Rights Groups Slam Proposal to Investigate anti-IDF Organizations

Knesset to vote on a proposal by Yisrael Beiteinu to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry into groups it says participate in delegitimization campaigns against IDF soldiers.

The Knesset is to vote on Wednesday on a proposal by Yisrael Beiteinu to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry into Israeli organizations it says participate in delegitimization campaigns against Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

The initiative, which also called for an investigation into the funding sources for such groups, raised hackles with the opposition and human rights groups. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruled in August that no investigation should be launched against such groups.

Yisrael Beiteinu said it has garnered a majority in favor of the proposal.

"The persecution campaign against human rights and citizens rights groups has reached a new low," said MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ), calling the initiative "a shame on the Knesset."

Horowitz said the purpose of such a committee was to silence criticism, calling it, "a brutal act of political persecution using a coalition majority and Knesset funding, under the legal guise of an investigation committee."

"Human rights and citizens rights group save the honor of Israel in the world and maintain its character as a democratic state," he said. "It is moves like that being led by Yisrael Beiteinu that lead to Israel's delegitimization in the world and present Israeli democracy as fake. All to whom Israeli democracy is dear must oppose this committee of persecution."

The executive director of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai Elad, said yesterday: "What exactly do the Yisrael Beiteinu lawmakers think - that whenever they don't like criticism of government policy, they'll establish an investigative committee or try to advance legislation to shut people up?"

Sixteen human rights groups signed an open letter protesting the initiative, including ACRI, B'Tselem, Yesh Din, Machsom Watch, Adalah, Mossawa Center, Ir Amim and Hotline for Migrant Workers.

"Investigate us all, we have nothing to hide. You are invited to read our reports and our publications. We will be happy if for a change you relate in a germane way to our questions instead of trying to besmirch us. It did not work in the past and it will not work this time," the letter said.

Likud, Shas, Habayit Hayehudi, National Union and United Torah Judaism are all expected to support the initiative.

"For a decade now, a coalition of international groups has been active, in cooperation with Israeli organizations, while taking advantage of discourse on human rights, with the goal of damaging the legitimacy of the activities of IDF soldiers, encouraging draft-dodging and branding IDF soldiers and commanders as war criminals," Yisrael Beiteinu's initiative states. The proposal also says the committee should "check what the sources of funding are for this anti-Israeli activity."

The lawmaker who initiated the move, Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu ) said Monday she would work hard to stop their activity, which she called "damaging."

"Cooperation of international organizations and Israeli organizations to harm the IDF, its soldiers and commanders, must be investigated and stopped," she said.