The myth of good Israel vs. bad Israel (II)

Posted: January 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Where was “the peace camp” when the Knesset decided to probe human rights NGOs?

As the Knesset is passing one undemocratic law after the other, many people ask themselves where is the famous Israeli Left. I have long argued that supporting the two-states solution (as many Israelis say they do) doesn’t necessarily relate to support of human rights, freedom, equality before the law and other democratic values. Only a small minority in Israel is still fighting for those issues.

Outsiders, especially from the Jewish-Liberal camp, tend to exaggerate the role the left plays in Israeli politics, and to downplay the racist and anti-democratic tendencies in the Israeli center. I guess it makes it easier for them to continue seeing in Israel the model Jewish democracy they dream of. But the truth is that until now, Labor and Kadima members didn’t try to stand up to the torrent of laws and racist moves initiated by the extreme right. At best, they gave some fable remarks to the media or issued condemnation, but they failed to engage in meaningful political action, probably because they felt that their public never demanded it.

Last week, the Israeli Knesset decided – in an overwhelming majority and with the support of Netanyahu and his government – to initiate an investigation of the funding and activities of human rights organizations (or as Roi Maor rightly called it, Knesset Committee on un-Israeli activities).

In the days leading to the Knesset debate on this issue, there was a considerable media build-up. Writers and pundits warned of the damaging effect this decision might have on the Israeli democracy. Yet when the vote came, most Kadima and Labor members failed to show up.

The following members of Knesset – all of them considered among Israel’s “pragmatists” – where among those who had other issues to attend to during what could turn out to be one of the most crucial moments in the history of the Israeli parliament:

Labor: Ehud Barak, Daniel Ben-Simon, Avishay Braverman, Amir Peretz, Eithan Cabel, Einat Wilf, Matan Vilnai, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Orit Noked. Kadima: Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Shay Hermesh, Dalia Itzik, Ze’ev Bielski, Avi Dichter, And that’s just a partial list.

Many of these Knesset Members had official reasons for their absence, but as we all know, they would have showed up if they felt strongly enough about this issue. Politicians don’t miss political events which are important for their constituency. To Livni’s credit, she issued yesterday an explanation for her absence from the vote. She also declared that Kadima would try to challenge the decision in future votes, and still, from the leader of the opposition and the so called “peace camp”, we can expect more, much more.


Knesset moves to outlaw human rights organizations in Israel

Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Something very troubling is happening to “the only democracy in the Middle East”

More than 20 MKs, including members of opposition party Kadima, proposed a new bill which will make it possible to outlaw the important human rights groups in Israel. Among the organizations mentioned in the proposed bill are Doctors for Human rights, The Coalition of Woman for Peace, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, and Adalah: the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. All these organizations receive funds from the New Israeli fund.

According to a report in Maariv, the new bill will outlaw any organization “which is involved in activity intended to lead to the prosecution or arrest of IDF officers and government officials for war crimes.”  the word “involved” makes it a very broad definition.

Two weeks ago, an article by Maariv’s Ben Caspit suggested that NIF sponsored organizations that are linked to an international effort to investigate and prosecute senior IDF officers for war crimes.

The introduction to the new bill declares that:

“… “Those organizations help foreign organizations that seek to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli officials, either by means of providing information—the preponderance of which is erroneous and even mendacious—to foreign groups, or by publicly agreeing and lending credence to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes.”

More than 20 MK’s signed the offer. Among them are known parliament members from Tzipi Livni’s opposition party Kadima, former head of Shin Beit Avi Dichter and members from Likud and NRP.

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From all the anti-democratic measures I’ve been writing about here, this is by far the most extreme. Even if a mild version of this law passes, defending human rights in Israel – a difficult task as is – will become practically impossible. Merely proposing this bill will harm grassroots efforts and freedom of speech, as both the media and the public are becoming more and more hostile to people and groups who are portrayed as unpatriotic or anti-Israeli.

Much of “the case for Israel” is based on the notion that this is a democracy – the only one in a hostile environment. But Israel is changing. This is not something that you see on a one week vacation in Jerusalem or from the Tel Aviv beach, but if you pay close attention to the news, you can easily notice it.

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