Friday, January 07, 2011

Israel Democracy Watch

The Israeli Knesset has approved the establishment of an inquiry commission to investigate the funding of several left-wing organizations - B'Tselem, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, Yesh G'vul, and others. This is after the attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, ruled in August that there should be no such investigation of these groups. The party that has brought this proposal forward is Yisrael Beitenu ("Israel Our Home"), the racist and extreme right-wing party led by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister.

Ha'aretz reports: "The panel will essentially be charged with looking into where these groups have been attaining their funds, particularly whether this money is coming from foreign states or even organizations deemed to be involved in terrorist activities."

The proposal passed 47-16. Three of them were members of Kadima, a supposedly centrist, democratic party - led by Tzipi Livni, who is the leader of the opposition. Note that there are 120 members of the Knesset. What happened to the rest of them?

Read the statements below by National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, who called the members of the leftist and human rights groups "traitors," "germs," and "enemies of Israel." Note the dehumanizing rhetoric that he employs - rhetoric like this is used to make the target seem less than human, and to legitimize attacks (verbal and physical) against them.
MK Ben-Ari: Eradicate treacherous leftists

by Roni Sofer, Yair Altman
Yediot Ahronot

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.

"These organizations apparently have a good reason for concealing their funding sources," he said.

Kadima MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovich said, "When I see Israeli organizations that harm the only consensus in Israel – the soldiers – I want to know how this happens."

MK Robert Tiviaev, who also voted in favor of an investigation, said "groups such as Adalah cannot be allowed to operate against the IDF."
Harrison Salisbury (New York Times reporter) wrote in 1971 that the author "Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling 'The Star Spangled Banner.'" (The quote is incorrectly attributed to Lewis, but instead seems to be Salisbury's summary of the message of Lewis's book, which does in fact depict an America in which fascists took power in the 1930s).

The cynical decision of the Knesset to persecute left-wing groups demonstrate that if fascism comes to Israel it will come wrapped in the blue-and-white flag and singing Hatikva.


  1. Fascism? That sounds a bit overblown of a charge.

    One might note that the main issue here is that many of the "human rights" groups are, at least arguably, bogus political agitation groups which do, in fact, received substantial funding from foreign nations - nations which are using these groups for their own reasons and without one small bit of concern for Israel. I have no idea what Israel's laws are on such things but, given that the country is at war, calling those who might look into by the fascist label is a bit much.

    In the 19th Century, European governments adopted a policy called "humanitarian intervention" to gain influence in the Middle East, by posing as the champion of the rights of Christians who, in fact, were victim of the laws in place and circumstances then persisting within the Ottoman Empire. What we have today is exactly the same policy coming out of EU countries, which purport to champion the Palestinian Arab cause as a means to gain influence and power in the Arab regions. The Israelis, unlike the Ottoman regime, has a comparatively good record, by world standards (including European standards) so far as human rights are concerned.

    Be that as it may, this is the same potion in the same bottle. It stinks and if the Israelis feel fit to expose the charade, that is not fascist. And, it is ignorance not to realize that these "human rights" groups are basically fronts for a political agenda that helps Europeans and no one else.

  2. N - do you actually know anything about these groups - B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Yesh Gvul, etc.? These groups were not devised by EU countries to undermine Israel. They were started by Israelis who believed that *as Israelis* it was their duty to see that the government of Israel live up to the human rights standards it had approved for itself. Try learning about them directly - for example, by going to Israel and meeting with people from the groups - before making statements based on the words of people like Caroline Glick, whose right-wing agenda forbids them from ever seeing criticism of Israel as legitimate.

  3. I reply in multiple parts because your system works bizarrely.

    Part I:

    Let's assume you are correct that groups like B'Tselem, etc., were not devised by European governments. What is the impact of such groups obtaining money from foreign sources? Money corrupts. Moreover, local groups may have a non-local agenda. B'Tselem, etc., could be a local group aligned or controlled by foreign governments. I am sure I do not need to remind you that history is filled with such supposed local groups being, in fact, aligned with foreign interests. If not, see Hitchcock's famous movie, "Foreign Correspondent."

  4. Part II:

    The human rights standards of the so-called human rights groups espouse align closely European government policy. Such governments do not care whether Israelis or Palestinian Arabs live or die. EU policy is to have an unabated supply of oil and lucrative construction contracts for European companies, as shown by, e.g., Professor Rubenstein here and by others.

  5. Part III:

    In the 19th Century, there were, as I noted, legitimate concerns raised about how the Ottoman Empire treated its Christian subjects. The governments in Europe worked with local Christian groups within the Ottoman Empire in order to gain influence there for Europeans. The goal of Europeans was to gain power for European benefit. That is true today, with Palestinian Arabs playing the role that Christians played in the 19th Century.

  6. Part IV:

    The bottom line for my analysis is what Benny Morris recently wrote here. There is no foreseeable settlement to the Arab Israeli war so that a human rights formula focused on Israel's sins sans context are dishonest and anti-human rights, serving foreign, most likely European, interests. Similarly, consider what HRW's founder, Robert Bernstein, has said recently in a speech about HRW, a group which takes a viewpoint similar to the supposed Israeli human rights groups. He is surely right about HRW.

  7. Part V:

    As for Ms. Glick, I do not engage in ad hominem argument. Other than the sin of her being a right winger, has she said anything inaccurate or illogical? If not, then her argument needs to be dealt answered. That you merely call her names suggests that you realize she has a real point.

  8. Nefgaf - These groups were not devised by EU governments out of some sinister motive. They were founded by Israelis who were disturbed by human rights abuses committed by their own government. Similar groups exist in many countries - for example the American Civil Liberties Union in the U.S.

    As long as organizations are transparent about where they get their money from, it doesn't bother me. For example, IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, which is run by Gershon Baskin in Jerusalem, openly advertises about who funds their events. I know this because I'm on their email list. Their latest event, scheduled for January 19, 2011, on the subject of "What would be different if the peace process was run by women," part of the Afternoons with IPCRI series, is funded by the Government of Finland.

    I would also like to point out that there are plenty of right-wing Israeli organizations that receive funding from outside the country - see, for example, Irving Moskowitz, who funds the settling of Jews in east Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods like Ras al-Amud. (Time Magazine wrote about this already in 1997 - see,9171,987062-3,00.html). If there's something wrong with B'Tselem receiving contributions from outside Israel, isn't there also something wrong with Irving Moskowitz doing his best to prevent any possibility for peace between Israelis and Palestinians by funding these Jewish settlers? One could argue that he is intervening even more directly into the Israeli political process than B'Tselem.

  9. "They were founded by Israelis who were disturbed by human rights abuses committed by their own government."

    I do not doubt the group claims that. It may be true but we are speaking about today, not years ago. And, the claim that Israelis human rights should be, for a country at war, a central focus is open to serious question - unless, of course, you think the US ought, during WWII, to have made human rights more important than winning the war.

    Whatever the origin of these groups, they are taking a lot of money from foreign governments. That is not the same thing as obtaining money from foreign individuals, whether you understand it or not. Your analogy to Mr. Moskowitz is thus not remotely reasonable.

    Again, the closest analogy to the present circumstance occurred in the 19th Century when European governments supported Christian groups, groups which had their own agendas, to advance European causes. That analogy is critically important and you fail to digest how similar European policy is now to what it was back then. The difference now is that the local groups are more fronts for foreigners than in the 19th Century.

    Groups like B'Tselem, whatever the deluded individuals in the group think, are simply not acting to advance the betterment of Israelis. They are acting, either knowingly or unknowingly, on behalf of the International agenda that advances the European position in the Arab regions, a position which requires Israel to be painted in the worst light possible.

  10. It's possible both to fight against one's enemies and to be concerned about human rights. The United States is currently fighting two wars - should we not be concerned about human rights in the conduct of those wars? Or human rights in the United States itself?

    Your mind appears to be made up that Israeli human rights groups are just the puppets of evil European governments. There is no proof of this. We are not engaged in a dialogue here. Unless you bring in fresh arguments, I will be deleting all future comments that merely reiterate the points you've already made.

    And just in case you decide to complain that I'm denying your freedom of speech - this is my blog, I get to make the rules.

  11. Wait a minute - are N. Friedman, nefgaf, and me all the same person? You're all making the same argument. This is what is known as "sock puppetry." N., if you want to write comments on my blog, write under your own usual 'nym, rather than inventing new ones.

  12. I have tried to post under my name but your website is not working correctly. I have made a single argument.

    Your argument now is that I have no facts. That, of course, is why an investigation is required.

  13. So that we are clear.

    1. There are known facts that many Israeli human rights groups get money from the EU and EU governments. That has been widely reported. So, I take back the point about there being no facts. There, however, needs to be an investigation of the funding and its motives.

    2. I have nothing against human rights. However, I oppose using human rights in a vacuum, which is what groups like B'Tselem do. My suggestion is that they adopt the view taken people during WWII, namely, that defeating the Nazis was in the interest of civilization. Regarding Israel, the issue is slightly more complicated. However, we know that the leading ideology for Palestinian Arabs comes from the Nazis - as shown by Professor Herf in his recent book Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World. Read the book.

    You are always free to delete what you do not wish to see. However, note that you have not engaged the arguments presented.

  14. I see that you deleted my post where I provided evidence showing who was funding B'Tselem. I am not sure why, given that you said you would delete posts if I did not back them up with evidence. However, I quoted NGO Monitor, which indicates "Main funders include the EU, the governments of Holland, Norway, and Britain, Christian Aid (UK), DanChurchAid, Diakonia (Sweden) and other church groups, and Ford Foundation."

    You can assume that people act to advance the interests of their funders. Christian Aid is, as you know, a vehemently anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli group.

    In any event, money comes from the EU and from Holland, Norway, and Britain. When scientists take money from corporations, we suspect that their reports will be biased on behalf of the funders. That applies to political groups as well.

  15. N., I haven't deleted any posts of yours yet.

    Do you really know what B'Tselem does? I suggest that you go on their website and read about them, instead of relying on people like Glick. They are not concerned with human rights in a vacuum - they are concerned with human rights in the context of the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Israeli occupation. The Israeli struggle with Palestinians is not the same thing as World War II.

  16. Rebecca,

    If Israel loses its war with the Palestinian Arabs, for Israelis, it will be no different, just as Hamas promises.

    And, I have read about B'Tselem. And, others have studied the group. They are in bed with Europe governments and groups like the Anti-Israel, Anti-Zionist Christian Aid group.

    When scientists take money from cigarette companies to do research on the health impact of cigarettes, we can assume that the research will serve the interests of the payer. That is even more the case with political groups, since facts are easier to alter and elide.

  17. Okay, that's it. No more comments on B'Tselem from you. You consistently misrepresent the group and pay no attention to anything I'm saying. Any further comments will be deleted.