Just hours after the Knesset approved a motion calling for a parliamentary investigation into the activity of B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence and other groups, National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari referred to members of the leftist organizations as “traitors who must be persecuted at any cost.”
Speaking at an SOS Israel conference in Jerusalem Wednesday evening, Ben-Ari called the leftists “germs” and “enemies of Israel.”
The rightist lawmaker went as far as equating the leftist organizations to Hamas and Hezbollah.
In an audio tape obtained by Ynet, Ben-Ari can be heard saying, “Elements that want to destroy the Jewish state are operating within the State of Israel. They are nothing short of traitors. They are persecuting IDF soldiers and want to castrate our resilience.
“I see the people from Peace Now; they each have a private car. Every clerk has the finest equipment. Who funds all of this? The greatest Israel haters are funding this. If we’ll have to enact a law in the Knesset to eradicate this dangerous enemy, that is what we’ll do. Such a germ can destroy Israeli society. This enemy threatens the state’s existence,” he added.
Extreme rightist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who also attended the conference, called on activists to protest outside the homes of the leaders of the leftist groups “and explain to their neighbors that these are people who harm IDF soldiers and cause Israel damage.
“We must also face them on the legal front – file lawsuits and show them we are not suckers. Those who harm the State of Israel and its soldiers will be punished,” he said.
In addition to the mass support from right-wing factions, the proposal to set up an inquiry commission into the activity of leftist groups was also backed by three members of Kadima, which heads the opposition. “We must erect a democratic and Zionist barrier against the use of human rights claims at the expense of Israeli patriotism,” MK Otniel Schneller said.
The more Israel’s isolation in the world increases as a result of the government shunning the peace process, the more energy the right-wing parties, led by Yisrael Beiteinu, are investing in silencing internal criticism.
It may seem ironic that Avigdor Lieberman, the same foreign minister responsible for some of the crises that have led to Israel’s delegitimization, is the person leading this crusade to silence and persecute leftist and human rights groups in Israel, a crusade that culminated yesterday in the initiative to establish a parliamentary panel of inquiry to “investigate” such organizations as Breaking the Silence, Yesh Gvul B’Tselem on the grounds that they are “damaging Israel’s legitimacy.”
But it shouldn’t seem ironic, since these things all go together, as history shows: Confrontational leadership that attempts – out of ideology or cynicism – to establish its rule by disseminating fear, paranoia and hatred toward the entire world, will not stop at destroying foreign relations. It will blame the results of its mistakes on internal enemies, on a fifth column.
The extent of the political right’s cynicism is evident in the fact that its demand to “investigate” “the intervention of foreigners in Israel’s affairs” is directed only at left-wing groups, while “foreign” interference in the country’s affairs by the supporters and financiers of the settlement movement is ignored and silenced with a wink.
There is nothing new in criticism being leveled at those who spread information or opinions that are not always convenient for the reigning national-security narrative.
What is new is the intensity of the “persecution of the left,” which has become not only a craze but a replacement for any sort of policy.
The blame for this wave of attacks lies with the “sit and do nothing” policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who despite lip service to the contrary here and there, is celebrating the victory of this fatalistic and pessimistic narrative – the narrative that claims that the conflict with the Arabs is insolvable and all that that can be done is to manage it. And the more detached and fragile this “management policy” becomes, the greater the incentive to uproot any information that threatens to pull the ground from under it.
Persecuting internal political rivals will do nothing to convince anyone of the just path of the right-wing government headed by Netanyahu and Lieberman. It will only undermine Israeli democracy even further.
Gideon Levy, one of the few mainstream voices of sanity in Israel, writes what many Zionists are thinking. Democracy, indeed:
It’s high time a legal ban on the Israeli left be instituted. Why do we continue beating around the bush? Why do we need such a taxing, exhaustive legislative process in enacting law after law? What’s the use of all these various proposals and amendments? In lieu of all the aforementioned, let’s just do one very simple thing: declare the left an illegal entity in the State of Israel. From then on, whoever thinks left, acts left, demonstrates left or tolerates left will belong in jail.
Let’s build another “holding facility” for foreigners, but this time for the foreigners from within – the leftists – thus purging and purifying our camp. Such a step would accurately reflect the zeitgeist that has taken hold among the majority of Israelis, and allow them to sketch a genuine portrait of Israeli democracy.
In the Israel of 2011, it’s no longer legitimate to belong to the left. It’s illegitimate to campaign for human rights or to oppose the occupation or to investigate war crimes. Such actions earn Israelis a mark of shame. A land-stealing settler is a Zionist; a warmongering right-winger is a patriot; an inciting rabbi is a spiritual leader; a racist who expels foreigners is a loyal citizen. Only the leftist is a traitor.