Where was “the peace camp” when the Knesset decided to probe human rights NGOs?
As the Knesset is passing one undemocratic law after the other, many people ask themselves where is the famous Israeli Left. I have long argued that supporting the two-states solution (as many Israelis say they do) doesn’t necessarily relate to support of human rights, freedom, equality before the law and other democratic values. Only a small minority in Israel is still fighting for those issues.
Outsiders, especially from the Jewish-Liberal camp, tend to exaggerate the role the left plays in Israeli politics, and to downplay the racist and anti-democratic tendencies in the Israeli center. I guess it makes it easier for them to continue seeing in Israel the model Jewish democracy they dream of. But the truth is that until now, Labor and Kadima members didn’t try to stand up to the torrent of laws and racist moves initiated by the extreme right. At best, they made some feeble remarks to the media or issued condemnations, but they failed to engage in meaningful political action, probably because they felt that their constituents never demanded it.
Last week, the Knesset decided – in an overwhelming majority and with the support of Netanyahu and his government – to initiate an investigation of the funding and activities of human rights organizations (or as Roi Maor rightly called it, Knesset Committee on un-Israeli activities).
In the days leading to the Knesset debate on this issue, there was a considerable media build-up. Writers and pundits warned of the damaging effect this decision might have on the Israeli democracy. Yet when the vote came, most Kadima and Labor members failed to show up.
The following members of Knesset – all of them considered among Israel’s “pragmatists” – were among those who had other issues to attend to during what could turn out to be one of the most crucial moments in the history of the Israeli parliament:
Labor: Ehud Barak, Daniel Ben-Simon, Avishay Braverman, Amir Peretz, Eithan Cabel, Einat Wilf, Matan Vilnai, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Orit Noked.
Kadima: Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Shay Hermesh, Dalia Itzik, Ze’ev Bielski, Avi Dichter.
And that’s just a partial list.
Many of these Knesset members had official reasons for their absence. But, as we all know, they would have showed up if they felt strongly enough about this issue. Politicians don’t miss political events that are important for their constituency. To Livni’s credit, she issued yesterday an explanation for her absence from the vote. She also declared that Kadima would try to challenge the decision in future votes. But still, from the leader of the opposition and the so called “peace camp”, we should expect more, much more.