There is a special atmosphere marking this year's Human Rights Day. On the one hand, we're witnessing an awakening and a determined fight for freedom and against corruption, from Morocco, through Yemen and Syria to Israel.
The masses, suffering from oppression, racism and poverty are taking to the streets and are standing up proudly against ruthless oppression. On the other hand, a cloud is looming over human rights. The forces of evil are using the spirit of the social protest to embrace the outer shell of democracy, which is the majority's rule. They aspire to cultivate a predatory rule, to have a dictatorship, which is against all that is foreign and different, trample on freedom and justice. We will stand in their way.
Democratic institutions, human rights groups and movements advocating social justice and spiritual freedom of creation have been marked for persecution and annihilation. We will stand in their way.
The forces of darkness are tricking prominent institutions into eroding democracy's strongholds. They aim to undermine the High Court of Justice and we will stand in their way. They wish to weaken human rights groups and we will stand in their way. They want to dismantle organizations that strive to bring peace and end the occupation. We will stand in their way.
They are distributing distorted information and cultivating xenophobia in order to lead the people down a destructive path of hatred towards the Arabs. We will stand in their way.
Israel has one of the highest poverty rates among all developed countries. They conspire to keep their policies of robbing a slice of bread and a glass of milk from destitute children to make the rich even richer. A third of Israel's children are living in poverty. Poverty is a disaster for children and a catastrophe for the state. We will stand in their way.
Democracy life's bloodThey are fanning the flames of war in order to silence the bitter cry of the homeless, the jobless, the social workers, the residents and the migrant workers, who live in slavery conditions. We will stand in their way.
We are not anti-religion but we are against religious coercion. We will not allow the forces of darkness, which use religion to humiliate women, oppress homosexuals and harass members of other faiths and free-thinkers. Their purpose is clear – to turn a democratic state into a halachic one. We will stand in their way.
If need be, we will take to the streets again. Freedom of expression is the life's blood of democracy. Those who conspire to support narrow-mindedness, those who advocate blind faith in baseless ideology and a single historical ethos are preaching nothing but spiritual fascism. We will stand in their way. With all our might – we will stand in their way.
The clouds are looming heavy and the atmosphere is turbid, making the brave contribution of the human rights groups and the groups fighting for peace and equality with the Arab nations in general and specifically the neighboring Palestinian people, all that more important.
To my brothers, the Israeli Arabs, I say – your fight for a just society is our fight. Your destiny is our destiny. The right for a respectable life does not differentiate between men and women, religion and nationalities. We, like you, aspire for a better, more humane society, for our children and our grandchildren. Together, only together, can we work on building a just future for you and for ourselves.
Our adversaries are weaker than they appear and we are stronger than our adversaries think. In a joint effort by the human rights groups we have proven that we can stop the forces of darkness. But there's a lot of work to be done. The forces of darkness will not give up – they aspire to silence us. But we will not be silenced and we will not allow them to hinder human rights, freedom of assembly and the right to protest evils.
Sami Michael is an author and the president of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. This was his speech at the Human Rights Rally held over the weekend in Haifa