McCarthy Comes to the Knesset

Opinion

By Uri Zaki

Published January 12, 2011, issue of January 21, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The danger of the Knesset’s decision to set up a McCarthy-style committee for investigating Israeli human rights organizations was aptly summed up by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. He warned that the inquiry would be a “show trial” and stressed in a newspaper interview: “We must stop this murky wave.” Regrettably, only two of Rivlin’s colleagues from the governing Likud party joined him in publicly opposing this sinister effort, which was approved in the Knesset by a vote of 41 to 16.

It seems inevitable that after 44 years in which one nation occupies another and deprives it of basic human and civil rights, the occupying society would also come to be affected by the occupation. Indeed, increasingly the tools of occupation — the restrictions of personal and political freedoms — are no longer confined to the territories. These methods are now being extended beyond the Green Line, which divides sovereign Israel from the occupied West Bank, and are tainting Israeli democracy. The rise of Avigdor Lieberman — whose Yisrael Beiteinu party sponsored the push for the investigative panel — and the presence in the Knesset of unabashed racists like Michael Ben-Ari, a Kahanist who represents the National Union party, is testament to how the ongoing occupation is penetrating Israeli society.

Last year, we witnessed a surge of anti-democratic, and often racist, legislation and rhetoric. Now, in the first week of 2011, the Knesset has launched a witch hunt against Israel’s human rights community. In justifying this initiative, Lieberman accused human rights organizations of supporting terrorism. Only 15 years ago, such political incitement led to the assassination of our prime minister; with his unrestrained vitriol, Lieberman has placed a target on the backs of all of us who work on behalf of human rights.

When B’Tselem was established in 1989 to monitor human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories, the organization’s founders would never have imagined that the occupation would still exist 22 years later. They would not have believed that a third generation of settlers would be born in the West Bank, enjoying the full rights of any other Israelis, while Palestinians in neighboring villages and towns continue to live under military occupation, deprived of basic rights such as freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial and due process.

Israel’s human rights community has been at the forefront of the struggle against this state of affairs. Much like the brave Americans who spoke out against oppression during the civil rights movement, we love our country and are concerned about what might become of it if the status quo continues.

Speaking in synagogues and at universities across America, I encounter American Jews who have been instructed by the representatives of established Jewish organizations to unconditionally support Israel. To this I answer that in human affairs the only place where unconditional love exists is within a family. If you were to learn that a member of your family was headed in a dangerous direction, would you simply support him or her unreservedly? Or would you try to help your loved one understand the dangerous path he or she was taking?

It is not too late. Israel is still a democracy. Only very recently we saw that our court system did not hesitate to convict a former president of rape. Our media is still free and vocal, and yes, our civil society is more determined than ever to sustain the only democracy in the Middle East. The Knesset has now put Israel’s human rights organizations on the front line of the struggle to preserve Israeli democracy. We are taking a stand, but we cannot do it alone. We need the help of all of those who care about Israel’s future.

Uri Zaki is U.S. director of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.