Thursday, January 6, 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.

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