You will be excused if you have not been following the debate over proposals to demand that sources of funding for political parties and activist groups be revealed.
Curiously, it is the Sinn Fein Party there that is demanding reform. Actually, this is not so unusual. Lots of democracies require disclosure of financial support from outside the country for political groups operating therein. The United States requires that such groups register as agents for foreign entities. Aside from Israel, I doubt any country has allowed funding from abroad for seditious groups supporting the enemies of their country in time of war.
What a difference between the debate in Ireland and the bloodcurdling hysterical rhetoric of the Israeli left, led by President Shimon Peres, against the proposals to investigate and expose funding sources for the anti-Israel activist groups operating inside Israel. Even the left wing of the Likud, led by Dan Meridor, has come out in opposition to the investigation.
The intervention by Peres against the legislation is notable because he himself is hardly a neutral observer. His own left-leaning Peres Center is financed by members of the European Union and other foreign interests.
The Israeli left is taking to the streets and to the newspapers. A few days ago a demonstration by leftists against the proposal was held in Tel Aviv, complete with PLO flags and anti-Israel banners. The demonstration was sponsored in part by the Israeli communist party, so you can see how devoted the demonstrators were to freedom, democracy and pluralism.
Now even Prime Minister Netanyahu has been cowed into changing the proposal. First, instead of investigating the funding of leftist seditious groups operating in Israel, the Likud government proposes symmetric scrutiny and investigation of funding for groups of both the left and the right.
Second, Netanyahu turned the rewrite of the proposed law over to an open agent of the New Israel Fund. Since the New Israel Fund was probably the main group the law’s initiators wanted investigated in the first place, this is a bit like allowing Tony Soprano to conduct his own RICO investigation of organized crime.
The rewrite of the law has been handed over to Isaac “Buji” Herzog, a Labor Party stalwart and son of the late Israeli President Chaim Herzog. Until a few days ago he was the Labor Party minister of welfare in the coalition government. He is now a member of one of the three factions left over from the breakup of Labor after Ehud Barak and four others quit its ranks.
Public opinion polls show Herzog as the most popular of the leaders of the rump Labor Party, and he is generally respected more than the other Labor lightweights. But he also has a long track record of working with the New Israel Fund. Last year he led the campaign to demonize critics of the New Israel Fund as “McCarthyists.” More troubling, he himself was involved in the recruitment of foreign tainted and illegal funds for various front groups set up in 1999 that were involved in the Mugabe-style campaign finances of Ehud Barak.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the demand that groups from the right also be subject to a bit of financial transparency and accountability. But the symmetry already conceded by Netanyahu is intolerable and out of place.
NGO groups of the right operating in Israel are not actively attempting to achieve Israel’s demonization or even annihilation. They have their own platforms, with which you are free to disagree or agree.
But the far left is composed of groups that are seditious and actively seeking to harm Israel. Many persecute innocent Israeli army officers, collaborate with terrorist groups and with the enemies of Israel (like the flotilla terrorists), support the worldwide boycotts against Israel, collaborate with anti-Israel figures like Goldstone, endorse forms of treason such as advocating the Palestinian “right of return,” promote refusal by soldiers to serve in the Israeli military, and openly identify with Israel’s enemies.
The Israeli left and its amen chorus outside Israel are trying to misrepresent the proposal for transparency of finances as an assault against nice caring “human rights” groups in Israel, claiming it is because Israel fears having its “war crimes” revealed. These are ordinarily the same people who posture their devotion to transparency and open government – in fact, they are the same people who celebrate the WikiLeaks leakers.
But the reality is that these far-left “human rights” NGOs generally support the enemies of Israel even during time of war. They refuse to acknowledge that Jews are entitled to human rights – certainly not the human right to walk down the street or sip coffee in a cafe without being murdered. Many have never heard of a Palestinian terrorist atrocity they wish to denounce.
And to make matters worse, many of these same leftists are whining that the proposal to require transparency in their finances is undemocratic and contrary to freedom of speech. But these are the very first people to demand that non-leftists in Israel be stripped of their rights to freedom of expression. These are the first to insist that every denunciation of left-wing sedition is in fact “McCarthyism” and “fascism.”
These same leftists led the massive McCarthyist assault against freedom of speech for non-leftists after the Rabin assassination. These are the people who regard the expression of any opinion with which the Israeli communist party might disagree to be “racist” and to constitute “incitement.”
Not a single one of them has spoken up on behalf of the right of settlers and right-wingers to express themselves. Not a single one has spoken out against the selective misuse of Israel’s idiotic “anti-racism” law to harass non-leftists while there has yet to be a single case in which that law was used to indict Arabs or leftists for anti-Jewish bigotry.
Arabs and leftists in Israel can cheer and justify mass terrorist attacks against Jews. That is not racist. Left-wing professors at Ben Gurion University may wave banners (as they recently did) in Arabic, saying: “In spirit and in blood we will redeem thee, Palestine” and “A Thousand blessings to the shaheed suicide bombers.” That is not racist either.
But wives of Israeli rabbis suggesting that Jewish girls not date Arab men may soon be facing criminal indictment for “racism.”
Of course, we all know what happens to any Arab women who date Jewish men, but their “honor killings” and mutilations do not count as “racist” either in the minds of the caring left.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.