Even though empathizing with the anger and frustration of many in the face of the blatantly anti-Israeli activities of certain Israeli NGOs operating under the guise of human rights groups, I oppose the establishment of the Knesset committee to probe their funding. I do so recognizing that some of these bodies are indulging in activities which, in the context of a country under siege and effectively at war, border on or actually amount to subversion or even treason – a politically incorrect term that since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin has been deleted from our political lexicon.
We largely have ourselves to blame for enabling our adversaries to succeed in embedding their false narrative into the consciousness of the world. Today, in contrast to our early years when we were portrayed as the plucky David warding off the evil Goliath, we are at the brunt of a globally orchestrated campaign to demonize and delegitimize us by depicting us as colonialists, occupiers, racists and fascists.
Our failure has been augmented by the small but influential far Left post-Zionist factions which systematically promote the Arab narrative and distort our position in our own media and universities. The newspaper Haaretz has a tiny circulation, but its English Internet edition has emerged as the most effective ingredient in the campaign by our enemies to portray us as villains. It is quoted extensively by the global media, and employed as a primary source by foreign ministries throughout the world.
In recent years, these domestic anti- Israeli forces have been augmented by flourishing local NGOs whose primary objective seems to be to depict us as racist warmongers.
There should be no misunderstanding. A genuine democracy must encourage the presence of organizations committed to exposing wrongdoing, and we can take pride in the legitimate bodies engaged in such activities. They are, however, a far cry from those NGOs libeling and defaming the Jewish state and thus paving the way for global boycott, sanctions and divestment initiatives.
Some of these NGOs are also directly responsible for the demonization of the IDF, which takes extraordinary measures to minimize civilian casualties in a manner unmatched by any other military force.
They succeeded in slandering soldiers as inhuman monsters and war criminals deliberately killing innocent civilians, and laid the foundations for the lies and distortions upon which the Goldstone commission findings were based. This also led to calls to try our soldiers as war criminals at the International Criminal Court.
What made these NGOs so effective were the enormous funds at their disposal. Much of this money originates from European governments and elements hostile to Israel exploiting these organizations as vehicles to blatantly interfere in the internal affairs of our country and undermine our global standing.
There is thus every reason to expose the sources of these funds, both to highlight the unethical activities of the governments concerned and to enable Israelis to appreciate that many of these NGOs, acting under the guise of human rights advocacy, are in reality promoting a very different agenda, funded by foreign political groups seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state.
But here there is a caveat.
AFTER ATTORNEY-GENERAL Yehuda Weinstein declined to investigate the activities of these groups, Israel Beiteinu initiated legislation to investigate the sources of their funding.
My concern is that now that the Knesset has belatedly decided to deal with this issue, it is doing so in a boorish manner. What is intended as an exercise to expose the foreign origins of the funding of local NGOs indulging in anti-Israeli activity will divide the nation and is likely to be widely perceived as a right-wing government seeking to muzzle freedom of expression. It may in fact transform these groups into martyrs without effectively inhibiting them.
The term McCarthyism is continuously being abused by anti-Israeli groups seeking to prevent exposure of their activities. However, we should bear in mind that Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s accusations against communist influence and infiltration were fully substantiated after his death. It was the methods he employed and the indiscriminate manner by which he labeled organizations and individuals that rightfully discredited him. In the long term, his campaign proved to be utterly counterproductive, and created considerable sympathy and cover for elements that really were engaged in subversive activities.
I fear that the same may also happen in this instance.
Yet clearly there is a need for transparency, and there is nothing like sunlight to expose groups involved in anti-Israeli activity while purporting to act as human rights activists.
What we need are not parliamentary investigative committees whose conclusions will be tainted as being politically motivated, but balanced legislation which will enable and oblige the state to prosecute elements engaged in subversion.
Laws concerning contributions to NGOs should not be selective, and should require all organizations – from the Right as well as the Left – to be transparent about the sources of their funding. Legitimate NGOs have nothing to hide, and such legislation would obviate the need to single out organizations in advance. As it is, nonprofit bodies are already technically obliged to reveal any contribution in excess of $20,000 and declare its purpose.
Likewise, public dissemination of information concerning the IDF which is proven subsequently to have been false, knowingly and maliciously disseminated for the purpose of demonizing or delegitimizing Israel, should represent grounds for prosecution or sanction. An example would be those who deliberately disseminated false tales of the IDF committing war crimes, which paved the way for the Goldstone libel.
Likewise, those calling on youngsters to evade the draft on political grounds, whether from the far Left or far Right, must be held accountable.
It also goes without saying that NGOs engaged in global campaigns to boycott or divest from Israel should be investigated and prosecuted.
If legislation obliging the state to act against such behavior were to be instituted, the objectives of those seeking to prosecute subversive behavior could be met without creating a witch-hunt environment.
THE LEFT has become apocalyptic, shrieking about McCarthyism, fascism and the burial of democracy. It alleges that the country is being transformed into a totalitarian state, and suggests that this Knesset initiative represents the first step toward imposing a Stalinist regime. An editorial in Haaretz went so far as to state that the government is transforming our society into one akin to China, North Korea and Iran.
But acting against such groups is neither Bolshevism nor fascism. It is a common- sense approach by a democratic government under siege from its neighbors and determined to defend itself. While freedom of expression must be protected, that does not provide a right to indulge in subversion or treason. The fall of the Weimar Republic in Germany prior to Nazism was a warning that a democracy which fails to suppress antidemocratic elements from within can be destroyed by such forces.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post