On the Istanbul Convention, Ukraine, and Israel

Adam Smith, the ISL – RCIT section in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 20.06.2022

While all Zionists are reactionary, some care about their optics, and some don’t. This is the root of the recent debate about the Istanbul convention. The hardline right wing campaigns under the slogan “The curse from Istanbul” (a pun on the popular Turkish drama “The Bride from Istanbul”). I note in passing how the right wing was not shy about using a slew of Orientalism, from fez hats, coffee to other props in opposition to this convention, as well as the status of labor organizations, called Ottoman Associations by Israeli law.

The right wing Zionists call for the rejection of the convention due to its stance on migratory issues (protection from deportation for non-citizens, currently there is no protection statute the only options are to leave the country or remain in an abusive relationship [1] [2]), its instance on changes to education curriculum regarding women’s rights, and financial compensation for gender violence.

The left wing Zionists want to join the convention in order to look good, but only if Israel has concessions on the articles relating to immigration, etc. In essence, emptying the convention of any substantial content. We have also seen the anti immigation concerns play out during the ongoing Ukraine refugee crisis, that a partial u-turn came only after public protest[3], despite right wing pressures. 

“Shaked needs to focus on assisting the thousands of Jews waiting to come to Israel and stop capitulating to post-Zionists who seek to undermine Israel’s Jewish character,” added Peleg. “It would be a crime against Zionism, and Shaked must not surrender.”  [4]

Another example is the blocking of sale of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine in order to remain “neutral”. [5]

Here are the right wing objections:

“Indeed, every one of the above three articles would destroy Israel’s doctrine of being a shelter for Jews from around the world. It would trump Israel’s laws and regulations that try to block mass entry of hostile PA Arabs via family reunification. It would render Israeli governments helpless before any foreigner who contrives to subvert its immigration policy with a sob story.

Today, a foreign resident married to an Israeli citizen must undergo a staggered procedure until obtaining legal status in Israel. Since Article 59 abolishes this tiered procedure, the Interior Ministry is saying it demanded and was approved of a reservation regarding this article.” [6]

Perhaps the treaty is indeed a sincere attempt to deal with the escalating violence around the world, but Israel must decide its own rules. We should not adopt cultures or rules that do not belong to Israel, but conduct ourselves the way a Jewish state should conduct itself in every aspect of its life, including when it comes to violence of any kind—from domestic violence through abused migrants, and to every other form of mistreatment.

The people of Israel were given morally just rules thousands of years ago, which have become the basis of Western ethics. However, when our sages established them, they were based on our ancestors’ profound understanding of human nature and its whims and dispositions. When other cultures adopted Jewish law, they twisted and warped it to the point where it has become unrecognizable and, worse, worthless.” [7]

It looks like Israel is approved to join the convention(with caveats):

“The Interior Ministry has reservations about the section of the convention concerning non-citizens whose residency status is granted through domestic partnerships – for example, through a relationship to a citizen or permanent resident. The convention grants these individuals legal residency if their relationship ends because of domestic violence.

In addition to this disclaimer, Israel will provide three clarifications about how it will implement certain sections of the convention, concerning the annulment of forced marriages, accepting asylum requests based on gender, and not returning women to their country of origin if they are at risk there (non-refoulement). The government argues that the Population and Immigration Authority’s existing regulations already provide an appropriate response to these issues.

Israel does not currently meet all the requirements of the Istanbul Convention, but most of these differences are supposed to be settled with the full implementation of the inter-ministerial plan for battling violence against women, along with other legislative changes.

The government recently began to advance new laws to prevent domestic violence, including electronic monitoring of men who have protective orders issued against them, and amending the law to prevent economic violence against women. The first bill passed in its preliminary reading in the Knesset, and the second – which passed its first reading during the previous Knesset, before it was abandoned – is expected to advance in this Knesset.” [8]

The final accession to the convention depends on the approval of the Knesset and the cabinet. Officials in the Justice Ministry, which is behind the measure, have said they hope the coalition crisis will not prevent Israel’s joining the treaty.

Israel’s reservations to aspects the convention stem from particularities of its legal system in regard to issues like divorce, state compensation for victims of crime, and immigration” [9]

But under right wing pressure, the latest news is that it seems even this will not happen. [10] As seen, Israel is already severely lacking both in laws against gender violence while lax in enforcement. This is no coincidence, a colonial settler society cannot afford to undermine its own basis by providing democratic rights or even a more liberal immigration policy.

Down with gender violence, for a full recognition of the Istanbul Convention!

For a Palestine free from the River to the Sea!


[1] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2021-11-30/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/her-family-sold-her-to-a-life-of-abuse-in-israel-shes-not-the-only-one

[2] https://www.haaretz.com/2021-12-10/ty-article/.premium/israel-revokes-residence-permit-of-woman-recognized-as-victim-of-human-trafficking/

[3] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2022-04-05/ty-article-opinion/ukrainian-refugees-reaching-israel-face-a-terrible-surprise/

[4] https://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/giant-billboards-call-on-shaked-not-to-capitulate-to-pressure-restrict-ukrainian-refugee-tide/2022/03/22/

[5] https://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/with-an-eye-to-putin-israel-blocks-spike-missiles-sale-to-ukraine/2022/05/26/

[6] https://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/knesset-about-to-vote-on-istanbul-convention-trojan-horse-that-nullifies-the-law-of-return/2022/05/08/

[7] https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/istanbul-convention-israel-should-make-its-own-rules/

[8] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2021-11-25/ty-article/.premium/israel-to-join-major-treaty-on-gender-violence-but-with-caveats-for-foreign-women/0000017f-db45-df9c-a17f-ff5d6aca0000

[9] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2022-04-23/ty-article/.premium/despite-qualms-israel-accepted-into-international-gender-violence-treaty/00000180-6562-db2f-a1c0-ef6f9c400000

[10] https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/2022-05-26/ty-article/.premium/00000180-fe65-d1e6-afbb-ff7d9d440000

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