The right to democratic 'McCarthyism'

NGOs that deny Jews the right to self-determination are anti-democratic and anti-Israel. A law like the US “Hague Invasion Act” should be passed to prevent Israeli citizens from appearing before int’l tribunals.

Knesset winter session 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Knesset winter session 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Knesset approved a proposal by MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) to establish a commission of inquiry that will investigate the financing and activities of left-wing NGOs. Predictably, this move triggered a lot of angry reactions - some of which were justified. Any democratic society can and should allow for organizations to pass critical judgment. But the government must also be allowed to refute and reprimand these organizations in cases where lies and slander are publicized. Some form of regulation and disclosure is certainly in order for NGOs that receive support from foreign governments. Needless to say, it would be anti-democratic for the government to pose any kind of threat to these NGOs on a political basis.
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Democratic countries should be proud of organizations that are involved in exposing wrongdoings, maintaining human rights and overseeing the correct distribution of resources. Indeed, many of the NGOs that will be investigated are doing exactly that. During the debate in the Knesset, MK Nitzan Horowitz asserted that "these organizations save the honor of Israel in the world."
But of course these virtuous NGOs are not the ones that determined the Knesset's decision. The committee will be established to investigate NGOs that are sympathizers of the ever-growing demonization monster. For example, the Coalition of Women for Peace is active in placing Israelis on trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Perhaps these NGOs will only be satisfied when MK Tzipi Livni is placed in front of a panel of judges - or better still – in front of a firing squad, either in London or The Hague. For the organizations in question, any injury inflicted on a Palestinian in a confrontation turns into a war crime and the use of tear gas becomes a crime against humanity. Apartheid Week activists use these NGOs to spread their anti-Zionist and often anti-Semitic rhetoric on campuses worldwide. The movie "Breaking the Silence” was screened as part of these activities. Other active partners of these NGOs include those involved in supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Campaigns like the BDS can never be included within the realm of "legitimate criticism,” because they are not simply opposed to specific actions on the part of Israel per se; They are part and parcel of an agenda that seeks to destroy the State of Israel by denying the right of Jews to self-determination and sending as many Israelis as possible before international tribunals. In light of this, Horowitz’s claim that NGOs are acting in the name of "Israel’s honor" merits the Orwell award for "newspeak."
As with all other countries - and certainly with those facing military conflicts - Israel has violated human rights. But any serious investigation would reveal that the country is not responsible for even the tiniest fraction of the world's infringement. Yet all over the world the cartel “actors” continue to perform in the roaming hate-Israel theater, and by doing so create the impression that among all the nations of the world, Israel is guilty of the most heinous crimes. The result is a complete distortion of the truth. NGOs, initially borne out of a need to improve things, sooner or later become part of the monster.
Israel needs to know how to accept valid criticism, but it must also learn how to fight NGOs that lie to further their causes which more often than not are not involved in ending the occupation or promoting human rights, but that seek to revoke the right of Jews to self-determination. But state committees and government-instituted initiatives working against these NGOs must be aware of one potentially disastrous outcome: making martyrs of them.
Should a democratic state encourage the prosecution of its soldiers in an international judicial tribunal? Special courts were established following the genocide in Rwanda and also after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. However the same treatment is not justified in the case of Israel, on two counts. First, its legal system is completely independent and often comes under fire for being too actively so. Second, international tribunals obviously bear international repercussions. Still there is a difference between the ICC in The Hague and UN Human Rights Council. But even the latter is now almost completely dominated by “dark” states, and reaches new heights of anti-Israel rhetoric with each year that passes. The atmosphere there affects or may affect the judicial tribunals. Take former judge Richard Goldstone: Appointed by the Council, he is responsible for the publication of a biased and baseless report on Operation Cast Lead and also served as a prosecutor in one of the tribunals. In other words it is not in name of human rights that Israeli organizations appeal to The Hague, but rather to promote anti–Israel propaganda that characterizes leftists globally.
The US is faced with a similar dilemma: As leader of the free world, it was a major player in efforts to establish the ICC. When the US realized that the court was beginning to veer off in dangerous directions, it decided not to abandon its citizens, civil servants, diplomats and soldiers at the mercy of the new court.
America decided to defend itself and in 2003 a new law was passed called the “American Service-Members' Protection Act.” Congress made it clear that not only were Americans not permitted to be brought before the ICC, they were also forbidden from receiving any assistance from the court or any of its affiliates while under US jurisdiction. Furthermore, the law permits the country to "take all necessary measures" in extracting its citizens from The Hague, should they end up there either voluntarily or involuntarily. The law’s popular nickname, "The Hague Invasion Act,” aptly sums up the American attitude in this matter.
Critics of this law have dismissed it as being yet another legal action left behind by the Bush administration. This is far from accurate since it was mostly Democrats that passed the vote for it. If members of Israel Beiteinu were only a tad more sophisticated, they would simply copy the US law, which won the support of the liberal wing in Congress.
It’s not too late to adopt the American law – verbatim. Most likely the chant “fascism, McCarthyism” will be heard again but at least the public debate will be enriched. This move will afford us the opportunity to emulate the most enlightened of nations, so let’s seize it.
The writer is a regular columnist for Maariv.