Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman yesterday lashed out at human rights organizations, charging them with aiding terror and trying "to weaken the Israel Defense Forces and its resolve to protect Israel's citizens."
Lieberman also attacked Likud Knesset members who opposed a motion to hold a Knesset investigation into these groups for "delegitimizing" the IDF. Such behavior is why the right "never rules even when it wins," he said.
Lieberman's accusations followed the harsh criticism he absorbed over the weekend, after the Knesset approved his Yisrael Beiteinu party's motion to probe leftist nongovernmental organizations and their funding sources because they allegedly spread lies and incite against Israel and IDF soldiers.
Lieberman's attack on Likud MKs was aimed at Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin and Likud ministers Benny Begin and Michael Eitan, all of whom opposed the motion.
Speaking at the opening of a Yisrael Beiteinu faction meeting, Lieberman accused opponents of the probe of disseminating lies about the proposal and about the groups to be investigated.
"When I saw people from the right vote together with [Ahmed] Tibi and Hanin Zuabi, it was a strange spectacle," he said, referring to two Arab MKs. "They are the reason the national camp never ruled, even when we won the elections. They're simply a bunch of feinschmeckers [finicky types] whose entire goal is to justify their existence."
"[The proposed probe] does not include the Geneva Initiative and Peace Now, which are legitimate," or any other group honestly involved in either politics or human rights, he added. "The only groups to be investigated are those whoses goals are to deter the IDF from its fight against terrorism."
Lieberman's statements, which were seen as a bid to position himself as the nationalist camp's true leader, evoked harsh reactions from both politicians and human rights groups.
Lieberman presented a detailed list of groups that he said should be investigated, headed by Ittijah, an umbrella association of Israeli Arab nongovernmental organizations. Others on the list were New Profile, Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and others that he accused of aiding the Goldstone Committee, which accused Israel of "war crimes" in Gaza.
"We ask why they don't protest about [kidnapped soldier] Gilad Shalit," he said. "They always argue that Israel is not right. These are organizations that aid terrorism, and whose goals are to weaken the IDF and the State of Israel."
The "basic problem," he added, is that all the anti-Israel accusations "come from former Israelis, Israeli organizations or Haaretz newspaper."
Kadima said yesterday it would oppose the proposed probe.
"An evil wave is sweeping the country," Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni said. "The Netanyahu-Lieberman government is fanning the flames. I object to the activity of these [leftist] organizations, and will criticize them, while acting against foreign interference. But we have a duty to stand up against this wave. Stopping this evil wave is not only the left's duty, but the duty of all those committed to Israel and its values."
Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor ) said "a racist, McCarthyist concoction is being brewed in the Knesset, endangering Israel's future. The Knesset is not a kangaroo court, and its job is not to shut mouths with investigation committees."
Human rights groups also blasted Lieberman, warning that his "incitement" would lead to physical attacks on their members. They urged the prime minister and president to publicly denounce his statements.
The Public Committee Against Torture said "the rabid incitement is reminiscent of the rightist parties' incitement before Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered."
Breaking the Silence said, "We are ashamed of the foreign minister. We're good enough to risk our lives in military service, but when we return and tell what we did in the army, he calls us terror abettors."
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ) said Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were responsible for the attack on democracy and the ensuing consequences. "It's time for the democratic camp to launch a vigorous public response," he said. "If we don't protect democracy now, there will be no democracy left to protect us."
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said, "after inciting against Arabs, Lieberman is inciting against human rights groups. Now it appears he is finding potential traitors even among rightist MKs. Again the foreign minister shows he does not understand how democracy works."
Physicians for Human Rights noted that the police are probing Lieberman, not PHR. "If he has any complaints or suspicions against us, he should file them with the police," it said. "We have nothing to hide. Lieberman should learn a thing or two from our doctors and volunteers about decency, humaneness and democracy."
B'Tselem said, "Lieberman is causing Israel and its international status huge damage."
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