Following Im Tirzu’s campaign: first Knesset steps against NIF

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, Polls, racism, The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

We should see the attack on the New Israel Fund in context: this was no isolated event, but part of a widespread campaign against human rights and peace activists

The Knesset committee for legislation has decided today to look into foreign donations to non-profit organizations operating in Israel, and among them, those received and handed by the New Israel Fund. The investigation will be led by the head of the legislation committee, MK David Rotem (Israel Beitenu) and a special subcommittee, to be formed immediately. Meanwhile, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) is pushing for a special Knesset investigation aimed against all Israeli human rights organizations which testified before the Goldstone committee.

Maariv reports that in a heated debate at the Knesset legislation committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) accused the NIF, Meretz party and the Israeli left of no less than treason:

“…NIF sponsors elements which are hostile to the state, and [by doing so] it causes us an unimaginable damage, not unlike our worse enemies… Meretz party has crossed the lines… former MK Naomi Hazan, which heads the NIF, has also crossed the lines.”

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich from opposition party Kadima joined the attack on the NIF in saying that:

“We must say to all Israel-haters that enough is enough. We won’t sit quietly when our enemies from home try to lead an undemocratic revolution here, encouraging boycott, desertion and pacifistic refusal to serve in the IDF, based on lies and distortions. We must draw our lines and tell the traitors to our people that this is enough.”

Im Tirzu, a right-wing nonprofit organization, has launched last week a campaign against the NIF, claiming it sponsors organizations that support Hamas. In a front page story in Maariv, senior political correspondent Ben Caspit quoted a “research” by Im Tirzu, which supposedly showed how the NIF was responsible for 92 percent of the anti-Israeli evidence in the Goldstone report. Caspit went even further, and raised the notion the all the NIF activities in Israel – the fund aids more than 300 grassroots and social justice organizations – are a cover for anti-Israeli subversion.

Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) which represented the government in the Knesset debate, praised Im Tirzu: “it is a Zionist organization, which is doing a very important and positive work.” During the debate, minister Erdan referred to judge Goldstone as “this liar”.

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One of the contributors to the progressive Jewschool blog asked yesterday how this campaign against the NIF and other nonprofits different from the smear campaigns we have seen against the left in the past.

While it is true that the Right has been attacking human rights organizations for as long as they existed in Israel, things have changed in the last few months, and those who care about Israeli politics should be aware of those changes.

For start, the nature and the intensity of the attack changed. The Im Tirzu ads against the NIF shocked many American Jews – they reminded almost everyone of anti-Semitic cartoons – but in Israel they were considered legitimate. The tabloids had no problem publishing them, and you can still catch them as banners on popular news sites as Ynet.co.il and nrg.co.il. In fact, I don’t know of a paper or site that refused to run this ad. What’s even more important is the personalized nature of the attack – specifically targeting the head of the NIF, Naomi Hazan. We haven’t seen such viscous personal attacks since the assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Second, and unlike the attack on left wing politicians during the Oslo days, this time it is not only the political right that goes after human rights activists. And it’s not just smears. We are talking official government and Knesset policies, and real measures being taken. When minister Erdan praised Im Tirzu in the Knesset, he did so as the official representative of the government to the committee. This government includes even the labor party (though some labor MK’s came out in the NIF’s defense). In fact, some of the dominant figures in the campaign against the NIF are MK’s from opposition party Kadima, which under Tzipi Livni claim to represent the pro-peace alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud! Kadima’s official website even posted Im Tirzu’s accusations against the NIF. Read the rest of this entry »


Israeli media goes after New Israel Fund: “responsible for Goldstone Report”

Posted: January 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, media, Polls, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments »
the anti NIF add from Sunday's Jpost

the anti NIF add from Sunday's Jpost

The New Israel Fund (NIF), the American based progressive organization that sponsors social justice projects in Israel, is the victim of a new smear campaign launched by the right-wing movement “Im Tirzu” (אם תרצו) and picked up by Israeli media. Im Tirzu, together with right-wing MK’s and even IDF and Shin Beit seniors, are demanding Knesset and government actions that will prevent the NIF from transferring funds to Israeli human rights and peace organizations – and possibly even ban the organization altogether.

Im Tirzu’s campaign against NIF started in the cover story of Maariv’s political section this weekend. An article by Maariv’s senior political correspondent, Ben Caspit, quoted a claim put forward by Im Tirzu, according to which human rights and peace groups are responsible to more than 90 percent of the evidence against Israel in the Goldstone report. This was a gross misrepresentation of the facts to begin with, because as even Im Tirzu’s representatives admit, the Goldstone report was based mainly on evidence collected form Palestinians and international sources. From the data provided by Israeli sources, 42 percent came form human rights groups.  It didn’t bother Mr. Caspit to make it sound like it was Israeli NGO’s who were behind the entire report.

Israel’s image is at an all-times low. International pressure is mounting, and with it the calls for boycott. All this was fueled by the Goldstone report, which was in itself fueled by Israeli sources. The funding for these sources is provided by, amongst others, the NIF. The question is whether the New Israeli Fund is indeed for Israel.

Caspit mentions 300 grassroots and social organizations receiving funds through the NIF, and asks: “is all this activity just intended to serve as a front for radical subversive activity, acting against the very foundations of the state?”

Caspit never bothered to call anyone in the INF or other NGO’s to discuss this story. The fund was only given a few words of official comment at the bottom of the article, and the notion that “more than 90 percent of the Goldstone report is based on Israeli sources” has become a “fact” used by the mainstream media.

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During the weekend, Im Tirzu activists demonstrated in front of the house of former MK and the chairman of the NIF, Naomi Hazan. They were dressed with Kafia’s and carried signs saying “I hate the IDF, and I support Naomi Hazan.”

Today (Sunday), the popular host of channel 2 news, Avri Gilad, interviewed on his morning show one of the heads of Im Tirzu, and while doing so, referred to this demonstration as a left wing one against the IDF. “The signs say it all,” Gilad said. “They hate the IDF.” Had channel 2 bothered to check the clip before airing it, or to host in their studio someone from the NIF, they would have found out immediately that this is a right wing hoax. But Gilad was in such a rush to denounce the left, such details never bothered him, and he even repeated his mistake on his radio show on the IDF station.

You can watch the interview here. The protest comes after 4:40 min.

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Today, Im Tirzu wrapped things up in a Der Strumer-style add at the Jerusalem post aimed against Naomi Hazan and the NIF (shown above). Meanwhile, in Maariv, Ben Caspit reported that the Knesset will discuss “the involvement of the NIF in the Goldstone report”. MK Yisrael Hasson  (from opposition party Kadima!) called to investigate all NGO’s “which aid Hamas with their activities.”

As Didi Remez pointed on Coteret blog, Maariv’s story this morning reveals that even IDF and Shin Beit officials are involved for sometime in efforts to introduce measures against Israeli human rights organizations:

Now it turns out that the materials exposed on the weekend are familiar to the IDF authorities and the legal authorities in Israel. Some of them were given half a year ago to the Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit.

He checked the material and gave it to the Atty. Gen., with a recommendation to open an official investigation. No such investigation has been made so far. The Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet; GSS] is also familiar with the material and the sensitive issue. Taking action against this is not simple because NIF is a registered association in the US. Also, it is noteworthy that a large part of the fund’s activities in Israel are devoted to social and public issues of the first order.

At the time of writing, following Maariv, other right wing media organizations in Israel are joining the campaign, and even the Examiner is now claiming NIF and Naomi Hazan (“former Member of Knesset for the semi-Marxist Meretz Party”, as they refer to her) are in fact front men for Hamas.

I will report more on this issue in the next few days.


Poll: life in outer space will be discovered before Peace in Middle East

Posted: November 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Polls, the US and us | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

The seventh question on this month’s Vanity Fair national survey:

Which of the following do you think will happen first?

Cure for cancer found: 40%

End of dependence on oil: 27%

Signs of life in outer space: 12%

Peace in the Middle East: 8%

None will ever happen: 7%

"I've come regarding the settlements freeze"

"I've come regarding the settlements freeze"


Poll: Israelis ready to negotiate Hamas, but don’t feel need to talk to Abu-Mazen. High ratings for Netanyahu

Posted: November 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Israeli public is fairly satisfied with his government. According to a public opinion poll published today in Haaretz, PM Benjamin Netanyahu keeps high ratings and the public generally believes that the absent of negotiations with the Palestinians is Abu-Mazen’s fault. The only surprise in the poll is a majority of Israelis willing to negotiate with Hamas.

Exactly half of the public (50 per cent) is satisfied with the Prime Ministers’ work so far, while only 40 percent are “unsatisfied” (the rest are undecided). Defense Minister Ehud Barak gets 50 percent positive approval as well. The only concern Netanyahu should have is with his Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is viewed positively only by 38 of the public.

50 percent of the public blames Abu-Mazen for the absence of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, while 27 percent think it’s both sides’ fault. 25 percent thinks that the White House treats Netanyahu in a humiliating way (42 percent perceive the administration’s behavior as “reasonable”; only 12 see it as respectful)

If elections were held today, Netanyahu’s Likud would have risen to 33 Knesset seats (they have 27 now), while Livni’s Kadima would have grown to 29 (it has 28). Labor drops from 13 now to 6, and altogether the Right-Orthodox wing is getting stronger, to 72 seats (65 now), while the Center-Left block drops to 48.

The common wisdom is that in times of terror attacks the public moves Right, but now we had almost a year of relative quiet accompanied by an effort for renewal of negotiations, and the Right is getting stronger. This is bad news for those who believe in persuading the Israelis to join the peace effort. The public simply doesn’t want that. As I explained before, the meaning of these numbers is that without intense international pressure, no Israeli leader would be ready for concessions – since it would mean confronting a hostile public opinion. The rational choice for every Israeli leader right now- regardless of its ideology – is to oppose the peace effort. Read the rest of this entry »


Yedioth Ahronot poll: Netanyahu’s approval ratings higher than ever

Posted: October 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

Publishing public opinion polls when there are no elections in sight is not a common practice in the Israeli media, but Yedioth Ahronot has one this weekend. Basically, it confirms what I’ve been writing here for some time: Benjamin Netanyahu has been able to contain all outside pressure with regards to the peace process and the settlement freeze. The PM and his government enjoy very high approval ratings, and although Defense Minister Ehud Barak has suffered some blows recently, Netanyahu’s coalition remains very stable.

If elections were held today, Netanyahu’s Likud party would have got 33 Knesset seats (it has 27 today), while Tzipi Livn’s Kadima would have stayed with 28 seats. Libernma and Israel Beitenu drops to 12 seats; Barak and Labor crashes from 13 to 7. Read the rest of this entry »


Peace, a dirty word (or: where Obama got it wrong, and what’s the better way to go)

Posted: October 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, Polls, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The common belief, often quoted by well-wishing visitors to Israel and the Palestinian territories, is that “both people, Israelis and Palestinians, want peace. It’s the politicians who bring war.” The reality is almost the opposite: even when leaders consider some sort of agreement, the public makes it clear that such move won’t be in their best interest. Consequently, the naive belief that “basically, everyone wants peace” is a source of endless political mistakes, the latest of them done by the new American administration. I would like to explain here why, and to suggest a different way to conceptualize the political and diplomatic situation.

There are consistent polls showing a certain majority in both societies for the two-states solution, but this is all on a very abstract level. When you break it down to questions about the price each side would pay for this peace, the numbers drop, sometimes rapidly. Yes, most Israelis say they will agree to a Palestinian state, but without sharing Jerusalem, or evacuating the big settlement blocks; and yes, Palestinians will support an agreement, but without giving up the right of return to all original villages and towns within the Green Line. Obviously, this won’t work. Read the rest of this entry »


Final Results

Posted: February 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The final results of the general elections were published on Thursday evening. Here they are, together with the polls’ average I posted here and my own projection.

elections-final

Everyone missed out on the big surprise of the election – Kadima passing the Likud and becoming the biggest party again. The reason is simple: a new law prevents publishing polls in the last 4 days before an election. In the days leading to the elections, there was a significant move of voters from left-wing parties to Kadima, probably in order to stop Netanyahu. Meretz and Labor lost 3-4 MKs to Kadima in the 72 hours prior to the elections.

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The Last Polls

Posted: February 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

A new law forbids publishing polls in the four days before the elections, in order not to influence voters’ decisions. The Israeli media published yesterday its final polls.

The numbers are not that different from one poll to another, and they all show a clear advantage for the Right-Orthodox block led by Benjamin Netanyhu (*). This means Netanyhau will be Israel’s next prime minister, even in the unlikely event of Tzipi Livni’s Kadima being the biggest party. Our average gives the Right a bit more than 67 MKs, meaning he can form a government even without taking in the extreme-right “Ihud Leumi” party. As I wrote before, Netanyahu will surly try to get Labor or Kadima into his government as well. Given the advantage he has now, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Here are the numbers. The later polls are on the right. The grey column on the right end of the table is our polls average. On Monday I will post my own prediction. 

(Click on the table to see it in full size)

final-polls

Avigdor Liberman is the big winner of the elections. His party will probably pass Labor and become Israel’s third largest. The latest polls indicate that he is still getting stronger, so given the fact that we have three more days before the elections, even a 20 plus result for “Israel Beitenu” won’t be a big surprise.

Liberman’s success is helping Kadima, who is getting slightly stronger, probably because of voters wishing to balance his power in the next Knesset. There are 1-2 percent of Left-leaning undecided voters, most of them women, hanging between Kadima and Meretz. Barak’s labor is not an option for them.

Labor’s war bump has stopped, and the latest polls show the party even weakening a bit. This goes to show that the public is still not trusting Ehud Barak with anything but national security.

Shas and Yahadut Hatorah, the two orthodox parties, are very stable in the polls, but one has to remember that Shas usually over-performs in the elections.

The Arab Balad party is in real danger of not passing the 2 percent minimum threshold. It’s also more than probable that the two environmental parties (“The Green Movement” and “The Greens”) won’t enter the Knesset. Their campaign has been hurt by the war, but still, if they ran together, they would have gotten in. If Balad does stay out of the Knesset, that means that the Center-Left Coalition has lost up to five seats because of parties not passing the minimum threshold.

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Today’s polls, February 4-5

Posted: February 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

we have 5 new polls in the last couple of days. We will probably have more tomorrow, and I’ll update the table as soon as possible.

The 30 MKs result for the Likud in “Israel Hayom”’s poll seems a bit too high, and so does the 20-21 for Liberman in the Globes poll. All the rest of the results make sense. Liberman’s “Israel Beitenu” party  is still gaining ground, while the Likud is stable around 27 for some time. The Right-Orthodox block keeps a 10-12 MKs advantage over the Left-Center block (*). That means Netanyahu is our next PM.

Balad party is in real danger of not getting into the Knesset, while Hadash is getting somewhat stronger. On the Right, “Habait Hayehudi” should be a bit worried as well.

Five more days to go. Here are the numbers (click on the table to see it in full size).

polls-5

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Today’s Polls, February 2-3

Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Exactly a week to the election, one thing is clear: Netanyahu will be Israel’s next PM. All polls indicate a 10 Mks or more lead for his Right-Orthodox block over Tzipi Livni’s Left-Center block (*).

But that’s all the good news Netanyahu is going to get. It is clear that the recent strengthening of Avigdor Liberman’s “Israel Beitenu” Party came at the Likud’s expense. Our average show the Likud with 26.7 MKs (it had more than 30 a few weeks ago) and Liberman with 17.3. This doesn’t hurt the Right block, but it will make life much harder for Netanyahu after the election. So far the Likud has been very careful not to start campaigning against Liberman. It will be interesting to see whether the latest numbers will change Netanyahu’s mind. UPDATE: They did. Netanyahu started going after Liberman.

The polls are very inconsistent when it doesn’t come to the four big parties (Meretz has 4 Mks on Channel 1 poll and 8 on Globes), so we might have a few surprises there.

The outcome of the election will also be affected by the number of parties not crossing the two percent threshold. As I explained here, this problem mainly concerns the Left-Center block, which has three parties in danger: Balad, the Greens and Gil, the Senior citizens’ party. Habait Hayehudi, the right-wing religious party, is also at some risk, but I believe they will get there.

Here are the latest numbers:

polls-33

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