|NIF Helps Score Major Victory for Israel’s Democracy|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
In a critical victory for Israel’s democracy, efforts by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party to establish a Knesset committee of inquiry into the activities and funding sources of human rights organizations has failed. The party pulled the plug on a Knesset vote after it became clear that it had lost its majority on the issue.
Lieberman's supporters had a decisive 47-16 majority when the issue was first voted on in the Knesset in January. However, thanks to intensive advocacy and lobbying efforts by NIF action arm SHATIL, flagship NIF grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and other human rights organizations, the number of MKs who opposed the inquiry in the first vote swelled past the 61 vote majority needed in the 120-seat Knesset. The turning point came when PM Netanyahu allowed Likud MKs freedom to vote individually on the issue, and many of them came out in opposition.
NIF also waged a concerted public relations campaign under the slogan "Interrogate Me Too" to educate both the public and media on the repercussions of this anti-democratic legislation. Leaders of NIF in the U.S. reached out to other organizations to communicate the dangers of the proposed inquiry and ask for assistance in defeating it. After some weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented that such a committee would damage Israel's international image.
In the wake of this victory, several thousand Israelis from the social change movement rallied in Jerusalem's Zion Square on Saturday night to oppose the racism of Yisrael Beitenu’s official party platform. The demonstration used the slogan "Niet to Evet" (Lieberman's Russian name).
Lieberman was also the target of a creative DJ mix (in Hebrew) of his speeches attacking minorities, NIF and human rights organizations when hundreds of social change supporters came to NIF's "We Won't Remain Silent – We Will Dance" party in Tel Aviv last month. The party launched NIF's “Democra-T” t-shirts depicting freedom of speech, opposition to racism and support of human rights, which were designed pro-bono by some of Israel's top young fashion artists.