Israeli leftist admits: Human rights is a business

Sunday, January 30, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

An Israeli journalist and filmmaker deeply involved in the liberal-driven human rights movement wrote in a blog post earlier this month that he has come to the sad realization that the movement he was so ideologically beholden to is little more than a great way for a lot of people to make money.

In a guest post on the blog “Land of the Amorites,” Yotam Feldman recalled how he literally grew up in the liberal human rights movement. Feldman is the son of Avigdor Feldman, a human rights lawyer who has taken a leading role in the charge against Jews living in Judea and Samaria - the lands claimed by the Palestinians.

But the younger Feldman, who write regularly for the left-wing Israeli daily Ha’aretz, also recalled how those early naive feelings of being part of something genuine and pure were eventually overshadowed by the reality of the liberal human rights movement. He notes that as the human rights movement grew in the 80’s and 90’s, so did the income and standard of living of his family and others like them.

“My father’s worn down Subaru was switched to a Peugeot, and the Peugeot to Honda, Honda to BMW. Also the rented apartment in Jaffa that predated gentrification was replaced by a quite spacious house in Tel Aviv.”

Feldman wrote that as he approached adulthood, it simply made sense to remain a visible part of the human rights movement, as doing so would all but guarantee him at least a reasonable income.

“It is a known fact, but not talked about much, that very many of the left-wing activists in Tel Aviv make a living in various forms of the human rights sector,” he wrote.

While it’s certainly not a crime to make a living doing what one is passionate about, Feldman explained that the problem becomes not knowing who is actually genuine and sincere in their protests, and who is just “doing their job.”

“Many of the prominent activists and sometimes the most noisy ones at demonstrations are paid spokespeople,” Feldman revealed. “This is a rather confusing situation, as you stand in a demonstration, or even in small talk, it is not clear if the person at your side expresses his views as a result of internal mobilization or as an integral part of his job.”

Feldman concluded with a sharp jab at the human rights movement, accusing its higher-ups of being so upset over recent efforts by the government to monitor the funding of NGOs because it will hurt their personal incomes.

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