Knesset plenum
Knesset (illustrative) Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Avraham Burg, an ex-Knesset speaker and former head of the Jewish Agency, called on Israeli human rights groups not to cooperate with the Knesset committee expected to be set up to investigate them.

Sympathetic MKs should also shun the probe, Burg said.

“An inquiry committee like this has no authority to call witnesses or collect materials, and one must not cooperate with it,” he said. “The time has come to call this scarecrow by its name. It’s nothing more than noise trying to undermine the foundations of democracy, and the birds of freedom should not cooperate with the scarecrow.”

Burg said “the right-wing MKs, the fundamentalists and the nationalists, can sit together and investigate an empty room if they want. We will continue to struggle to rescue democracy from the hands of their racist and dangerous ideology. All the information they are seeking can be found at the registrar of NGOs and corporations, the tax authorities and Israeli websites. We have nothing to hide − do they?”

MKs Danny Danon ‏(Likud‏) and Fania Kirshenbaum ‏(Yisrael Beiteinu‏) are expected to compete over who will chair the committee to investigate left-wing Israeli groups that allegedly take part in delegitimization campaigns against Israeli soldiers.

A source at Yisrael Beiteinu said yesterday that “the party will insist that Kirshenbaum head the committee and not Danon.”

The source added that “the mandate that Yisrael Beiteinu wants the committee to have is much more limited than what was reported in the media. The parliamentary committee is expected to examine only organizations that are involved in the delegitimization of the IDF: organizations that describe IDF soldiers as war criminals and organizations encouraging draft evasion.

“The committee will not investigate groups on the right, that is clear, but if another party would like to establish a parallel committee in this direction, they are welcome.”

Sources at Yisrael Beiteinu said they could not confirm Kirshenbaum’s suspicions voiced in the Knesset yesterday that terrorist organizations helped fund human rights groups.

“This is precisely the reason to establish the committee,” a source at Yisraeli Beiteinu said. “If there is a need, after the investigation, the government ... will have to take action against the groups based on the findings.”

Meanwhile, leftist Jewish organizations in the United States strongly criticized the decision to investigate the income sources of left-wing groups here.

The chief executive of the New Israel Fund, Daniel Sokatch, warned that Israel was on a dangerous path.

“A healthy democracy respects and protects human rights,” he said. “It does not attempt to put out of business human rights organizations that enjoy international respect. Human rights groups operate freely in a democracy, and this message has clearly not reached Yisrael Beiteinu.”