Keren Neubach, Koach La Ovdim, and attorney Tamar Peleg-Sryck.
The recipients of the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award for 2011 are journalist Keren Neubach, the workers’ organization Koach La Ovdim, and attorney Tamar Peleg-Sryck from HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award is given annually by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) to an individual or organization that has made a unique and outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights in Israel. The award was established in 1981, but was renamed in 1983 after the murder of peace activist Emil Grunzweig by a grenade thrown during a demonstration against the First Lebanon War.
This year’s selection committee included Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Prof. Michael Karayanni, and Prof. Yossi Yonah. Below are committee’s notes:
Journalist Keren Neubach
Through her journalistic work, Keren Neubach creates – as is the name of her daily radio program – a new Agenda (Seder Yom). Every day, she puts institutionalized social issues at the center of Israeli media discourse. Neubach raises socioeconomic issues that affect all of Israel’s residents, including marginalized and disadvantaged communities whose voices are not heard elsewhere.
In her work as a whole – and particularly in the morning radio program that she has been hosting in Reshet Bet in the past four years – Neubach and her coworkers fearlessly expose injustices carried out by the authorities, at a time when many of her colleagues shun such issues. Neubach has been deeply and extensively covering social issues even before they were in the center of public discourse – and she continues to do so. Among the social phenomena on which Neubach shed a light were the high concentration rate of the Israeli market, social inequalities, structural problems in the National Insurance Institute, the housing shortage and the drying up of the public housing programs, and many more.
Against the backdrop of Knesset assaults on freedom of expression and freedom of press, and against the backdrop of the silencing winds sweeping through the halls of the media, Neubach’s unique voice – as a journalist and as a woman – and her persistence in dealing with social issues are both outstanding. The committee decided to give the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award to Neubach for all of the aforementioned reasons and also in support of the current and future struggle for the status of journalists and of the media in Israel.
Koach La Ovdim – Democratic Workers’ Organization
Since its establishment in 2007, Koach La Ovdim (“Power to the Workers”) has organized thousands of workers from a wide variety of occupations – in the public sector, in the private sector, in the service industry, and even in civil society organizations. Koach La Ovdim represents, among others, groups of workers employed by organizations and private contractors, which provide public services that have been privatized by the State.
The activists of Koach La Ovdim, who founded the organization without financial resources, have been bravely and persistently facing resistance from employers – while utilizing both organizational means (strikes and protests) and legal tools (in the labor courts). The uniqueness of this organization is its ability to bring together workers from different worlds. Thus, workers from Haifa Chemicals sit next to migrant caregivers in organization meetings. This is the very meaning of building solidarity across occupational lines.
The committee decided to grant the award to Koach La Ovdim for creating a fundamental change in the status of the right to organize in Israel, both in the legal aspect and – more importantly – in the practical aspect. The organization has changed the perception of the workers’ community, the feeling of empowerment of workers’ groups, and the understanding – of the State, employers, and the general public – regarding the deep meaning of workers’ organizing. It’s been decades since we’ve seen such a change in the perception of the right to organize and in its realization.
Lifetime Achievement Award to Attorney Tamar Peleg-Sryck
Attorney Tamar Peleg-Sryck from HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual began her law studies in 1980, while she was simultaneously working in the field of education. Over the past twenty-five years, she has been dedicating her work to representing Palestinians from the Occupied Territories: administrative detainees, minor detainees, detainees in the al-Khiam Prison in Lebanon, prisoners facing the release committee, detainees undergoing GSS interrogations, and individuals arrested during demonstrations in Bil’in.
Attorney Peleg-Sryck struggled in the military courts and filed dozens of petitions to the High Court of Justice, currently as an attorney in HaMoked and prior to that in the framework of DCI and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The committee decided to give her the Lifetime Achievement Award for her vehement activity in a place where so many blatant human rights violations occur, under the cloak of the occupation and the separate legal system for Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories. In her 85th year, attorney Peleg-Sryck is still active, vigorous, and committed to relentlessly protecting human rights.