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Rethink probe of groups, AJC urges Knesset

JTA

January 6, 2011 | 10:29 am

The American Jewish Committee called on Israel’s Knesset to reconsider its decision to form a parliamentary committee to investigate Israeli groups critical of the country’s military.

“The Knesset’s action today contravenes the democratic principles that are Israel’s greatest strength,” AJC Executive Director David Harris said in a statement released Wednesday. “Israel’s vibrant democracy not only can survive criticism, but it also thrives and is improved by it.”

The initiative, proposed by the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, passed Wednesday by a vote of 47 to 16.

The committee will be charged with determining if the groups are funded by foreign countries or by other groups with links to terrorism.

State Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruled in the summer that organizations cannot be investigated for criticizing the Israel Defense Forces activities.

Israeli human rights groups have criticized the initiative.

AJC called on the Knesset to seek other means to address concerns about the role of funding in political and civic activity.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” Harris said.

He recommended a debate on whether to require groups across the political spectrum to make full disclosure of the sources of their revenue.

Meanwhile, Im Tirtzu, an Israeli group that has depicted the New Israel Fund and its affiliates as anti-Israel for its criticism of the country’s policies, issued a statement praising the Knesset for passing the bill.

“Israeli citizens have the right to know the causes and real interests that aim at delegitimizing Israel,” the organization said in a statement.

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