Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Attempt to Silence the Israeli Left

Well, after over a month of not submitting an entry here it is….Happily, I am back in Israel for four months working in the archives and making progress on my book. My academic year is progressing nicely, had an amazing time in Istanbul, and will be back in May. Then in September I will be back to the classrooms in New York! I also would like to wish all a Happy 2011! Let it be more fruitful than the last and more meaningful than ever (a hard statement perhaps to stand up to!).

During the last few months, the Israeli democracy has taken quite a few blows but the icing on the cake is the new call by the Knesset to investigate Israeli leftist/human rights organizations. Not surprisingly, it was none other than Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann’s Israel Beiteinu’s party which sponsored the bill. According to Haaretz, “The Knesset plenum voted Wednesday to order the House Committee to consider establishing a parliamentary panel of inquiry into left-wing Israeli organizations that allegedly participate in delegitimization campaigns against Israel Defense Forces soldiers.” Of course, the problem here is how one can check what it means to delegitimize the IDF. At the core, they will be investigating the sources of funding of these groups. Obviously, the problem lies in the fact that only the leftist organizations are being singled out which has rightly sparked claims of it being nothing more or less than McCarthyism.

I guess the tragedy in all of this is that so many people see this as a legitimate move by the government since all of these leftist “bogdim (traitors)” have been working “hand in hand with international organizations” to bring to justice the IDF officers who are accused of “committing war crimes” in Operation Lead Cast. Regardless of these claims, it must be stated that main role of the Knesset is to legislate laws and not to hold investigations, and if any of these organizations has violated Israeli law then please let someone open a case against them at the local police station. The fact is that rather than delegitimizing the IDF, many of these so-called traitors have served in the IDF, and have children serving as soldiers. Need we remind ourselves of the long time critic of Israeli policy, the international renowned novelist David Grossman, whose son was killed in the Lebanon war fighting just as he was being interviewed on television critcizing the Israeli aggression.

I guess for now the only shimmer of hope is to see that in the right wing we have found some impressive names of Knesset members such as government minister Dan Meridor and Benny Begin who have voiced their strong opposition to Liebermann and friends’ political probe (and were mocked by Liebermann himself for doing so). I have to say that Dan Meridor continues to impress me and has so for many years. In his words:

“To my way of thinking, the idea that MKs should examine bodies that have different opinions is extremely dangerous. I can already imagine the scene where MKs sit around the table and investigate. MKs should not be part of a political commission of inquiry; that is reminiscent of phenomena from other places that we don't want to emulate. MKs have to oversee the government, and there is an address for inquiries of that kind, if they are necessary - the attorney general, the state prosecution and the police.”

He goes on to link this inquiry, death threats against deputy state prosecutor Shai Nitzan to other recent threats to Israeli democracy:

"It is possible to include in this context the attempts to force the Arabs to take an oath of allegiance to the state - all the attempts to exclude the Arab population from any sense of belonging to the country; the outrageous idea of preventing a person from acquiring an apartment because he is not Jewish; the attacks by some of the rabbis against renting apartments to Arabs. All these proposals were meant to create the feeling that the state does not belong to the Arabs. If the state discriminates, it is not behaving like a Jewish state. I must say that I am amazed at the way in which the Jews have wiped out our national memory. Are people not shocked? Don't they remember the "Don't sell to Jews" in another language?"

I highly recommend that you read the article in its entirety (link below).

Haaretz Interview with Dan Meridor

As Dan Meridor highlights the move to silence the left should be seen as a wake-up call for all Israelis (Jews and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship alike) not just on the left. This weekend leftist organizations will take to the streets to protest this move. What remains clear is that if we do not stand up now, this could easily become the closing-curtain of the Israeli left, leaving us without the very organizations which we have prided our Israeli democratic values on.

Two article relating to the investigations:

Article about probe

Lieberman Slams Rightists MKS for Opposing Probe

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