Israel news photo: Flash 90
The Knesset plenum voted 41:17 Monday to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry that will look into the sources of funding for non-governmental "human rights" groups that act against the Israel Defense Force and the undermine the perceived legitimacy of the State of Israel.
The resolution was proposed by MK Faina Kirshenbaum (Israel is Our Home), after lobbying by grassroots student movement Im Tirtzu and other nationalist groups.
The inquiry intends to expose the sources of funding for groups like B'Tselem, Yesh Din and Machsom Watch, that monitor IDF soldiers' activities and report on them to the press and to hostile foreign bodies like the Goldstone Committee. The plenum's decision is a continuation of the momentum that began in February, when a media campaign by Im Tirtzu placed the public spotlight on the activity of the New Israel Fund
and the groups it supports.
The Knesset also approved a second proposal, for a committee of inquiry to look into hostile foreign buy-ups
of land in Israel.
The plenum discussion was extremely heated, with MKs from left and right interrupting each other, getting up from their seats and approaching the podium during a rival MK's speech.
The relatively unknown Kirshenbaum gave a stern, angry speech and fought off Arab and leftist hecklers. "You too live peacefully in Israel because the IDF soldiers protect you," Kirshenbaum told MK Ahmed Tibi (Raam Taal), who interrupted her repeatedly. My son serves in the army. I will not send my son into the army along with a lawyer to defend him. You don't care but I care, I care that this country will have legitimacy to defend itself."
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel is Our Home) said that the proposed committee of inquiry on leftist funding has the support of the government. "We are talking about protecting the soldiers of the IDF, the judicial system and the State of Israel from the manipulations that elements here in Israel carry out. We ask that the parliamentary committee investigate the organizations that wish to topple democracy in Israel."
Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) angrily challenged Ayalon's claim to be speaking for the Israeli government and said that the matter had not been discussed by the government.
The House Committee will now determine the personal makeup of the committee and its specific mandate. A Knesset committee of inquiry does not have the power to subpoena witnesses or recommend any kind of punishment. However, it can be useful as a political tool, and in affecting public opinion and debate.
"Israel is Our Home" called the vote "an important decision that will enable the citizens of Israel to know who really stands behind the bodies that... regularly support terror organizations, including open support for Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War and for Hamas during Operation Cast Lead."
Far-left MK Dov Henin (Hadash) reacted sharply to the decision, calling the proposed commission of inquiry "a political tribunal specifically intended to investigate political activity." Invoking the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was prominent in the 1940s-50s campaign against communism in the US, Henin called the commission "a complete copy of the anti-democratic program that blackened the pages of American history."
Labor MK Daniel Ben Simon proclaimed that "Israel is not immune to the anti-democratic and racist virus." He predicted that soon, "work camps" will be established to hold leftists.
Second committee to look into land purchases
The Knesset also voted 38:17 to establish a second committee of inquiry, regarding the organizations and individuals that are behind the purchase of land in Israel. The proposal was put forth by MK Danny Danon (Likud) after numerous reports that hostile elements with foreign funding were engaged in buying up land from Jews. "My friends in the left , as the song says - sometimes the party ends," Danon said.
MK Danon taunted leftist MKs who shouted at him during his speech, telling them "I can see the panic in your eyes."