IDF Is Probing Foreign, Left-Wing Groups
Why the military should stay away from non-military questions
The intelligence branch of the Israel Defense Forces, previously entrusted with keeping tabs on Iran’s nuclear program and the inner workings of the Syrian regime, now has a new target: Left-wing groups in Europe and America. Several months ago, Haaretz reported yesterday, Israeli military intelligence began collecting data on foreign organizations critical of Israel. Specifically, it has formed a department, headed by a major, dedicated solely to collecting information on groups that advocate anti-Israel sanctions. It plans to eventually share its findings with the foreign service, the prime minister’s office, and other civilian bodies, military sources say.
The foreign ministry criticized the initiative, arguing that uniformed officials should steer clear of political questions. It certainly raises several serious questions. Even if one overlooks the problematic nature of involving the army in a thoroughly non-military matter that should be addressed by the proper civic authorities, and even if one is willing to ignore the inherent risks associated with snooping on organizations operating according to the law in Western, friendly countries, one is still likely to come up against the unsolvable conundrum of just what sort of activity qualifies as sufficiently anti-Israeli. “We ourselves don’t know exactly how to define delegitimization,” a foreign ministry source told Haaretz. “This is a very abstract definition. Are flotillas to Gaza delegitimization? Is criticism of settlements delegitimization? It’s not clear how Military Intelligence’s involvement in this will provide added value.”
Under this thinking, it is bad enough that the Knesset is considering a law to defund groups considered insufficiently supportive of Israel and that it is holding hearings (opposed by many groups, including the Anti-Defamation League) into J Street’s pro-Israel bona fides.
To involve one of the world’s greatest armies in such intractable questions, though, is even worse. Some anti-Israeli criticism is legitimate, and some is not: It’s a fine line to draw, and without drawing it clearly the new, military department is left with a wide-open mandate to act against civilian, non-combatant targets—a premise that should be unacceptable in a democracy.
Military Intelligence Monitoring Foreign Left-Wing Organizations [Haaretz]
Related:Knesset Set to Vote on Law To Determine if a Group is Pro-Israel [Haaretz]
J Street Head in Israel to Lobby Knesset Over Group’s Commitment to Israel [Haaretz]
Earlier: Honest Abe
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.