The Social Guard (Hamishmar Haxevrati) is a new initiative, launched following the social and civic awakening of the Summer of 2011. Our mission is to maintain a constant civic presence in the Parliament (Knesset), monitor the MK's work, and inform the public about each and every discussion bearing on social justic and civic equality inIsrael. It is our mission, to change the relationship between the Knesset and the people: More accountability on the one hand, more involvement and civic responsibility on the other.
Hundreds of citizens have already responded to the call, and for the past year members of the Guard have attended over six-hundred committee hearings and plenary sessions, reporting their findings on our website and Facebook page. These testimonies have highlighted invaluable information about parliamentary proceedings, and have aroused heated public discussions in the social networks, as well considerable interest in the mainstream media.
Since its inception the Social Guard has become a central player in the Israeli social protest movement, a platform for heterogenous groups and acitivists seeking to effect legislative change. One of our first accomplishments has been the spontaneous creation of the Local Social Guard, which acts along similar lines in city councils.
These are our immediate goals:
1. To let our representatives know that they are being watched, and that this information will eventually affect them – in primary as well as national elections.
2. To empower Israeli citizens, who for many years have lost any sense of personal political agency, and are starting to rediscover ther power, as well as their responsibility.
3. To strengthen the Knesset, and thus our democracy. Years of irresponsible parliamentary behaviour have corroded the public's faith in the system. This poses an imminent danger to parliamentary democracy – which is now under a series of concerted attacks.
4. To promote socially responsible legislation, which strikes a fair balance between financial, societal and ecological considerations.
The problems we address
Israeli citizens have discovered that regardless of political views, they all share a grim reality:
a. Our government has systematically divested itself of many of its traditional responsibilities, such as health care, education and welfare. Many services have been privatized, and even those who support this policy find that it has been carried out in harmful ways. Education is on a steady decline, a spectacular public health care system is collapsing, welfare projects are severely under-funded.
b. The cost of living is outrageous, with a handful of monopolies controlling our market. It is generally agreed that there is a serious problem of centralized control by a few omnipotent players.
c. Our democratic system is being corroded by different groups and interests, which use the Knesset as part of an overall campaign to curtail civic rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and so forth.
d. The government is leading an ongoing campaign to curtail the powers of the legislative and judiciary branches.
. It should be noted, that these are fairly unaccountable, since elections are national, and there is no direct mechanism which enables voters to keep in touch with their representatives.
How it works
The Social Guard invites citizens to register in its website and receive a weekly newsletter, which describs the latest legislation and gives next week's committee schedule. People choose the discussion which interests them (some come once or twice, others have become weekly attendants). A special team obtains permits for these visitors, invitations are issued at our request by the committee chairpersons. Our research team then provides monitors with detailed information about the discussion they will attend.
Monitors are asked to write their personal commentary. Each one of them has a different perspective, each testimony thus presents a unique point of view. Moreover, we are able to follow dozens of discussions each week and gain a broad and complex perspective. Actually, no other civic group has the manpower to do this.
Some further facts
The Social Guard is a registered NGO since December 2011, and has raised initial funds, inIsraeland abroad, to facilitate its work. We believe in transparency, thus our entire budget is available online (here)
Our activity is coordinated by a group of about forty activists, as well as a staff of five full- and part-time employees (with salaries based on the mean income in Israel), all of whom started out as volunteers.
Daniel Dor– Founder and Chairman
Boaz Rackoz – CEO
Lia Nirgad – Founder and strategic director
Esty Segal – Website and campaign director
Aran Rondel – Research coordinator
Iftach Brill – Liason Officer (with civic society groups and protest groups)
Uriel Raz – Treasurer
Jonatan Peled – Fundraising
Nirit Sharon – Newsletter
Varda Gil – Educational programs
Shani Goldberg – Knesset coordinator