Israeli flags 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Yom Ha’atzmaut is a celebration of Israel’s many accomplishments in 63 years.
Despite formidable challenges – external and internal – and frequent predictions
of imminent doom, Israel continues to be a dynamic society. The intense
democracy allows for wide-open debate on how best to implement the restoration
of Jewish sovereign equality, while ensuring human rights and free speech to all
Israeli society demonstrates that Jewish and democratic
values are not only compatible, but have created a public arena as diverse and
intense as any in the free world. Indeed, Israel’s civil society includes
thousands of organizations representing a broad spectrum of peoples, religions,
and causes. As Israeli democracy has matured, the range of views reflected in
civil society has grown, and previous elite ideological dominance has been
Ironically, it is leaders of these elite groups on the Left of
the political spectrum, led by the New Israel Fund and its allies, which are
most vocal in falsely claiming threats to Israeli democracy. For many years,
these organizations and their causes were considered sacrosanct, and immune from
Despite wrapping themselves in the mantle of liberalism,
pluralism, and human rights, they promote a very illiberal and intolerant
agenda, and seek to silence debate through false cries of
Large parts of what was once a Zionist Left have lent
their names and their considerable resources to the widespread demonization
campaign which seeks to dismantle the Jewish nation state. This anti-Zionist
activism has further energized the fringe Right, and, as is often the case, the
two extremes feed off each other. Anti-democratic “hill top youths” in
unauthorized settlements attack the police and army that seek to enforce the
law, while their Left-wing counterparts use violence to prevent construction of
the anti-terror separation barrier.
In contrast, most Israelis reject
both the ideological straight-jackets and shrill tactics of both the far Left
and far Right, and understand the complexities of maintaining the Jewish
democratic framework under very harsh conditions. This realist and centrist
approach is reflected in election results (the main indicator of public views in
a democratic society), as well as ubiquitous public opinion polls and an
increasingly pluralistic media.
As citizens of an independent nation,
Israelis naturally resent efforts of outside powers to manipulate their
democratic processes through the funneling of large sums of money from foreign
governments in order to promote policies that were rejected in elections. Highly
secretive European funding for far-Left NGOs that promote false claims of “war
crimes” and the wider demonization of Israel led directly to the demands for
And while the recipients, including the New Israel
Fund lobby, tried to use the “anti-democratic” label to prevent transparency and
accountability – two essential ingredients in any democracy – a new Knesset law
ensures transparency of foreign government funding of NGOs.
COINCIDING WITH the
passing of this critical new law, efforts from the far Right fringe to use the
Knesset as a vehicle to attack their Left-wing counterparts through a
pseudo-investigation were defeated through the votes of centrist representatives
from both the government and the opposition, further demonstrating the
robustness of Israel democracy.
Having lost the effort to prevent such
debate in the Knesset, political advocacy NGOs sought to blur the lines between
political campaigning and university investigation. But when groups organize
one-sided propagandistic events under the guise of academia – an all too common
occurrence – this creates strong and entirely legitimate criticism.
criticism is not McCarthyism; it is substantive disagreement and pluralism in
action. Far Left academic ideologues, such as David Newman, from Ben Gurion
University (an institution named after one of the pillars of Zionism), should
not confuse the two.
The recent retraction of the false “war crimes”
allegations by Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the UN’s infamous Goldstone
Report on the Gaza conflict, demonstrate the benefit of such heated but
respectful public criticism. After a lengthy and very public debate on the
credibility of his report, which relied primarily on allegations by political
advocacy NGOs, Judge Goldstone admitted that, “If I had known then what I know
now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
combination of Jewish and democratic values that characterize Israeli society
were the catalysts for this important, if belated, correction.
Israelis will take a well-deserved day off from worrying about the future to
celebrate the achievements of the Zionist vision, including a thriving
democracy, on Yom Ha’atzmaut. The critics on the ideological fringes are wrong –
Israelis are rightly proud to celebrate the vibrant democracy that has fostered
and sustains this environment.The writer is president of Jerusalem-based
NGO Monitor, a research institution that tracks NGOs in the Middle East, and
professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University.