Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman on Friday called B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence traitors, charging that the left-leaning groups were funded by the same people who finance Hamas.
Liberman, a former foreign minister, said in a Channel 1 interview that “As far as I’m concerned these entities are not [exercising] freedom of expression, it’s greed. They aren’t any different from Ehud Adiv or Mordechai Vanunu — they’re complete traitors.”
Adiv was found guilty of treason in the 1970s for traveling to Damascus to meet with members of the PLO and Vanunu was found guilty of the same charge for disclosing nuclear secrets to the British press.
The right-wing party leader’s remarks came amid a growing debate over a bill requiring certain Israeli non-governmental organizations to publicly declare their foreign government funding. It was moving toward passage after it was approved by a cabinet committee late last month. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who proposed the bill, said it addresses foreign meddling in Israeli affairs.
The so-called NGO Law or Transparency Law would require all Israeli groups that receive half or more of their budget from foreign governments — which is true for many left-wing but few right-wing groups — to disclose their foreign benefactors.
“With all our desire to stay politically correct and be polite, there are things that need to be told as it is,” Liberman said.
“There’s [cash] flow from the institutions most hostile to Israel. Not just the European Union, not just states. Also those same foundations that fund Hamas, they also fund B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence,” he added.
Earlier this week several coalition Knesset members have presented a bill that seeks to outlaw the group Breaking the Silence, which collects critical testimonies from soldiers about their service in the territories.
MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Betzalel Smotrich from the Jewish Home party, along with Kulanu’s Meirav Ben-Ari, Shas’s Yaakov Margi and Oded Forer of Yisrael Beytenu, presented a bill Wednesday evening that aims to ban the group, calling it a “subversive organization” aimed at damaging the country.
The explanation included with the bill describes Breaking the Silence as “a subversive organization acting to change Israeli policy by non-democratic methods and by exerting international pressure that causes Israel damage.”
“The NGO takes our ‘dirty laundry’ abroad and gives information that is either false or doesn’t give an accurate picture of Israel’s policy,” the explanation reads.
Founded by a group of veteran Israeli army combatants, Breaking the Silence collects reports, usually anonymously, about alleged abuses by soldiers in the West Bank. It has often locked horns with the Israeli political and military brass since it was founded in 2004. Its critics have denounced its reports as dishonest, inaccurate, and part of an advocacy campaign intended to harm Israel’s image overseas.
In December, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon banned Breaking the Silence from all events involving soldiers, saying “it became clear that this is an organization operating with malicious motives” that is primarily concerned with vilifying the IDF abroad. A week later, Education Minister Naftali Bennett banned its members from speaking to high school students.
In a bitter Knesset face-off, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that opposition leader Isaac Herzog condemn the NGO.