Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lashed out harshly at left-wing organizations
and their supporters Monday, in statements that his opponents said added to a
mood of incitement prevalent in the country.
Lieberman condemned the NGOs
targeted by a proposed parliamentary committee of inquiry as “aiding terror
groups” and called right-wing politicians who opposed the establishment of the
committee “traitors” to the national camp.
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During a televised faction
meeting on Monday afternoon at the Knesset, Lieberman said that “it is clear
that these are simply terror-aiding organizations, whose entire goal is to
weaken the IDF and its determination to protect Israel’s
Lieberman presented a long list of allegations against a
number of organizations, citing the New Profile organization, Adalah, and the
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel as submitting incomplete funding
reports to government oversight agencies, and suggesting that they had
intentionally concealed funding sources.
The foreign minister also
slammed Human Rights Watch, which he accused of fundraising in Saudi Arabia by
promising to attack Israel while not examining the state of human rights in Arab
“In June 2006, six organizations – B’Tselem, Physicians for
Human Rights, Yesh Din, Hamoked, the Public Committee Against Torture, Gisha and
the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – wrote a letter to the Goldstone
Commission, in which, among other things, it was written that the IDF’s
bombardments were directed toward mosques, schools and private residences under
the claim that there were weapons hidden, and that the IDF intentionally and
consciously prevented aid [from reaching] Palestinians in the field,” Lieberman
In addition, “92% of the quotes against Israel in the
Goldstone Report came from Israeli organizations whose funding comes from the
New Israel Fund. A day after Operation Cast Lead, [fund president] Naomi Chazan
called to stop the attacks on Gaza,” he said.
“When you look at all these
facts, you ask yourself why these organizations never, even once, protested
[captive soldier] Gilad Schalit’s condition. It is clear that they have no
connection to human rights. They have never once claimed that Israel was right.
We have an argument with the Palestinians, and at least once, we must have been
right, but they have never said that,” he declared.
Lieberman said that
in his travels overseas, he had found that many of the arguments against Israel
were made by Israeli sources.
“The problem is that they use former
Israelis, Israeli organizations and the Israeli media,” he continued, citing the
Hebrew daily Haaretz as a source of anti- Israel standpoints
Lieberman said that the proposal to establish a probe into
these organizations’ funding had been intentionally misrepresented in the
“People have attempted in the most vitriolic way to present a
false picture without facts. I do not mean that organizations for human rights
and democracy, nor the organizations for freedom of expression, are in danger,”
he claimed. “For example, the Geneva Accord and Peace Now represent political
opinions that I find unacceptable, but they have a legitimate opinion that
exists within the political discourse.”
He did not, however, reserve his
criticism for left-wing bodies.
He also attacked right-wing politicians,
including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan
Meridor, Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, and Government Services
Minister Michael Eitan, who all spoke out against the establishment of the
parliamentary committee of inquiry that passed its first vote in the Knesset
plenum by 41 to 16 last week.
“There are those in the national camp that
pretend to be righteous, and in doing so, harm the national camp.
are leaders on the Right that have turned into the apologists for the Left. They
do everything to serve the Left, and they are traitors to the national camp,”
Lieberman charged, arguing that the same politicians were responsible for the
failure of the national camp to achieve its aims.
“There is hypocrisy in
Israeli society not just on the Left, but also the Right. When I saw right-wing
MKs voting together with Haneen Zoabi (Balad) and Ahmed Tibi (UAL) against the
committee, it was strange,” he said.
Eitan refused to respond to
Lieberman’s attack. However, Rivlin angrily responded that he was not a
hypocrite, but a stubborn donkey “who does not change his opinion to the Right
or to the Left.”
Meridor also continued, undeterred, to criticize the
establishment of the committee of inquiry, which was originally proposed by MK
Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu).
Lieberman’s outburst received a
near-immediate response from Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who described the
foreign minister’s comments as part of “a bad atmosphere that is sweeping the
“It is the Netanyahu-Lieberman government that is fanning the
flames according to its will and with great cynicism, whether by silence or in
partnership with some of the forces in the Knesset. They choose the most
sensitive topics in the Israeli public,” declared Livni.
“I also am upset
at the activities of the organizations,” she continued. “I will criticize their
activities and I will act against foreign involvement, but it is our obligation
to stand before the wave. To stop the bad atmosphere is not just the role of the
Left, but of all those who are committed to Israel and its values.”
asserted that Lieberman’s comments were part of the same trend that led to the
threats against Justice Ministry attorney Shai Nitzan.
“When you look at
some of the clauses of the different bills, it could all seem logical and
reasonable – until you identify the very problematic wave,” she said. “Every day
we wake up to another story – and today we heard about the threats against Shai
Nitzan, and MK Michael Ben- Ari (National Union), who develops conspiracy
It is impossible to stand by the side and watch this
In the end, it is Israeli society that pays the
Kadima decided during its weekly faction meeting to oppose the
proposal to establish the parliamentary committee of inquiry, which is set to
appear next before the House Committee for procedural votes. In the original
plenum vote, three Kadima MKs voted in favor of establishing the
During a speech on the Knesset floor, Minority Affairs Minister
Avishay Braverman also blasted the establishment of the committee.
Knesset is not a kangaroo court,” said the Labor minister. “It is not its role
to silence voices. Recently, the Knesset has knitted together a racist,
McCarthyist mix that transcends parties and endangers the State of
Braverman asked Rivlin to use all of the means available to him
to prevent the establishment of the committee.
The left-wing NGOs
themselves were also quick to respond sharply to Lieberman’s
“Unlike Physicians for Human Rights, there is a police
investigation against Avigdor Lieberman,” responded Physicians for Human Rights
in a statement released Monday afternoon.
“If Lieberman – or politicians
of his type – have suspicions or complaints against us, he is invited to submit
them to the police. We have nothing to hide,” the statement continued. “All our
efforts for a fair and equal society are run through the hard work of
volunteers, doctors from whom Lieberman should learn a thing or two about
fairness, humanity and democracy.”
The organization’s director, Dr.
Ruchama Marton, added that her organization “works to liberate the State of
Israel from destructive influences such as that of Avigdor
B’Tselem also issued a statement, saying that it “will not be
deterred by this kind of assault.”
“Lieberman and his cronies are those
who are damaging Israel’s international standing, in their policies as well as
their attempts to silence human rights organizations that work fearlessly to
save Israeli democracy and our country’s moral fiber,” the organization