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.

Going after the left is now a policy which crosses party lines in Israel, with some of Israel’s most notable media people – Avri Gilad, Yair Lapid, Ben Dror Yemini and more – making a habit of attacking human rights organizations. Gilad and Yemini specifically joined the campaign against the NIF, repeating right wing lies and distorting facts. and if that’s wasn’t enough, this morning, the Israeli Government Press Office translated and disseminated Yemini’s article.

A few Israeli journalists tried to present a different opinion (you can read some of them on Coteret blog). Especially noteworthy is an article by Maariv’s Maya Bengal and Merav David, in which both go close to accusing their own paper of distorting truth in creating the impression as if Israeli organizations contributed to almost all the evidence in the Goldstone report, when in fact only 14 percent of the evidence against Israel came from Israeli sources. The general opinion is however unfavorable towards the NIF, to say the least.

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More than anything, it is important to put the campaign against the NIF in context. This is not an isolated event, coming out of nowhere. Just two weeks ago, the head of the civil rights association in Israel, along with other 16 activists, was arrested during a peaceful protest in Jerusalem (the court ruled later that the police acted without authority and all activists were released without charges – but only after spending the weekend in prison). Human Rights and peace activists are harassed more and more frequently by authorities, and the fate of Arab protesters is even worse – hundreds of them were arrested last year while demonstrating against operation Cast Lead, and almost all faced charges. Saying certain things in Israel is already unwise, and we are moving toward a moment when it will be also illegal.

Self censorship and latent censorship are already very common. I’ve discussed here the campaign against “anti-Zionists” movies and books, but what’s even more telling is what happening to the Israeli media, once the symbol of freedom of speech in “the only democracy in the Middle East”: three weeks ago Maariv decided not to publish an interview with Arab-Israel film director Mohammad Bakri, who accused the IDF in committing was crimes. The piece was written, edited and just about to be printed when Maariv’s editor in chief Yoav Tzur decided to kill it, without even denying the political reasons for his decision. And yesterday it was published that Yedioth Ahronoth conducted a research piece which found evidence for considerable easing of the opening fire procedures during Cast Lead. This piece was also completed but never published. When the UK’s Independent caught up with the affair, Yedioth refused to comment or explain their decision.

All these are not isolated cases. Something very big, and very deep, is going on in Israel. Human right and peace activists feel, maybe for the first time, real anxiety, even fear. I tend to agree with Prof. Eyal Gross, which views these development as a “shooting the messenger” syndrome, which has to do with the growing pressure on Israel to end the occupation of the West bank and remove the siege on Gaza. Since my feeling is that both the public and the government are not ready yet for real concessions, the public anger is likely to increase in the near future. No doubt, the tiny Israeli left and the Arab minority are about to face some very difficult months, probably even years.


12 Comments on “Following Im Tirzu’s campaign: first Knesset steps against NIF”

  1. 1 lisoosh said at 9:30 pm on February 3rd, 2010:

    What you are describing is a pogrom. Pure and simple.

  2. 2 Michael LeFavour said at 9:59 pm on February 3rd, 2010:

    A pogrom of what, of words? Calling this welcome ray of light, this hint of coming to the senses, this sliver of looking out for self interest in the face of the largest smear campaign against any single group of people in human history, a pogrom is one of the most neurotic exaggerations of a current event I have read in a long while.

    This is a tiny, tiny baby step towards what needs to be done. An infusion of fresh air in an otherwise putrid political atmosphere of self loathing and appeasement of inconsequential others no matter what the social and moral cost to Israelis.

    These are not human rights organizations either. To label them as such is a slap in the face to real organizations dedicated to the actual protection of human rights. These organizations are nothing more than propaganda organs hiding behind the fig leaf of human rights. They were instituted for one thing, and one thing only, to attack and destroy the state of Israel. They are agenda driven, counter productive, ignorant, harmful, and biased to the point of treason…yes treason, and in my perfect world the ring leaders would be rounded up shot.

  3. 3 noam said at 10:45 pm on February 3rd, 2010:

    I wonder, Michael, what would be “a real step” (and not just a tiny one) in your eyes. In fact, in all your comments you never presented any sort of vision or a solution to the political problems we are facing.

  4. 4 Aviv said at 1:31 am on February 4th, 2010:

    Both sides of this argument are doing things that are distasteful but perfectly legal and fair in democratic discourse.

    Some of the NIF-funded NGO’s collected statements, some true and some (I hate to break it to you) false, and relayed them to the UN. This is “distasteful” to me and most Israelis, but legal and part of democracy.

    Going after Hazan personally, drawing horns on heads, claiming that the statements collected to NGO’s significantly contributed to Goldstone – Also distasteful but legal. Namecalling and caricatures per se are definitely not anything like inciting to kill Rabin or like a pogrom. Fake demonstration with keffiyehs – Not sure if legal, but very very distasteful.

    Saying that namecalling and caricatures criticizing the left are like inciting to kill Rabin or like a pogrom – Regrettably, legal but also distasteful, if only because it employs the very same namecalling tactic it condemns.

    - “You’re a fascist!”
    - “Oh yeah? You’re a bolshevik!”
    - “Antisemite!”
    - “Rabin-killers! Pogrom, clean and simple!”
    Yeah, this will get us very far.

  5. 5 Michael LeFavour said at 9:14 am on February 4th, 2010:

    Noam,

    That is not exactly true. Every now and then you ask roughly the same thing of me, and I have never once deviated in what I have to say, or from desiring peace, but I have also maintained that peace “at any cost” is not worth the price. For example, a slave and a master are at peace as long as the slave does as he is told. Muslims and infidels are at peace as long as the Muslim benefits from allowing the infidel to keep his religion (people of the book only) and the infidel knows the limited boundaries within this relationship. Upset this Islam dominant dichotomy as the Jews have done in what Muslims view as Muslim land and the so called “peace” is broken. Likewise, the victim of a crime is at peace with a criminal until the victim decides to resist. Is that the sort of peace you are willing to accept? Peace Now reminds me of a perpetual rape victim, instead of maybe fighting back to prevent the rape and all the negative possibilities, like a child, trauma, or disease, Peace Now would prefer to lay there and take it in hopes that the antagonist will just stop or have enough…and then the leftist mind warps the blame onto the victim, for wearing too short of a skirt, or too much makeup, etc.. The left disempowers people by never demanding anyone to accept responsibility for their own actions. To me it is insanity. That is why I say that peace “at any cost” is morally perverse and leaves the future vulnerable to the whims of tyranny or, as in my metaphor, another rapist.

    You want to be a voice for humanity, a champion for the Arabs, but do you really understand Arabic culture? Do you understand the underlying dogma of Islam? Much of what you write leads me to believe that you do not. Which Muslim Arab country do you wish to shape the state of Israel after? Which Muslim and/or Arab country, from Bangladesh in the East to Mauritania in the West and all points in between, do you admire? Which one is Noam’s utopia where human rights are sacrosanct? Is there a sharia compliant state (in as much as there are no true sharia compliant states) that you can point to as a model of good society? Or have you fooled yourself into thinking that these few million Muslims calling themselves Palestinians, out of over a billion, are different from all the rest?

    It is easy to label someone, a bigot, a racist, a war monger, a whatever, but some times those insults are cast from a point of view that is not neutral. I do not see any standards of human rights in the 52 members of the OIC that match even a tenth of the values of Israeli society. Gender apartheid, misogyny, codified religious bigotry, legal discrimination, and an environment hostile to learning and discovery. Every current working model we have for what a future Hamastan or a so called Palestine might become is a human rights disaster, yet somehow….somehow you and your fellow ideologues have convinced the world, and yourselves for that matter, that you are only fighting for human rights. Really? By what standard? On what planet? It makes me hysterical with disbelief that the result of the so called human rights effort against the most liberal state in the region will be a human rights disaster for women, gays, and non-Muslims. It just boggles the mind. Unless, as I do, you understand that the organizations pretending to be human rights organizations are not what they claim. They are in Israel for one purpose only and human rights has little to do with that purpose. Which means an objective look at these organizations and then to do something about them is in Israel’s best interest.

    The truth is you are being used as a stooge to further the agenda of a people that will cast you aside like a used condom when your usefulness has been spent. At the end of the day you are just a Jew, and to the Muslim leadership, where it really matters in any Islamic society, you are destined for an eternity in a burning hell. In the eyes of Islam, you will never be the equal of a Muslim even if you develop friendly relations to individual Muslims. Your value as a human is to enrich the Muslims giving you protection or to convert. “Pure and simple.” If you step outside of that role you are labeled as being a part of the house of war, or Dar al Harb. Which is a division Muslims created, not Westerners, not Jews.

    So my solution is to first face reality. Stop projecting characteristics onto others that they do not have. There are cultural differences between peoples, and like it or not, not all cultures are equal. What part of allowing a jailer to marry a condemned virgin, rape his new bride, then divorce her so that she may be executed the next day is there to admire? What part of death for refusing to repent homosexuality is admirable? Stop looking at any single aspect of the conflict as if it were a microcosm of the whole. There is cause and effect of all the defensive measures the Arab antagonists have forced Jews to take, from compulsory service to body scans just to enter shopping malls. Lishoosh and his ilk wail and moan about the check points and restrictions, but don’t have the courage to acknowledge that those inconveniences and the overall Jewish resentment from being forced to maintain them all stem from Arab actions. His type are abject cowards. “Pure and simple.”

    There is great diversity, but in general, the Arabs respect strength and are ruled by honor and shame. I come from a society where right versus wrong is the dominant cultural force. Every value in Western society is judged by a guilt and innocence standard, a good guy vs bad guy sense of fair play. In general, call it a super trait or whatever, Arabs operate in a world view where the predominant paradigm is shame versus honor. Right and wrong are lesser traits. Having honor, or being an honorable man, in Arab culture is the equivalent of being a righteous man in Western society. For many this cultural gulf is impossible to try and comprehend, but we can’t understand the motivations of every side involved without understanding context. Which leads to the point that the ultimate shame in the Middle East was losing Muslim land in battle to effeminate Jews. To be utterly crushed is one thing, but to leave the hope that victory can be achieved with greater effort is shameful.

    The problem, as I see it, is that most Israeli Jews find it repulsive to completely destroy the Arab will to fight because that will require doing things they would not want done to themselves were the military roles reversed. The flaw in that logic is that were the military roles reversed the Arabs would have no problems in doing just that. Look at Black September or what happened to the entire town of 30,000 in Hama, Syria, men, women, and children. Arab honor and shame mandates that if there is a chance of fighting or for revenge he must continue fighting, it has nothing to do with land, international law, or human rights. It is complex, but in general, Arab leaders are driven by Arab cultural values. The only way to untie the Gordian Knot is to give the Arabs an honorable (by their standards) way out. Either crush them or capitulate.

    All the talk about the green line, the settlements, or Jerusalem is a red herring. Only the West and a handful of Arabs think compromise can end the conflict. The reason is simply because the fact is the conflict has little or nothing to do with land. The conflict is about Islamic intolerance and Arab racism. The problem can not be broken down to any lower fundamental causes. Racism and bigotry are the twin pillars. Take the Hashemite invasion of what became Jordan. The Hashemites were not locals, they were not invited, they came with an invading army and set up a dictatorial monarchy over 75% of the land set aside to become a Jewish state. There were dozens of fierce independent tribes living there before the Hashemites arrived, but they accepted their new masters with hardly a whimper. Why? The invading colonialists were Muslims, they were Arabs, and they were stronger. Weakling infidel Jews fleeing persecution were not. The freedom, civility, and sense of fairness and equality the Jewish immigrants brought were not honorable qualities. To the clergy it was a challenge to the old status quo of Muslim supremacy. It didn’t matter if the immigrant Jews came unarmed, brought a higher standard of living, and were fully willing to treat the Arabs as equals or not. What mattered is that an infidel would rule a Muslim. “Pure and simple.” And propagandists scream today about the racial makeup of the land before Jews were allowed to immigrate. Really? Who cares about percentages of a race except for racists? The US has an illegal immigration problem from Mexico, millions, are Americans banding together to burn, loot, rape, and murder Mexican Americans?

    This took a different direction from what I had intended and I am suddenly called out on an emergency dig up at my work, but I just want to say that there are many concrete steps that can be taken. Intelligence officers can focus on human behavior and regional cultural practices then advise policy makers within a framework of full context for a start. Every NGO should be analyzed and disbanded if they are found to be against the best interest of the state. Especially those funded from outside the state. Freedom does not mean casting aside self preservation and common sense. I will elaborate further when I have a chance on other issues if you wish a conversation, but safety for the Jewish people will be my priority on any suggestion I make.

  6. 6 Aviv said at 10:59 am on February 4th, 2010:

    I think Lisoosh is female, btw

  7. 7 Aviv said at 11:04 am on February 4th, 2010:

    “in my perfect world the ring leaders would be rounded up shot.”

    “Every NGO should be analyzed and disbanded if they are found to be against the best interest of the state”

    Sounds like a fun place to live, your fantasy totalitarian state.

    You should write more novel-length blog post comments, that would surely expedite making your authoritarian dream come true.

  8. 8 lisoosh said at 5:51 pm on February 4th, 2010:

    Aviv – yes, female although presumably not relevant.

    I don’t use the word pogrom lightly. Those who know me well in the blogosphere know my general lack of tolerance for the frequency such terminology is generally used.
    You are quite right that a lot of recent events, while distasteful are certainly legal and actually perfectly in line with freedom of speech.
    Where I draw the line is when these statements become institutionalized and actions are taken to curtail the freedom of speech of anybody with a particular point of view or political stance. When journalists are being barred, and any group or individual (artists) with the temerity to express a different point of view are subject to “investigation” or essentially excommunicated we have a real problem.
    This is state sanctioned demonization and an example of a political faction using its current power to attempt to eliminate all opposition. It is relentless and focussed, just like a pogrom. It can’t end well.

  9. 9 Aviv said at 8:28 am on February 5th, 2010:

    The following blog post offers a view I agree with, in words better than I could phrase:

    http://yaacovlozowick.blogspot.com/2010/02/nif-democracy-decency-and-other.html

    Lisoosh, why shouldn’t a parliamentary committee investigate the NIF-funded NGO’s? I thought transparency was what they were all about. How is public criticism of NIF-funded NGO’s by the gov’t/ruling parties a curtailment of freedom of speech?

  10. 10 Michael LeFavour said at 4:05 pm on February 5th, 2010:

    Aviv,

    I just worked 30 hours without a break. Let’s see if I can respond with something that sounds lucid.

    Why are you building a straw man? You changed the context of what I said by giving me attributes I do not have. You built an irrelevant straw man and crushed it because, oh my, tyranny and authoritarianism are bad. You had, in your opinion, a “novel-length blog post” to respond to, but chose to insult with nonsense, which I am fine with as long as you can point out factual error. Ridicule without offering correction is worthless as a teaching tool. Ridicule that has no valid point or is off mark, such as yours was makes you sound petty and lowers your credibility as an analyst.

    You are upset that I would shut down certain NGOs? Why? I never said all NGOs should be shut down. That is you exaggerating to build a straw man. But, let me ask you this, if you were put on trial for something you did not do and a witness gives false testimony that convicts you for a crime you did not commit and you were sent to prison for it, would you want the person to be stopped from doing it again and again or not? Many of the NGOs attacking Israel have nothing to do with human rights unless there can be some imaginative way to demonise Israel in the process. Silencing a false witness is not tyranny, it is self preservation.

  11. 11 yaacov lozowick said at 12:10 pm on February 7th, 2010:

    Noan – and Lisoosh -

    According to the JP’s website, they fired Chazan after she and the NIF threatened them in writing after they ran the Im Tirzu ad. If this is true, not only does it exonerate the JP fully, it casts the NIF in a truly weird light, don’t you think?

    Pogrom, Lisoosh, has nothing to do with any of this. Not with the NIF, nor Im Tirzu, nor even the Goldstone Report. You diminish your arguments if you need such language to emphasize them.

  12. 12 noam said at 2:03 pm on February 7th, 2010:

    Yaacov – considering the lies and the nature of the ad, the cease and desist demand (not a threat) from Chazan’s lawyer to all media was totally understandable. the fact that Jpost is now trying to spin it now as the pretext for firing Chazan makes things even worse.