Left-wing NGOs railed on Wednesday evening against the Knesset’s vote to
establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry to probe foreign funding of
The plenum voted 41 to 16 to establish the panel,
initially proposed by MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu), to examine
international sources of funding for Israeli organizations that “aid the
delegitimization of Israel through harming IDF soldiers.”
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against left-wing NGOs could harm Israelis
proposal, together with a proposal by MK Danny Danon (Likud) to establish a
similar probe to investigate NGOs’ land purchases in the country, will now be
discussed in the House Committee.
he committee will delineate the
parameters of the probe, and then return the proposal to the Knesset floor for
Israel Beiteinu issued a statement welcoming the
“The committee is meant to examine the activities and
funding for those groups that habitually support terrorist organizations,
including open support for Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War and Hamas
during Operation Cast Lead,” the statement read.
“It is the right and the
obligation of the Israeli public to know that the majority of the false
testimonies that were written in the Goldstone Report were handed over by these
organizations, the same ones that handed over the names of IDF officers and
encouraged legal actions against them, and their representatives have even been
wandering for years in Israeli schools and tell the youth to evade military
service,” the statement continued.
“These organizations do not really
care about the state of human rights, a fact evidenced by the fact that they
have never worked for the rights of women in Arab society, nor discussed the
status of democracy in Saudi Arabia, a state that itself funds some of these
organizations. The entire goal of these organizations is to deter the IDF in its
struggle against terrorist organizations and to weaken the determination of
soldiers to defend the citizens of Israel, and the Israeli Knesset has the
obligation to fight against this,” Israel Beiteinu said.
The vote on the
proposal came after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decided in August that an
inquiry will not be conducted into the activities of the left-wing
Outside the Knesset, the Im Tirzu – The Second Zionist
Revolution organization, which has worked over the past year to publish
information on donations to left-wing groups, expressed satisfaction with the
“We congratulate the Knesset on its brave decision to investigate
the sources of funding for these organizations,” the university student group
said in a statement.
But the Knesset vote also met with impassioned
criticism, both inside and outside of the coalition.
Welfare and Social
Services Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) warned that “the establishment of this
committee will cause needless diplomatic damage to Israel and to Israel’s image.
This is a political proposal that is appropriate for shady regimes, and Israel
must not be like them. The use of the excuse of defending IDF soldiers, which is
a very important value, to carry out a political witch hunt of the basest and
most dangerous kind hurts the deepest soul of Israeli democracy.
State of Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, must be a light onto the
world in terms of freedom of speech and freedom to express beliefs, and reject
proposals that have the scent of McCarthyism,” Herzog said.
Horowitz (Meretz) asked the Knesset legal adviser to examine the legal basis for
the investigative committee, describing it as a politically motivated
“The members of Knesset from the radical Right are trying to use
parliamentary tools and the Knesset’s budget to have a political investigation
that is suitable for dark regimes, with the goal of silencing legitimate
criticism, and in doing so, harming the basic rights of those with different
opinions,” he said.
In voting to establish the committee, “the Knesset
has far exceeded its authority as a body that oversees the government’s
If the House Committee accepts the proposal, then a red line
has been crossed,” Horowitz said.
NGOs quickly responded to the Knesset
decision. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and more than a dozen
left-leaning NGOs jointly signed a message of solidarity in which they
challenged MKs: “You wish to investigate? Go ahead and interrogate all of us. We
have nothing to hide. You are invited to read our reports and publications, and
we will welcome it if for a change you will answer our questions instead of
slandering us time and again. Similar attempts to silence criticism have failed
in the past. This attempt will fail too.”
B’Tselem, one of the
organizations named in the decision, said, “We are proud of our work to promote
human rights in the occupied territories, which is conducted legally and with
complete transparency. Persecution and attempts at silencing will not stop us.
In a democracy, criticism of the government is not only legitimate – it is
The organization added that it “is absurd to claim that a
committee of inquiry with no real powers can uncover information unknown to the
Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits. The purpose of the inquiry is not to establish
the facts; they are well known. B’Tselem’s list of donors is available online.
Our financial reports are available at the office of the NGO Registrar, which
just recently issued B’Tselem a Certification of Proper
Therefore, it is clear that the motive behind the
investigation is an attempt to hinder our work through smears and
Hours after the stormy debate over the proposal on the
Knesset floor, Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) wrote a letter
to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu complaining that Deputy Minister Danny
Ayalon had intentionally misled MKs and the public.
Ayalon, who spoke
during the debate in favor of the proposal, said, “This is not something that is
just supported – not only are we in favor – but the government is in
As Ayalon walked from the speaker’s podium, Eitan yelled out that
the government had never held an internal debate on the proposal, which its
opponents said was first raised by Israel Beiteinu 48 hours before the
“There can be differences of opinion regarding whether the
controversial decision to establish a political inquest serves the State of
Israel in a positive manner, or causes needless damage – you heard my strong
opinion on the subject during the Likud faction meeting,” Eitan wrote to
“But there is no argument that the government never had a
discussion on this subject and did not decide whether to support or oppose the
proposal. In any case, Ayalon knowingly misled the Knesset and the public when
he said what he did.”