Monday, February 21, 2011

Israel's Robust Democracy

As I've often written, one of the characteristics of Israeli politics is that politicians seek to climb out of their anonymity by proposing outlandish laws, knowing full well they'll garner attention but the laws will never pass. Meanwhile, the opposition likewise garners attention and publicity from the same proposal, so everyone wins, and the dynamic never goes away. These days the government is notionally right-wing (as if the term means anything in Israel), so the squawking is being done by the lefties. All well and fine, so long as everyone understands those to be the rules of the game, and doesn't take seriously the sound-bites about how Israel is descending into fascism etc etc.

Two examples for today.

The proposal to make it hard for artists to receive public financing if they didn't serve in the IDF has been shot down... by the government. It never even made its way to discussion by the Knesset.

The proposal to have a panel of inquiry into the activities of radical left-wing NGOs has apparently been killed... because Likud MKs joined the opposition in rejecting it.

Don't expect the numerous media outlets who reported prominently on the inception of these proposals to report also on their demise, nor on the players who did the demising. (I know, there is no such word). That's not how it works. Still, as Jeffrey Goldberg once said in this context, Israeli democracy seems quite capable of defending itself from the viruses that sometimes attack it.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

That panel of inquiry idea hasn't been killed yet, the voting was merely postponed. Hope it will die.

NormanF said...

Israel's treasonous Left has managed to conceal its activities (foreign funded of course) for another year.

Then again, you just knew they knew the laws of the country never apply to them!

AKUS said...

Perhaps it s about time for those proposing these "outlandish" proposals to realize the damage they do in the eyes of the "auslanders', who take them as laws actually enacted.

Avigdor said...

The way you position this is wrong, and feeds into the quickening fascism narrative gaining ground on the left.

These panels of inquiry never threatened Israeli democracy, since no one actually knows in what capacity and following what guidelines they would have operated under.

The likes of Lieberman have stated that organizations who hold "legitimate" opinions, like Peace Now (his wording, not mine) would not be subject to inquiry, rendering the notion that all the leftist NGOs were under assault meaningless.

That the inquiry mechanism into foreign funding, which had wide popular support, is being aborted or delayed is not a victory for democracy any more than the passage of the inquiry legislation would have been a loss for democracy - both are a function of democratic processes playing out.

Lee Ratner said...

The organizations that would be subject to the inquiry are powerless and impotent. Any sort of investigation into them would be a waste of time and money. Dropping the inquiry was the best position possible.

Silke said...

Our media love to quote them. Our political party foundations love to sponsor their projects so their opinions get into whatever knowledge our MPs have and so on and so on.

If I get an interview on serious radio is it Lieberman they interview, no he is described as a far right radical. But I get Uri Avnery to the point that I know him by heart. I get the ambassador we had before Shimon Stein. I haven't found a single one with new ambassador while I had Tom Segev.

Avigdor said...

Lee, we don't know what organizations would have been targeted, or on what grounds, because those rules were never set down.

All we know is that Lieberman (i.e. Yisrael Beteinu) would not support an investigation of Peace Now, which is pretty far to the left, and if even Yisrael Beteinu wouldn't support this, then it wouldn't happen.

The point is, Israeli democracy was never at risk to begin with. This is not because, as Yaacov says, this proposal was never likely to be passed, but even had it passed in the most extreme form viable, there was never a risk of it undermining Israeli democracy, based on the information that we have.

Lee Ratner said...

Victor, I was mainly responding to NormanF's usual the sky is falling schtick. Even if there was an investigation, I'd doubt it would reveal anything really stunning.

Avigdor said...

I thought the sky fell already.

Even if there was an investigation, I'd doubt it would reveal anything really stunning.

Maybe it would. The new law will mandate reporting requirements which should enable private parties to do their own investigations. I would encourage those with the time and aptitude to do it. Don't think for a second the NGO world is so honest. I don't doubt there are shell foundations channeling money to Israeli NGOs whose funders want to remain anonymous, on both right and left.

I think the more important point is that the left has lost the trust and confidence of the Israeli public; whether the investigations happen or not won't change that.

Silke said...

my bet is also not on something really stunning or at least not stunning the MSM for any period of time.

Does anybody still remember that Jeffrey Goldberg asked for a most thorough colonoscopy into J Street's finances after the stories broke that not only Soros but some Hongkong horse race better had substantial funds in there? Has anybody heard of it recently?

But instead of stunning I'd expect to become aware of lots and lots of little financial tricks and schemes and sly stuff here and there which all in all would amount to quite something.

Why for example is the German Foreign Office telling me that yes they fund Israeli NGOs and/or projects but can't give me a list because it is their 400 departments each having its own funds to decide what to do with it. OK probably not all 400 will be involved in it but then what about their sub-departments which presumable have again their independent funds to operate with.

Especially intriguing in this what looks to me like an ingenious system of hiding in plain sight are the projects to me, because there several institutions may work together and once the project has run its course phhht it goes and with it all accountability.

I had a short look at the published list of donors of NIF. How on earth would I be able to make sure that each person is really spending his or her own funds?

Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) tells that in that area where hedge funds or whatever buy into public property like parking meters etc. their funds quite often come from sovereign (oil) funds which keep their contributions below easily visible level. I'd be very much surprised if there weren't something similar going on with Israel's sovereignty attacking NGOs.