January 20, 2011

Emergency march of the democratic camp on Saturday, 15 January in Tel Aviv

Danger: McCarthyism Ahead

Emergency march of the democratic camp on Saturday, 15 January in Tel Aviv

By Dov Khenin
Communist Party of Israel

[Member of Knesset for Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and
Equality), member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of

The creation of parliamentary committees for the investigation of
political activities is associated with the name of the Republican
Senator for Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, who was active in the US in
the darkest days of the Cold War. McCarthy is infamous for his
initiative, presented in a speech of February 1950, to investigate
government employees for "collaboration with the enemy".

Senator McCarthy was placed at the head of the Sub-Committee of
Investigation. The House Committee for Un-American Activities worked
in parallel. The two committees published a list of hostile
organizations to be investigated. Among these was the American
Lawyers' Guild – charged with anti-Americanism for including black
lawyers in its ranks.

Since it is very difficult to set limits to political investigations,
the committee extended its activities from organizations to people in
film and entertainment. Thus individuals such as Charlie Chaplin,
Berthold Brecht, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, Orson Welles, Paul
Robeson and Pete Seeger, and many more, were investigated or ordered
to testify.

The witch-hunt against progressives gripped the Congress for three
years, causing great human misery and social damage. American society
managed to get over the trauma and its heavy social and historical
price. We should learn from this experience. We must not go down this
road and create a parliamentary investigation committee.

Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin has also declared his opposition to a
parliamentary investigative committee. On 4 January he said to the
Knesset plenum:

"Politicians do not interrogate politicians on their allegiance and
their ability to perform democracy. A parliamentary investigative
committee can look into matters that are not related to politics,
[but] this is a tribunal of politicians on politicians, this is

The promoters of the committee claim that they are interested in
investigating the finances of left-wing NGOs. But why investigate, if
all donations are already being reported to the Registrar of
Associations? Whoever knows of unreported donations should lodge a
complaint with the police.

But this committee is not being created in order to discover the truth
and prosecute crimes, for the Knesset is not an organ equipped to do
so. This committee has been formed in order to fight acts that are
legal. This is how McCarthyism works.

McCarthyism aims at intimidating people involved in legal acts from
exercising their democratic rights. This is McCarthyism, and this is
what the Likud and Israel Beitenu are suggesting: a lethal injection
for democracy.

The promoters of the committee charge human rights organizations with
"de-legitimizing the State of Israel". But they are in fact the ones
who are de-legitimizing Israel. The committee they intend to create in
the Knesset will become infamous worldwide, where it will be said –
and rightly so – that such things should not be done.

The representatives of the CPI and DFPE in the Knesset have more than
once warned of the slippery slope which leads away from democracy.
Today, with the formation of this McCarthyist investigative committee,
we have moved from slipping into freefall.

In face of the growing danger faced by the democratic space in Israel,
organizations, movements and parties fighting against racism,
McCarthyism and the danger of fascism have decided to march together
in an emergency march of the democratic camp, on Saturday, 15 January
in Tel Aviv. Jews and Arabs of various persuasions will march
together, and declare for all to hear: we shall be a free people only
in a democratic state!

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