions of the spread of hate and intolerance are not just legal, but cultural and social as well; the Clinic will therefore engage in a wide range of aspects related to the phenomenon:

  1. At the personal-individual level – the Clinic will provide legal aid for victims of the internet and public sphere. In addition to assistance at the individual level, the Clinic aims to raise awareness about a range of legal options to eradicate the phenomenon.
  2. At the social-public level – the Clinic will advance and initiate bills and procedures aimed at eradicating the harming of various groups on the internet and in the public sphere, such as initiating public activities to advance a dialogue of tolerance and respect.

At the research-academic level – the Clinic will advance comparative academic research in this growing legal field, which involves technology and criminal law.