Israeli Intellectuals Decry Knesset Plan to Investigate Leftist Groups

In letter sent to all Knesset members, signatories say investigation of citizens by elected officials signals the end of democracy.

A group of Israeli intellectuals has sent a letter to all Knesset members decrying the intent to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry into Israeli human rights groups.

Knesset session, May 3, 2010

The group includes a number of Israel Prize laureates, among them professors Yehuda Bauer, Chaim Adler, Yermiyahu Yovel and Micha Ullman, Shulamit Aloni, David Tartakover, Danny Karavan and Ram Loevy. Signatories also include Prof. Haim Ben-Shahar, Prof. Yaron Ezrahi, the painter Yair Garboz, Prof. David Harel and authors Ronit Matalon, Sami Michael, Yehoshua Sobol, Sefi Rachlevsky and Yoram Kaniuk.

"Last week, the Knesset raised its hand against democracy in Israel," the letter states, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had encouraged the initiative by imposing faction discipline on the vote.

"He, and each of the 41 MKs who voted for the establishment of a political committee to hunt the human rights organizations, will be remembered as being the ones who attempted to smash what is left of democracy in Israel and impose a fascist regime. What is worse, only 17 MKs bothered to try to stop the destruction. Each and every MK who did not find time to oppose the initiative to end democracy in Israel bears personal responsibility for the disaster. A black flag now flies above the legislature in Israel."

The letter also states that in a democracy citizens are sovereign, and the task of elected officials is to supervise the work of the government. "When elected officials, even led by the prime minister, seek to investigate citizens, democracy ends," the document said.

The letter ends by saying that if the committee is established, "the government in Israel will lose the last of its legitimacy. All its activities, its laws and its demands of its citizens will be patently illegal. Thus, the obligation of citizens in a democracy to respect its laws will be fundamentally undermined."