Thursday, January 13, 2011

Karl Vicks Article was Horribly Biased, But …

Jennifer Rubin responded to the ridiculous Karl Vick hit piece against Israel that was published in Time recently. She is right to criticize this article, but I think she goes too far in defending the proposed legislation that is featured in the piece.

In the article Vick mixes together all kinds of different government actions and news events in order to paint a picture of Israel sliding towards right-wing extremism. He unfairly attributes this to Netanyahu when most of the proposed legislation has in fact come from Israel's Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. It's important to note that nothing that Lieberman or his party have proposed has actually passed into law. His proposals have merely passed various stages of committees while not being voted on by the full Knesset. But let's contrast that to the tone in Vicks article:
Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions. These include Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers that has published a book of testimonies detailing human-rights abuses, which the former soldiers say they witnessed while serving in the West Bank; the rights group B'Tselem, which documents abuses by settlers and security forces in the West Bank; Gisha, which monitors the plight of Palestinians caught between Hamas and Israeli collective punishment in the Gaza Strip; and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which recently reported in gruesome detail the plight of African economic immigrants, who are commonly referred to "infiltrators."
Wow, how much crap can you throw at Israel in one paragraph? This is the main problem with Vick's article. He uses the existence of these organizations, that are trying to prevent abuses in Israel, to tarnish the entire country. Then he uses the desire to investigate their sources of funding as evidence that Israel is simply trying to suppress these organizations from using their right to free expression.

It isn't as simple as that. Many of the MKs that supported the investigation most likely did so to understand where these groups were getting their funding and if that included any countries hostile to Israel.

I actually think that this investigation is highly flawed and it does paint worrying signs about Lieberman and his party. There are already sufficient systems in place to ensure that organizations declare their funding in a transparent way. Those systems, including the office of Israel's attorney general who opposed the investigation, should be trusted to oversee these groups in an objective and non-partisan manner.

However, Vick uses this issue and Lieberman's radicalism, and even the opposition of some Lukid members to the proposal, as a club to beat Israel.

I agree with Rubin in her criticism of Vick's article. But I think she goes too far to try and support Leiberman's proposal. Rubin provided responses to the article from an Israeli government source and from CAMERA:
Israel's Knesset voted to establish a parliamentary committee to examine international sources of funding for Israeli organizations that "aid the de-legitimization of Israel through harming IDF soldiers."
As Ronen Shoval, head of the Im Tirtzu organization that has exposed linkages between extremist NGO's and the notorious Goldstone Report, writes in Ha'aretz: "During the past year, the vast majority of the public became convinced that the organizations that call themselves human rights groups actually belong to the extreme left and seek to force their radical values on others through foreign funding." Much of the far left, which supports the extreme NGO's, has risen in fury at the prospect of parliamentary inquiries into funding. Karl Vick's story parrots the indignation of those who have previously dispensed biased, false attacks against Israel with impunity.
This to me is a highly flawed motivation for an investigation. The focus should not be on the content of the criticism from these organizations. Individuals and organizations have the right to say whatever they want and to voice whatever opinion they want within the established legal limits of free speech. That would exclude speech that calls for violence or that is slander or libel.

What should be a focus, and is already enshrined in law, is whether these organizations are receiving funding from enemy states or charities that are actually fronts for terror organizations. Fortunately Israel's legal system already addresses this issue and is competent enough to handle the task without interference from the Knesset or Avigdor Lieberman.

The bottom line is that it is possible to criticize the Lieberman investigation without bashing Israel, which Karl Vick and many media organizations fail at miserably. It is also possible to defend Israel without supporting the policies of one extreme politician with little real-world influence.

1 comment:

Adam Levick said...

You have a very interesting blog, and would like to touch base with you. I'm the managing editor of CiF Watch. (sorry, but I couldn't find your contact info.) Please contact me at