A sin­is­ter new im­pe­ri­al­ism

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

HOW SHOULD lib­eral democ­ra­cies de­fend them­selves when faced with ex­is­ten­tial threats? Is it in or­der for them to adopt ap­par­ently au­to­cratic and ar­guably sup­pres­sive poli­cies, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of which flies in the face of their claim to be lib­eral democ­ra­cies?

Dur­ing the Se­cond World War UK cit­i­zens were sub­ject to ar­rest and even im­pris­on­ment with­out trial. There was no press free­dom. The Home Guard – lam­pooned in the BBC sit­com Dad’s Army – ac­tu­ally re­sem­bled a mil­i­tarised po­lice force that could, and did, shoot on sight.

I make th­ese points in or­der to in­ject some con­text into a pub­lic ar­gu­ment rag­ing in Is­rael, sparked by the de­ter­mi­na­tion of Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ayelet Shaked to push through the Knes­set a so-called “trans­parency law”. This would re­quire what are termed “non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions” (NGOs) that are funded by for­eign agen­cies to de­clare that fact when they lobby in the Knes­set.

You might be puz­zled as to why this pro­posal should have gen­er­ated con­tro­versy. Trans­parency is a foun­da­tion stone of any democ­racy. In the UK ac­count­abil­ity, open­ness and hon­esty form three of the seven prin­ci­ples of pub­lic life – the so-called “Nolan Prin­ci­ples” — that have since 1995 gov­erned the ac­tiv­i­ties of all who work in govern­ment. True, th­ese prin­ci­ples are an ex­pec­ta­tion, not a law. But any pres­sure group lob­by­ing at West­min­ster can ex­pect a very hard time if it fails to de­clare the ul­ti­mate sources of its in­come.

Ac­cord­ing to the Jerusalem-based re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion NGO Mon­i­tor, var­i­ous Euro­pean gov­ern­ments have pro­vided $100mil­lion or so of fund­ing for “hu­man rights NGOs” that op­er­ate in the Jewish state. Prom­i­nent among th­ese are B’Tse­lem, Break­ing The Si­lence, Mach­som Watch, Yesh Din and “Physicians for Hu­man Rights — Is­rael”.

Space does not per­mit me to de­scribe in de­tail the work of each of th­ese groups. Physicians for Hu­man Rights ap­pears to have been heav­ily in­volved in spon­sor­ing a onesided ex­hi­bi­tion falsely ac­cus­ing the IDF of de­lib­er­ate at­tacks on civil­ians and civil­ian fa­cil­i­ties in Gaza, while re­main­ing silent on ev­i­dence of Ha­mas war crimes (prin­ci­pally in­dis­crim­i­nate rocket at­tacks) against Is­rael. The web­site of B’Tse­lem — “the Is­raeli In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights in the Oc­cu­pied Ter­ri­to­ries” — is full of ac­counts of al­leged in­fringe­ments of Arab hu­man rights in Judea and Sa­maria, but has lit­tle to say about the in­fringe­ment of Jewish rights: for in­stance, an item (De­cem­ber 16 2015) re­lat­ing to the stab­bing of Jews fo­cuses on what it terms the “un­jus­ti­fied use of lethal force” to neu­tralise as­sailants. Break­ing The Si­lence spe­cialises in the pub­li­ca­tion of ac­counts pur­port­ing to ev­i­dence war crimes wit­nessed or com­mit­ted by IDF per­son­nel. Since th­ese ac­counts are anonymised, it is not pos­si­ble to ver­ify their au­then­tic­ity.

What all th­ese groups have in com­mon is that, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, they are en­gaged in pro­pa­ganda that has as its ul­ti­mate ef­fect (and per­haps ob­jec­tive) the dis­cred­it­ing of the state of Is­rael. But they are also all funded by for­eign, mainly Euro­pean gov­ern­ments. Th­ese par­tic­u­lar NGOs are not “home grown”. They are for­eign agen­cies. Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ayelet Shaked is not propos­ing th­ese NGOs should be muz­zled. Or that they should be pro­hib­ited from tak­ing money from for­eign gov­ern­ments. But he who pays the piper gen­er­ally calls the tune.

Last year the prom­i­nent Pales­tinian hu­man rights ac­tivist Bas­sam Eid was re­port­edly forced out of B’Tse­lem for ask­ing why it did not in­ves­ti­gate hu­man rights abuses by the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity. The word on the street is that it did not do so be­cause its Euro­pean fun­ders had ve­toed the pro­posal. Jus­tice Min­is­ter Shaked is merely in­sist­ing that Is­rael-based NGOs that op­er­ate in this way should iden­tify them­selves as work­ing on be­half of gov­ern­ments that fund them.

As for the for­eign gov­ern­ments that use their tax­pay­ers’ money in this way, I won­der whether we are wit­ness­ing a new form of colo­nial en­ter­prise. Th­ese gov­ern­ments clearly do not re­spect Is­rael’s sovereignty, which they are in­tent on un­der­min­ing. Isn’t this im­pe­ri­al­ism un­der an­other name?

All of th­ese groups are en­gaged in anti-Is­rael pro­pa­ganda

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.