Israel, Justice

Tell Ehud directly — stop the one-sided inquiry into NGOs

The Knesset is voting next week on whether to investigate Israeli human rights groups for disloyalty to the state, and here’s something you can do alongside Israeli peers to show that Jews outside Israel oppose this dismantling of democracy: tell the Israeli Ministers’ what you think directly on their Facebook pages.
And before I hear complaints about “interfering in Israeli politics,” I’d like to remind people that America interferes in Israeli affairs in a hundred ways, from sending $3 billion in military aid, to the $1 billion in federation funds propping up 90% of their nonprofit sector, to the 60% of Israeli political party funds raised here also. At the invitation of Shalom Achshav in Israel, I’m participating in an activity in which I would participate if it were any country in the world.

13 thoughts on “Tell Ehud directly — stop the one-sided inquiry into NGOs

  1. One would think, reading Haaretz of late, that with the pending Knesset review of foreign funding for Israeli NGOs, Israeli democracy is on its last gasps. I haven’t actually read the legislation authorizing the much talked about investigation; I can’t seem to find it online, or even a summary of it, which is surprising, given how devastating a nail this document apparently is to the ready-made coffin of Israeli democracy.
    However, I did find something else – a list of groups that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman believes deserve to have their funding examined and brought to light in the public sphere. Certainly the likes of Peace Now make the list of the persecuted Israeli Left, right? Wrong.

    According to Lieberman, the inquiry committee wouldn’t focus on leftist organizations like the Geneva Initiative or Peace Now, who “have a political opinion that is entirely legitimate even if I don’t accept it.” [That must be the anti-democratic, savage Moldovan bouncer talking.] Rather, he said, it would focus on organizations whose goal was to deter the IDF.”
    The FM went on to name the organizations he believes should be investigated. “I’ll begin with Ittijah – Union of Arab Community Based Associations. It was founded in 1995, and its director was Ameer Makhoul. The New Profile movement does not have a proper management license from the Registrar of Companies, and its financial report on donations it received this past year was not submitted.”
    Lieberman said Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – last submitted a financial report in 2007 and also does not hold a proper management license. “In that report, the organization said it received donations from abroad, including from the Swiss government, but a letter written by its director states that the organization did not receive any donations from foreign elements,” he said.

    This is the so called “death” of Israeli democracy? I think some of the town criers in this debate need a chance to reflect, get some perspective, maybe go home, take a nap, put on a funny hat – whatever it is that idiots do – because clearly, Israeli democracy will live to see another sunrise.

  2. Does anybody really think that politicians and other major figures (especially older ones) even read their facebook pages?

  3. KFJ, you’re making characterizations about the proposed inquiry without any information about the composition of the committee, the organizations this inquiry aims to investigate, or even the criteria by which the organizations will be chosen for evaluation, nor even the penalties that are being proposed (which are non-existent). Let’s face it, this inquiry serves narrow interests on both the right and left, while accomplishing nothing of substance. Anyone using this inquiry as a rallying cry for anything is either misinformed of purposefully, selfishly manipulative.

  4. Victor, are you playing dumb? All of that information has been reported and extensively commented over for nearly a month. I’ve been in touch with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and recently sat with former MKs who are fighting this hard.
    Give me an effin’ break. Just read the news, it’s all there.

  5. Show me a news article that has any substantiated information? How can it? No terms have been set, as far I know, and certainly no terms were set in the last month, when Haaretz has been blasting this to high heavens as McCarthyism. The people opposing this are making assumptions about what it means and who it’s targeting, without any substantiation. If Peace Now isn’t targeted then who is? Itijah? Adalah? And targeted how? Asked to submit proper paperwork for the past three years of their activities? The horror. You don’t know any more than I do, apparently, and neither do those MKs. Show me the great threat to democracy. How can there not be documentation, not opinion by pundits about how terrible it all is, but documentation of what is being planned? As the kids say, please, dog.

  6. Improper financial paperwork? Isn’t that job for the Ministry of Finance? Doesn’t sound like anything that involves the Knesset to me.
    I suggest that any filing errors in Chabad’s tax returns be brought immediately to Congress’ attention! They should have to answer directly to our country’s elected representatives. We can’t have foreign governments interfering in American affairs by funding partisan groups.

  7. Congressional committees are formed all the time to investigate all sorts of things, often with discriminatory intent, for example, to single out a specific group or industry for scrutiny, usually purely for political reasons. There’s nothing illegal or even immoral about this. You’re obfuscating the fact that you don’t know anything substantive about the Knesset proposal, and I don’t blame you. I’ve been following the news about this closely and there almost no real substance, just rampant speculation and fear mongering, for political benefit.
    Just admit that you don’t know very much substantive about this, and that you’re as surprised as I am that the likes of Lieberman say that Peace Now will not be on the agenda of this inquiry, meaning it’s not a broadside assault on the left, which is how it’s being portrayed.

  8. Look, I agree that this whole inquiry idea is clumsy and unnecessary. At the same time, I’m sympathetic that perhaps large majorities of Israelis feel under assault, including by a small domestic minority of very vocal activists with powerful friends abroad. Whatever you believe, that sentiment is real, and this inquiry is its civil political expression. There is nothing wrong with that, just as there was nothing wrong when the oil industry was dragged before the US Congress when oil prices were high. It’s nothing more than theater, and everyone is playing their part, including the leftist groups, who see this as an opportunity to solidify their support and funding from abroad by crying bloody murder.

  9. Okay, Victor, let’s pretend for a second that you can’t tell the difference between the hyperbole and the real thing. Let’s look at what people are saying who are not sympathetic to lefty “the sky is falling” language about Israel:
    In August, the Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said such an inquiry was unnecessary, yet the Knesset plunged ahead (no direct quote available). Naomi Chazan, former Speaker of Knesset, reported to an audience in New York this Monday that the legal advisor to the Knesset advised the proponents of the inquiry that their proposal was illegal and inadvisable (again, no online attribution available).
    The American Jewish Committee’s Executive Director published this statement:

    “The Knesset’s action today contravenes the democratic principles that are Israel’s greatest strength,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Israel’s vibrant democracy not only can survive criticism, but it also thrives and is improved by it.” […]
    “The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said Harris.

    NGO Monitor published this op-ed:

    “The right’s tactics provide more ammunition for Israel’s most ardent critics to proclaim the “death of Israeli democracy,” further contributing to Israel’s isolation. Attacking the legitimacy of Israel’s parliament and judicial system are common tactics in the Durban strategy, and this inquiry will be yet another example for critics to reference…A partisan Knesset inquiry is unlikely to generate significant change, and may increase the political attacks against Israel.”

    From the Union for Reform Judaism:

    “The recent initiative undermines Israel’s place in the global community and is a source of concern to the Jewish community throughout the world and to Israel’s friends everywhere…The activity of human rights organizations in Israel is a tribute to Israel’s democratic values and strengthens her democratic character.”

    From the ADL, not directly addressing the bill but timed for the same media cycle:

    “The stories seem to come out of Israel on a daily basis. Tales of Israeli intolerance: toward fellow Arab citizens, toward foreign workers, toward people of color. […]
    This is a highly disturbing trend, one that Israeli leadership across the political spectrum needs to examine and address. We at the Anti-Defamation League have issued a number of statements of condemnation.”

    And I’ll tack on the recent comments by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic online:

    “Israel is still a remarkably vibrant democracy, with a free press and an independent judiciary. But on the other hand, the Israel that I see today is not the Israel I was introduced to more than twenty years ago.”

    Apparently, all these folks feel this is a serious matter, not a PR gambit.
    And the point of my lampooning is clearly that the legislative forum is for making laws, the executive branch executes those laws. The point of democracy is not rule by the majority, but protection of the rights of the minority. This inquiry isn’t about pursuing lawbreakers — this is about using tools of state to attack opponents.
    But since you asked, I’m seeking a copy of the Knesset language form my fellow activists in Israel, which I will post online for your convenience.

  10. Actually, you’re proving my point: all these individuals and organizations are participating in a political process, which is what this inquiry is – a political process, not a legal process or a criminal process. That’s precisely how I described it, as political theater designed to satisfy, in a civil manner, a sentiment prevalent in Israeli society.
    No minority is being punished, or is having its rights restricted in any way. No one has suggested penalties or restrictions. Mild inquiry is being directed at organizations, on the basis of criteria we don’t know, which may not have yet been set, but which apparently exclude the most prestigious leftist groups, like Peace Now.
    I’ll point out, once again, that NONE of the individuals and organizations you mentioned have actually seen the terms of the inquiry, since, as we’ve discussed previously, those terms didn’t exist until… well, do they even exist today? Do they? Does the Knesset language articulate these terms, or merely provides for the formation of a committee to do so? We don’t know any of these things, and neither do the individuals and organizations you quoted – some of these quotes are months old! – yet they felt free to comment on the basis of conjecture and hyperbolic superstition.
    I don’t accept this, and neither should you. NGO Monitor is precisely right; in fact, I couldn’t agree with them more:

    “The right’s tactics provide more ammunition for Israel’s most ardent critics to proclaim the “death of Israeli democracy,” further contributing to Israel’s isolation. Attacking the legitimacy of Israel’s parliament and judicial system are common tactics in the Durban strategy, and this inquiry will be yet another example for critics to reference…A partisan Knesset inquiry is unlikely to generate significant change, and may increase the political attacks against Israel.”
    I agree with this completely. Unlike you, however, I don’t see this statement as justification for eliminating the inquiry, but as a stinging indictment of elements among the radical left, which are manipulating the situation to further their own political agenda, not out of concern for democracy, as I have explained above. Being intellectually honest and serious people means not allowing our chain to be yanked by the “death of Israeli democracy”, when it’s perfectly clear that no such threat exists.

  11. KFJ, in light of the now delayed vote on the the inquiry mechanism into foreign funding of Israeli NGOs, and increasing opposition to this measure among the inhuman, anti-democratic and human-rights subverting Likud fascist nazis, I’d like to remind you to post the copy of the Knesset language, which you offered earlier, per our conversations.

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