Human RightsIsrael

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

In what may be one of the greatest challenges to Israel's status as a vibrant democracy, the Knesset recently approved the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate left-wing groups and their sources of funding.  You can read the Jerusalem Post report here.  It truly smacks of McCarthyism when those in power accuse their political opponents of disloyalty and subject them to "congressional investigations."  They are trying to intimidate those who hold different opinions.

In a truly misguided effort at equality, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed that the commission should also investigate right-wing groups.  You can read Haaretz's coverage here.

Once again, our Prime Minister is demonstrating how clueless he is.  This does not solve the problem; it only makes it worse.

There are many right wing groups I strongly disagree with, for example Elad (City of David Foundation) and their efforts to Judaize Silwan; and with Ateret Cohanim over their efforts to Judaize Sheikh Jarrah.  However, I don't think they should be investigated by a Knesset committee, even though they receive a lot of "foreign funding."  As long as they obey the law, they are entitled to their opinions, no matter how much I may disagree with them.  I believe that disagreements with organizations like that should be fought out in the courts (over issues such as the legality of Jews reclaiming property in East Jerusalem when Arabs can't reclaim property in West Jerusalem), within the "court of public opinion" with everyone expressing their opinions in the newspaper and on the internet, and within the ballot box and halls of government, where our leadership needs to decide whether fanning the flames of conflict with the Palestinians, and ruining Israel's reputation in the Wester world is a good idea.  But trying to squash them — or groups on the left, such as B'tselem and Breaking the Silence — is to simply give up on the idea of Israel as a true democracy.

We don't need "even-handed" investigations.  Israeli President Shimon Peres was correct when he said "the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate human rights organizations and left-wing groups harms Israeli democracy and is unnecessary."  

The Jewish tradition is famous for fostering lively debate. The Talmud teaches that we learn in pairs because opposing opinions "sharpens" our learning; just as you use two knives to sharpen one against the other.

Although given the current hostile political environment, perhaps analogies using knives are not a good idea!

Reb Barry


Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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