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Flag of Israel: Israel flag by Kulmalukko licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED. He modified from the original

Gordon, Neve. “Between Human Rights and Civil Society: The Case of Israel’s Apartheid Enablers.” Law & Social Inquiry, 2023, 1–27.


For decades, human rights organizations have exposed egregious abuses carried out by states across the globe. Yet, simultaneously, other national and transnational civil society actors have waged war on these human rights organizations to shield rights-abusive states from accountability. These assaults have increasingly resulted in the normative claims of human rights organizations being sidelined while rights-abusive laws and policies gain further ground. This article uses Israel as its primary case study to interrogate these civil society wars and their effects on human rights. Examining the work of Israeli and pro-Israeli civil society actors in bolstering apartheid and shielding the state from criticism, I highlight three strategies—native dispossession, lawfare, and advocacy—that civil society actors use to enable apartheid. I go on to show how these actors adopt liberal tactics to protect, reproduce, and facilitate apartheid and to attack human rights defenders. By way of conclusion, I argue that the dominant paradigm informing human rights NGOs needs to be modified and their remit needs to be extended to include civil society actors that contribute to the perpetuation of social wrongs.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.