|Written by Daniel Sokatch|
July 11, 2013
If you read the Israeli press today you might experience a sinking feeling of déjà vu. There it is in the headlines: leaders of the far-right Yisrael Beteinu and Ha Bayit Ha Yehudi parties (both of which are in the ruling coalition) have resurrected a frightening anti-democratic bill that was thrown out in the previous Knesset. This bill directly targets some Israeli non-profit organizations by limiting foreign donations to NGOs that dare to disagree with the authors' hardline, pro-settler vision of Israel. And although the new bill is narrower, and seemingly only targets organizations involved in "anti-Israel" activity, a closer read demonstrates that in practice it could defund any NGO that criticizing the occupation, the army or advocating the boycott of settlement products.
Many of us thought - hoped - that the "democratic recession" that Israel experienced during the tenure of the 18th Knesset had ended, or at least abated, with the advent of the 19th Knesset's term earlier this year. And it is true that the current Knesset boasts more liberals and moderates and fewer extremists than its predecessors. But the ruling coalition is, if anything, more hardline than the previous one, and a number of the MKs who pushed the raft of anti-democratic bills that so badly damaged Israel's international image and created rifts with American Jewry last time around are now in much more powerful positions. And it is clear that they intend to make another attempt to erode Israel's liberal democratic foundation through a second anti-democratic legislative onslaught. Sadly, this fight is not over.
The good news is, they failed last time, and I believe they will fail again. There are plenty of true democrats in the Knesset who have little patience for any attempt to roll back democracy in Israel. There is a new Justice Minister and an increasingly vocal opposition. And there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis working every day to safeguard and advance Israel's precious, albeit sometimes fragile, democratic character against these challenges. Their vision of an Israel that lives up to its founding principles is our vision. And we at NIF are their support system. So long as these attempts to erode Israeli democracy continue, we will have their back.