Israeli left-wing organizations warned that the legislatures approval of a commission to investigate certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would "destroy democracy" in the nation.
The Knesset plenum approved a proposal by members of the rightwing Yisrael Beiteinu party Wednesday to investigate the sources of funding for left-wing NGO's accused of working against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
"The delegitimization of left-wing organizations by establishing this McCarthy-esque commission will bring Israel negative coverage from around the world," Knesset member Dov Henin said while the bill was being debated, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The NGOs targeted for investigation were being blamed for material provided to the United Nation's Goldstone commission, which investigated violations of international human rights law during the Gaza war. The Goldstone report accused both the IDF and Palestinian militants of war crimes, but heavily criticized Israeli forces for a disproportionate military response.
The NGOs "are behind the indictments lodged against Israeli officers and officials around the world" and "are responsible for branding IDF soldiers as war criminals and encourage defamations," Knesset member Fania Kirshenbaum said.
Forty-seven members of the Knesset voted in favor of the proposal, while 16 voted against it. The bill was to be considered next by the Knesset House Committee before being returned to the full Knesset for another vote.
The New Israel Fund, which describes itself as the leading organization committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis, said the investigative commission "proved how much the status of democracy has deteriorated in Israel – even in the house of legislators."
"The political persecution of human rights group will cause great damage to Israel and across the world, and will lead to the delegitimization [of Israel] and the representation of it as a Marxist state in which a witch hunt is taking place," they added.
In response to the proposed commission, 16 Israeli NGOs issued a joint statement saying they had "nothing to hide."
"Investigate us all, we have nothing to hide," the letter said. "You are invited to read our reports and our publications. We will be happy if for a change you relate in a germane way to our questions instead of trying to besmirch us. It did not work in the past and it will not work this time."