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McCarthyism alive and well in Israel

jnews_short-logoIsraeli Knesset approves committee to investigate ‘anti-Israeli’ groups

JNews: 5 January, 2011
Source: @972magazine, Haaretz, Ynet, Walla, others

[see also: Antony Loewenstein,Israel embraces fascism and where is the Zionist Diaspora?
Michael Manekin, ‘Government doesn’t determine legitimacy of my voice’
Gideon Levy, When did it become illegal to be a Leftist in Israel?]
Jonathan Lis and Natasha Mozgovaya, Former Knesset speaker urges Israeli human rights groups to shun Knesset probe

and five additional links, just received (9 Jan) in a Jewish Peace News mailing:
B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights:
The Knesset’s decision is what harms Israel’s international status
Mitchell Plitnick: Is Lieberman the New Israeli Mainstream?
Roi Maor: Knesset Committee on un-Israeli activities
Rechavia Berman: To such an Israel I shall be a traitor
The American Jewish Committee: AJC Urges Knesset to Reconsider Measure


A further step was taken in the intimidation of Israeli human-rights and peace groups today when a proposal to establish a parliamentary investigatory committee to examine such groups was approved by the Israeli Knesset today.

MK Faina Kirschenbaum of Israeli right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu (‘Israel our home’) had submitted a proposal earlier this week for the establishment of a parliamentary committee for ‘the investigation of the part played by Israeli organizations in the delegitimisation campaign against IDF soldiers and commanders, and of the funding of these organizations.’

The proposal was approved by a 41 : 17 majority vote in the Knesset today.

Kirschenbaum said yesterday that “the joint efforts by international and Israeli organizations to damage the IDF, its soldiers and commanders must be investigated by the Knesset and stopped”.

For the past decade an international coalition of organizations has worked in cooperation with Israeli organizations, to exploit the discourse of human rights and to damage the legitimacy of the activities of IDF soldiers, to encourage desertion from military service and to label IDF soldiers and commanders as war criminals. Within this framework several senior officers have already been sued for war crimes in various countries around the world,” the proposal read. “The proposed investigative committee seeks to examine the Israeli organizations that take part in this public campaign against IDF soldiers. Moreover, the committee seeks to examine the sources of funding of such anti-Israeli activity.”

In an interview to Israeli news website Ynet, Kirschenbaum said that such organizations are “mostly funded by anti-Zionist bodies and even foreign states.” In Knesset, Kirschenbaum added that “these organizations submit materials to the Goldstone [Fact-Finding] Mission and are behind the legal procedures opened against Israeli officers and officials around the world.”

Various human-rights and peace groups were cited as targets for investigation, including Adalah, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, MachsomWatch, B’Tselem and others

A broad coalition of Israeli human rights group has expressed outrage at the initiative, calling it ‘McCarthyism’. MK Nitzan Horowitz of the left-leaning Meretz party called the initiative ‘a brutal act of political persecution.’

This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is cited as its source.


antony-loewenstein

Israel embraces fascism and where is the Zionist Diaspora?

6 January 2011

Just hours after the Knesset approved a motion calling for a parliamentary investigation into the activity of B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence and other groups, National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari referred to members of the leftist organizations as “traitors who must be persecuted at any cost.”

Speaking at an SOS Israel conference in Jerusalem Wednesday evening, Ben-Ari called the leftists “germs” and “enemies of Israel.”

The rightist lawmaker went as far as equating the leftist organizations to Hamas and Hezbollah.

In an audio tape obtained by Ynet, Ben-Ari can be heard saying, “Elements that want to destroy the Jewish state are operating within the State of Israel. They are nothing short of traitors. They are persecuting IDF soldiers and want to castrate our resilience.

“I see the people from Peace Now; they each have a private car. Every clerk has the finest equipment. Who funds all of this? The greatest Israel haters are funding this. If we’ll have to enact a law in the Knesset to eradicate this dangerous enemy, that is what we’ll do. Such a germ can destroy Israeli society. This enemy threatens the state’s existence,” he added.

Extreme rightist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who also attended the conference, called on activists to protest outside the homes of the leaders of the leftist groups “and explain to their neighbors that these are people who harm IDF soldiers and cause Israel damage.

“We must also face them on the legal front – file lawsuits and show them we are not suckers. Those who harm the State of Israel and its soldiers will be punished,” he said.

In addition to the mass support from right-wing factions, the proposal to set up an inquiry commission into the activity of leftist groups was also backed by three members of Kadima, which heads the opposition. “We must erect a democratic and Zionist barrier against the use of human rights claims at the expense of Israeli patriotism,” MK Otniel Schneller said.

Today’s Haaretz editorial:

The more Israel’s isolation in the world increases as a result of the government shunning the peace process, the more energy the right-wing parties, led by Yisrael Beiteinu, are investing in silencing internal criticism.

It may seem ironic that Avigdor Lieberman, the same foreign minister responsible for some of the crises that have led to Israel’s delegitimization, is the person leading this crusade to silence and persecute leftist and human rights groups in Israel, a crusade that culminated yesterday in the initiative to establish a parliamentary panel of inquiry to “investigate” such organizations as Breaking the Silence, Yesh Gvul B’Tselem on the grounds that they are “damaging Israel’s legitimacy.”

But it shouldn’t seem ironic, since these things all go together, as history shows: Confrontational leadership that attempts – out of ideology or cynicism – to establish its rule by disseminating fear, paranoia and hatred toward the entire world, will not stop at destroying foreign relations. It will blame the results of its mistakes on internal enemies, on a fifth column.

The extent of the political right’s cynicism is evident in the fact that its demand to “investigate” “the intervention of foreigners in Israel’s affairs” is directed only at left-wing groups, while “foreign” interference in the country’s affairs by the supporters and financiers of the settlement movement is ignored and silenced with a wink.

There is nothing new in criticism being leveled at those who spread information or opinions that are not always convenient for the reigning national-security narrative.

What is new is the intensity of the “persecution of the left,” which has become not only a craze but a replacement for any sort of policy.

The blame for this wave of attacks lies with the “sit and do nothing” policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who despite lip service to the contrary here and there, is celebrating the victory of this fatalistic and pessimistic narrative – the narrative that claims that the conflict with the Arabs is insolvable and all that that can be done is to manage it. And the more detached and fragile this “management policy” becomes, the greater the incentive to uproot any information that threatens to pull the ground from under it.

Persecuting internal political rivals will do nothing to convince anyone of the just path of the right-wing government headed by Netanyahu and Lieberman. It will only undermine Israeli democracy even further.

Gideon Levy, one of the few mainstream voices of sanity in Israel, writes what many Zionists are thinking. Democracy, indeed:

It’s high time a legal ban on the Israeli left be instituted. Why do we continue beating around the bush? Why do we need such a taxing, exhaustive legislative process in enacting law after law? What’s the use of all these various proposals and amendments? In lieu of all the aforementioned, let’s just do one very simple thing: declare the left an illegal entity in the State of Israel. From then on, whoever thinks left, acts left, demonstrates left or tolerates left will belong in jail.

Let’s build another “holding facility” for foreigners, but this time for the foreigners from within – the leftists – thus purging and purifying our camp. Such a step would accurately reflect the zeitgeist that has taken hold among the majority of Israelis, and allow them to sketch a genuine portrait of Israeli democracy.

In the Israel of 2011, it’s no longer legitimate to belong to the left. It’s illegitimate to campaign for human rights or to oppose the occupation or to investigate war crimes. Such actions earn Israelis a mark of shame. A land-stealing settler is a Zionist; a warmongering right-winger is a patriot; an inciting rabbi is a spiritual leader; a racist who expels foreigners is a loyal citizen. Only the leftist is a traitor.


+972

Breaking the Silence member: ‘Gov’t doesn’t determine legitimacy of my voice’

Mikhael Manekin, 6 January 2011|+972blog

I know what I won’t tell them at the Kirshenbaum Committee. I won’t tell them that I immigrated to Israel with my family as a child. I won’t tell them that I served as an officer in the Golani Brigade. I also won’t tell them that I did 35 days of reserve duty on emergency call-up orders in the Second Lebanon War. I won’t tell them these things because I don’t owe them anything. They don’t need to love us or tell us  that we are patriots. They are doing far more damage to this place than we are.

Because of them millions of Palestinians live under military occupation. Because of them the regard toward foreign workers is shocking. Because of them Palestinian-Israelis do not live in full equality in their own country. And because of them our position in the world is deteriorating day by day. An Israeli travelling abroad today is not ashamed because of me, he is ashamed because of Lieberman. He is ashamed because of the occupation. And because of them my friends are leaving the country –  to study abroad, to work abroad – they want to find a place that is normal, a place that does not shame their existence. A place they can live in.

And in any case, since when do I need permission from the government to say something? Who are they to determine whether my voice is legitimate or not? Obviously they do not like what I say – I speak against them. And they should listen to me. Or turn their backs. But they do not have the right to tell me when I can and cannot speak. And I don’t intend to explain this to them.

Maybe I’ll tell them something anyway – maybe I’ll tell them about the soldiers who arrest innocent Palestinians to practice real arrests. On orders. Maybe I’ll tell them what a closure is, or a seal, or a curfew, and how these words have destroyed the lives of millions – not for sake of security, but for controlling another. Maybe I’ll tell them that today, just today, I met a young  man who was discharged from the army last week and thinks only of Hebron and what he did there and wants to scream to society of the deeds done in its name, but he’s scared …

I’m not going to apologize or pander to this committee. They do more to harm me, my family and my surroundings than anybody else. But I’m going to fight this committee, and every person or entity that tries to silence me. And I will do this by breaking the silence and resisting the occupation.

Mikhael Manekin is a member of Breaking the Silence and former officer in the Israeli infantry.


haaretz.comWhen did it become illegal to be a Leftist in Israel?

The police, the legal system, the Knesset, the Shin Bet, and the IDF have joined forces with the propagandists of the right to act as prosecutors without a trial.

Gideon Levy, 6 January 2011


It’s high time a legal ban on the Israeli left be instituted. Why do we continue beating around the bush? Why do we need such a taxing, exhaustive legislative process in enacting law after law? What’s the use of all these various proposals and amendments? In lieu of all the aforementioned, let’s just do one very simple thing: declare the left an illegal entity in the State of Israel. From then on, whoever thinks left, acts left, demonstrates left or tolerates left will belong in jail.

Let’s build another “holding facility” for foreigners, but this time for the foreigners from within – the leftists – thus purging and purifying our camp. Such a step would accurately reflect the zeitgeist that has taken hold among the majority of Israelis, and allow them to sketch a genuine portrait of Israeli democracy.

In the Israel of 2011, it’s no longer legitimate to belong to the left. It’s illegitimate to campaign for human rights or to oppose the occupation or to investigate war crimes. Such actions earn Israelis a mark of shame. A land-stealing settler is a Zionist; a warmongering right-winger is a patriot; an inciting rabbi is a spiritual leader; a racist who expels foreigners is a loyal citizen. Only the leftist is a traitor.

The nationalist loves Israel, while the leftist despises it. One doesn’t have to apologize for anything, while the other must disprove rumor and speculation. In the Israel of 2011, we can no longer speak of the sentiments expressed by the vendors of the open-air markets and bazaars. Now, a majority of government agencies and legal entities are taking part in this dangerous bonanza of delegitimization.

The Knesset has resolved to create a parliamentary committee of inquiry to look into the activities of left-wing groups “and their contribution to the delegitimization campaign against Israel.” Such a panel would make even Senator Joseph McCarthy blush.

Nuri el-Okbi, a Bedouin citizen and rights activist, was sent to prison for operating an unlicensed business by Judge Zecharia Yeminy, who wasn’t embarrassed to admit that he upped el-Okbi’s punishment solely due to the fact that he’d acted on behalf of the rights of the scattered Bedouin population.

Jonathan Pollak, a member of “Anarchists Against the Wall” and an anti-occupation activist that any healthy society would be proud of, was sent to jail for riding his bicycle on the road.

Mossi Raz, a former Knesset member who was innocently standing on the sidewalk during a protest against the killing of a Palestinian activist in Bil’in, was beaten by a police officer, handcuffed and arrested.

Peace activists are questioned by the Shin Bet security service and warned ahead of time against committing any violations. A physicians’ group is “on the extreme left,” a social foundation “despises Israel,” dedicated women who monitor checkpoints are “traitors” and an information center is considered “an accomplice to terrorism.”

Settlers who hurl trash at Israeli soldiers and their friends who set fire to Palestinian fields are not placed on trial, and yet Pollak is sent to jail. Soldiers who killed Palestinians carrying white flags have yet to be punished, but those who revealed such incidents are denounced. All of this is compounded by a plethora of bills – from the loyalty oath to the Nakba law. Everything blends together to form one horrifying picture: The left is an enemy of the people and an enemy of the state.

While all of this transpires, the real damage to Israel’s image and its international standing is being caused by its obstructionist policy and the government’s efforts to further solidify the occupation. It is caused by the violent activities of the Israel Defense Forces and the settlers, along with the racist actions of Israel’s legislators and rabbis.

One day’s worth of Operation Cast Lead did more to putrefy Israel’s stench than all of the critical reports combined. One torched mosque did more to drag Israel’s name in the mud than all of the columns and editorials criticizing Israel combined.

Yet nobody is demanding that any of these incidents be investigated. Very few people, if anyone, have been put on trial for such actions. What remains of the left, the only group who continues to preserve Israel’s moral standing? The lone few keeping the flickering flame of humanity burning are accused, convicted and punished while the true guilty parties are cleared of all charges. The police, the legal system, the Knesset, the Shin Bet, and the IDF have joined forces with the propagandists of the right to act as prosecutors without a trial, while the left is deprived of a defense attorney.

One single law could simplify matters: Let every Israeli know that it is forbidden. It’s forbidden to believe in a just Israel, forbidden to fight against any of its injustices, forbidden to struggle for its soul. Still, a bit of doubt manages to creep into the heart. Do all of those waging a fight against the left – from the heads of the Shin Bet and the police, to the judges and the right-wing lawmakers – really want a “democracy” without the left?


haaretz.comFormer Knesset speaker urges Israeli human rights groups to shun Knesset probe

Avraham Burg criticizes committee that is expected to be set up to investigate left-wing groups that allegedly take part in delegitimization campaigns against IDF soldiers.

Jonathan Lis and Natasha Mozgovaya, 7 January 2011


Avraham Burg, an ex-Knesset speaker and former head of the Jewish Agency, called on Israeli human rights groups not to cooperate with the Knesset committee expected to be set up to investigate them.

Sympathetic MKs should also shun the probe, Burg said.

“An inquiry committee like this has no authority to call witnesses or collect materials, and one must not cooperate with it,” he said. “The time has come to call this scarecrow by its name. It’s nothing more than noise trying to undermine the foundations of democracy, and the birds of freedom should not cooperate with the scarecrow.”

Burg said “the right-wing MKs, the fundamentalists and the nationalists, can sit together and investigate an empty room if they want. We will continue to struggle to rescue democracy from the hands of their racist and dangerous ideology. All the information they are seeking can be found at the registrar of NGOs and corporations, the tax authorities and Israeli websites. We have nothing to hide − do they?”

MKs Danny Danon ‏(Likud‏) and Fania Kirshenbaum ‏(Yisrael Beiteinu‏) are expected to compete over who will chair the committee to investigate left-wing Israeli groups that allegedly take part in delegitimization campaigns against Israeli soldiers.

A source at Yisrael Beiteinu said yesterday that “the party will insist that Kirshenbaum head the committee and not Danon.”

The source added that “the mandate that Yisrael Beiteinu wants the committee to have is much more limited than what was reported in the media. The parliamentary committee is expected to examine only organizations that are involved in the delegitimization of the IDF: organizations that describe IDF soldiers as war criminals and organizations encouraging draft evasion.

“The committee will not investigate groups on the right, that is clear, but if another party would like to establish a parallel committee in this direction, they are welcome.”

Sources at Yisrael Beiteinu said they could not confirm Kirshenbaum’s suspicions voiced in the Knesset yesterday that terrorist organizations helped fund human rights groups.

“This is precisely the reason to establish the committee,” a source at Yisraeli Beiteinu said. “If there is a need, after the investigation, the government … will have to take action against the groups based on the findings.”

Meanwhile, leftist Jewish organizations in the United States strongly criticized the decision to investigate the income sources of left-wing groups here.

The chief executive of the New Israel Fund, Daniel Sokatch, warned that Israel was on a dangerous path.

“A healthy democracy respects and protects human rights,” he said. “It does not attempt to put out of business human rights organizations that enjoy international respect. Human rights groups operate freely in a democracy, and this message has clearly not reached Yisrael Beiteinu.”


jpn

Mailing, 9 January 2011

Numerous public figures and organizations — from leftists and liberals in Israel and the US, to centrist journalists and mainstream Jewish Diaspora organizations — have sharply condemned the Israeli Knesset’s January 5th decision, passed by a lopsided 47-16 margin of lawmakers, to investigate the funding sources of Israeli leftist organizations. Many of the following commentaries (links below) discuss the bill’s alarming ramifications for Israeli democracy, even if the planned parliamentary committee never actually conducts the threatened “investigation.” Some see this as a disgraceful Israeli equivalent to the infamous anti-communist investigations of the US House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s and its proceedings against political activists in the 1960s.

Among the views of these commentators: veteran Israeli political activist Uri Avnery points out that many senior figures in the Netanyahu government, including the Prime Minister himself, cravenly absented themselves from the vote. Blogger Mitchell Plitnick, formerly of JPN, argues that the vote is one more sign that extreme-rightist politician Avigdor Lieberman is quickly becoming the gravitational center of Israeli political discourse. Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, one of the targets of the bill, points out that the organization’s funding sources are already transparent, so the bill’s actual aims have nothing to do with its stated intentions. A number of the commentaries denouncing the bill have pointed out that pro-settlement organizations are funded much more lavishly than Israeli human rights groups by American donors — in apparent contravention of US tax laws regarding charitable donations to organizations that contravene US political policies. And Israeli
blogger-journalist Rechavia Berman issues perhaps the sharpest jeremiad against the deterioration of Israeli democracy and human rights discourse that the bill signals, declaring that he cannot be faithful to a state that so brazenly trammels civil and human rights.

Israeli journalist and activist Roi Maor, in an analysis of the bill, offers one unexpected note of optimism: if the Israeli government is so bent on bullying leftist organizations, jailing non-violent activists (such as Jonathan Pollack), and obfuscating its clear responsibility in the killing of innocents (such as Bil’in activist Jawaher Abu Rahma), then it must feel itself deeply threatened — a sign that rights-activism is having its effect and must be increased.

Ofer Neiman, who recently came aboard JPN as an editor, articulates another perspective: “Many Israeli human rights activists agree that if and when the State of Israel decides to turn on its ‘blue-eyed’ dissidents, western public opinion will become more open to calls (emanating from Palestinian civil society as well as from Israeli and international groups) to step-up the boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against the Israeli economy and Israeli institutions.”

Boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts are undeniably appearing with vigor in unexpected places, such as the halls of Israeli academe, as Haaretz recently reported <http://bit.ly/hQphX7>, where 155 university and college faculty members have signed a petition calling for an academic boycott of Ariel University, a newly established institution in the Israeli settlement of Ariel.

Commentators such as Plitnick have suggested, in turn, that European sanctions against Israeli settlement activity could be a convenient vehicle for the US administration to exert pressure on Israel indirectly without running afoul of American domestic political realities <http://bit.ly/hf5zX3>. The Obama administration, as Plitnick and others point out, can send a strong signal simply by not blocking international efforts to nudge the Israelis into a peace agreement — by, for example, not vetoing a soon-to-be-proposed UN Security Council resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal. As in other cases where states drag out an occupation due to entrenched interests — Indonesia’s former occupation of East Timor comes to mind — international pressure can be at once legitimate and useful.

–Lincoln Z. Shlensky

Links to commentaries on the Knesset’s recent vote to investigate leftist organizations that have been critical of the government and military:

B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights: The Knesset’s decision is what harms Israel’s international status
Mitchell Plitnick: Is Lieberman the New Israeli Mainstream?
Roi Maor: Knesset Committee on un-Israeli activities
Rechavia Berman: To such an Israel I shall be a traitor
The American Jewish Committee: AJC Urges Knesset to Reconsider Measure
Uri Avnery: Hi, Joe [McCarthy]!

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