Knesset approves commission to look into left-wing groups

Commission to check sources of funding of groups; MK Dov Henin calls panel "McCarthy-esque"; NGOs: "We have nothing to hide."

knesset plenum (photo credit: Channel 99)
knesset plenum
(photo credit: Channel 99)
The Knesset plenum on Wednesday approved a proposal by Israel Beiteinu to create an inquiry commission to investigate the activities and sources of financing of left-wing non-governmental organizations who, according to the party, are working against IDF soldiers.
The commission will be responsible for investigating where these organizations get their funds from, particularly whether they are receiving money from other states or foreign organizations that are involved in terrorist activities.
Borderline Views: Supporting Israel in the UK
Legislation against left-wing NGOs could harm Israelis
The passing of the proposal comes after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decided in August that an inquiry will not be conducted into the activities of the left-wing organizations, and the proposal has garnered criticism from human rights and opposition groups.
During the plenum debate, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon clashed with Minister Michael Eitan who demanded that Ayalon get off the stage because, according to him, the deputy foreign minister does not represent the government's position, reported Army Radio. Another confrontation erupted when MK Ophir Akunis called MK Ahmed Tibi a "terrorist."
Also during the debate, MK Dov Henin of Hadash said that establishing such a committee would result in harsh criticism of Israel, reported Army Radio. "The deligitmization of left-wing organizations by establishing this Macarthy-esque commission will bring Israel negative coverage from around the world."
He added, "You say it is necessary to look into the funding of these organizations? There's no need for that - all the reports are filled with the registrar of these organizations, and whoever doesn't file a report should be punished."
An outpouring of reactions from left-wing groups and MKs surfaced in response to the Knesset's decision Wednesday.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel Executive-Direction Hagain El-Ad said that "Israeli democracy took a severe blow today."
El-Ad added, "If we shall be summoned by the commission, we will proudly present our work and our values – values of transparency and an open and honest debate. These are the basic values of a healthy democracy."
Fifteen Israeli NGOs issued a joint statement also condemning the proposal and asserting: "We have nothing to hide."
The organizations noted that "similar attempts to silence criticism have failed in the past," adding, "this attempt will fail to."
Additionally, they stated that in a democracy:
*   "Criticizing government policy is not only legitimate - it is essential."
*   "You don't go after those who raise questions - you hold a real discussion and look for genuine answers."
*   "Defending human rights is not the subject to the whims of a passing parliamentary majority."
*   "Human rights serve as everyone's protective shield - if it's broken to pieces, we are all in danger."
The organizations who signed the letter included: ACRI, B'Tselem, Gisha, The Public Committee against Torture, Machsom Watch, Adalah, Ir Amim, Shovrim Shtika, among others.