McCarthyism on the Mediterranean

Gershom Gorenberg

A bit delayed, I’m posting my American Prospect article on the latest, nutty attacks from the Israeli right on universities, NGOs, and even wanting natural gas producers to pay the government for the gas they extract:

During a decade in Israel’s Parliament, Michael Melchior made his name as an effective legislator. The rabbi and social democrat chaired the Knesset Education Committee, pushing the government to provide hot lunches for poor schoolchildren and to mainstream special-needs pupils. As an environmentalist, he was willing to partner with Omri Sharon — son of the rightist former prime minister — and Dov Khenin of the Communist Party.

Melchior flunked flamboyance, though. He was nearly invisible to the general public. He owed his seat to an alliance between the Labor Party and his dovish religious party, Meimad. In the 2009 election the alliance was dissolved, and Melchior’s party failed to get the 2 percent of the national vote needed to win seats in the Knesset.

This month, though, Melchior is in the news. That’s partly due to his own efforts. A group he founded, the Civil Action Forum, is pressing the government to take royalties from a new natural-gas field off Israel’s coast and to devote the money to social needs.

But Melchior largely owes his new prominence to the latest wave of Israeli-style McCarthyism. Of the right’s concurrent efforts to misuse patriotism to crush public debate, the attack on Melchior — and on his de facto partner in gas-royalty fight, the New Israel Fund (NIF) — is the most bizarre. Melchior’s response, to my mind, should be, “Just spell my name correctly.” In fact, at the risk of committing optimism, I suggest that there are several bright sides to the right’s paranoiac furies. …

Read the rest here.

3 thoughts on “McCarthyism on the Mediterranean”

  1. Im Tirtzu was born as a movement of such students seeking to silence the voices that confused them.

    Incrediblly smug and patronizing.

  2. “That said, Israel will continue to attract the political involvement of people — on the left and right — who don’t live here. Foreign supporters of Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or of neocon think tanks, aren’t about to throw away their checkbooks. The right knows that giving money is a means of affecting Israel’s character. ”


    This is what humans do, tell each other what to be. I think Israel trapped in the necessities of others who will make their perfect fight there. And I would be one of these in imagination. I wonder if I am any different than my self assigned enemies.

    If you want pluralism, you have to be prepared to lose.

  3. re “Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar of the right-wing Likud Party criticized the idea of interfering with donations to any Israeli institution”. My problem with this isn’t that he spoke at an Im Tirtzu convention, it’s that it’s so transparent, i.e., “Don’t choke us off”. What would Sa’ar say to foreigners donating money to build a mosque in Um-al-Fahm, or capitalizing a Bedouin women’s micro-business? After all, these are examples of “Israeli institutions”.

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