ACRI: Knesset is Choosing to Silence NGOs instead of Dealing with Criticism

Photo CC by Joshua Paquin
Photo CC by Joshua Paquin

Following vote in Knesset on parliamentary inquiry commission into NGO funding

ACRI: The Knesset is Choosing to Silence Organizations instead of Dealing with Criticism

In response to the vote today in Knesset, which endorsed (41 for, 15 against) the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry commission into the funding of Israeli organizations accused of working to prosecute IDF soldiers and officers abroad, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) condemned the initiative, which is perceived as part of a broader, ongoing de-legitimization and harassment campaign waged by the current government against Israel’s human rights NGOs.

Hagai El-Ad, ACRI Executive-Director: “Israeli democracy took a severe blow today. The goal is to eventually weaken human rights groups and make them less effective in exposing, questioning, and effecting government policies. Time and again, members of the current Knesset have shown that instead of dealing with the content of the criticism voiced they prefer to silence and vilify those who voice such opinions.

“If we shall be summoned by the commission, we will proudly present our work and our values – values of transparency and an open and honest debate. These are the basic values of a healthy democracy”.

According to media reports, organizations singled out at this stage include B’Tselem, Machsom Watch, Shovrim Shtika and Yesh Din. Following these reports, ACRI and more than a dozen leading Israeli NGOs jointly signed a message of solidarity of support openly stating:

“You wish to investigate? Go ahead and interrogate all of us. We have nothing to hide. You are invited to read our reports and publications, and we will welcome if for a change you will answer our questions instead of slandering us time and again. Similar attempts to silence criticism have failed in the past, this attempt will fail too”.

For full statement and list of organization – see below.

Yisrael Beiteinu introduced the initiative this Monday, and succeeded in passing it in the plenum after 48 hours. The initiative is to be discussed in detail in the Knesset Committee and then brought back to a plenum vote. Yisrael Beiteinu MK Faina Kirshenbaum is expected to head the commission.

A previous attempt to establish a similar parliamentary inquiry commission – at the time, focusing on the New Israel Fund and its grantees – failed to pass in Knesset.

Israeli NGOs Sign Joint Statement: We have Nothing to Hide

You wish to investigate? Go ahead and interrogate all of us. We have nothing to hide. You are invited to read our reports and publications, and we will welcome if for a change you will answer our questions instead of slandering us time and again. Similar attempts to silence criticism have failed in the past, this attempt will fail too.

When and if we will be summoned, we shall remind you that:

* In a democracy, criticizing government policy is not only legitimate – it is essential.

* In a democracy, you don’t go after those who raise questions – you hold a real discussion and look for genuine answers.

* In a democracy, defending human rights is not subject to the whims of a passing parliamentary majority.

* Human rights serve as everyone’s protective shield – if it’s broken to pieces we are all in danger.

List of organizations:

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)

Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights

Btselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Coalition of Women for Peace

Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

The Public Committee against Torture in Israel

Hamoked –Center for the Defense of the Individual

Public Hotline for Migrant Workers

Machsom Watch

Mossawa – Center for the Rights of the Arab Citizens of Israel

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Ir Amim

Kav Laoved

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel

Shovrim Shtika

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Democracy and Civil Liberties

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