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Repression of, or restrictions on, human rights organizations has been documented in authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes. Drawing on interviews with fifteen representatives of human rights organizations in the State of Israel, this article discerns the distinctive way in which democratic justifications are being used to delegitimize human rights advocacy in a liberal democracy. We document the forms of pressure organizations are facing, analyze the different ways in which human rights advocates are negotiating the shifting context, and suggest a framework for recapturing legitimacy in democratic contexts. Our analysis points to the need of HROs to devote increased attention to democratic mobilization.
I assume your research, your report will be public and I think our "enemies"—I do not think they are really our enemies but they are acting as if they are our enemies—will be reading it. And I think that you and Dan have to be very conscious in what you write and first of all [ensure] that we are not giving them ammunition … and another thing is that they are doing opposition research … I do not see a way in which we can avoid it but just to be conscious about it that when you write, if they see things that are working in their attacks against human rights organizations [your study may] enhance those efforts. (Interview with the head of a human rights organization (15 Dec. 2016)).