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 »


A Knesset move against Sheldon Adelson will do more harm than good

Posted: December 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Right | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The excellent Coteret blog, which futures translated articles from the Hebrew media with independent commentary, has a post dealing with the “journalism bill” in the Knesset, which is meant to block the growing influence of Israel Hayom – the rightwing daily free-paper published by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. According to the new bill, license to publish daily papers will be giving only to Israeli citizens (Adelson is an American).

There are rumors of extensive lobbing on this issue by the owners of the two other tabloids, Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth, so this legislation effort actually stands a chance.

Personally, I tend to oppose the “journalism bill”, for the following reasons:

1.    It would give politicians greater control over the papers, which will now be at their mercy. Just imagining the promises made in backrooms right now on this issue makes me worried.

2.    It won’t help to ease the legitimate concerns over Israel Hayom: the proposed bill states that it will be enforced on existing papers after an adjustment period of two years. By that time, Sheldon Adelson can transfer the paper to an Israeli citizen, or even better, become one himself. On the other hand, it might harm Haaretz, who’s under joint ownership of the Shoken family and a German partner.

3.    It might actually open the door for limitations on other “foreign influences” in the public arena, and most notably, the financial support human rights and peace groups receive.

4.    Journalism as we know it is doomed. Even the Knesset can’t save it.

Basically, you have to be a bit naïve to think that any kind of legislation that protects human rights or freedom of speech will come out of the current Knesset. In that sense, the opposition party of Kadima is just as bad as the ruling Likud (it was Kadima, for example, who pushed for the creation of national biometric database). It is more likely that any legislation on these issues will be either meaningless or abused, so I rather things will be left the way they are.


“Coteret”: selected articles from the Hebrew media

Posted: November 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

One of the reasons I write this blog in English is the shortage in first hand information on the Israeli society for those who don’t speak Hebrew. The two main publications in English, Haaretz and Jerusalem Post, represent only a fraction of what’s going on (they have a combined market share of less than 10 percent); Ynet.co.il has a site in English, but most of their articles aren’t posted there.

Now there is an important new addition: “Coteret”, a blog by Didi Remez, who translates selected stories and article from the Hebrew media, and most notably, from the tabloids Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv. Usually, Didi posts a short introduction on the writer and the context of the story, followed by the full article.

If you want to know better what Israelis are thinking or saying, be sure to add his blog to your bookmarks.


Netanyahu’s Daily Paper, Courtesy of the Richest Jew on Earth

Posted: April 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

israel-hayom

Talking to none-Israeli friends, I am often asked about the political affiliation of Israeli publications, or of certain reporters. So I have decided to dedicate a few posts to the Hebrew media, with an emphasis on the political role it plays (I don’t know the Israeli Media in Arabic and Russian well enough to comment on it).

I will start with a new and unique phenomena: A paper that was established to promote the interests of a specific politician, one Benjamin Netanyahu.

There are other major papers in the West which are known to support political parties or a certain ideology – but I don’t know of any paper that was launched with the intent to gain political influence, to promote one persons’ campaign to power, and doesn’t even attempt to make profit.

Israel Hayom is a free daily tabloid in Hebrew, established in 2008. Its Publisher is the American multi billionaire Sheldon Adelson, “the richest Jew on earth”, who made his fortune in the Casino business in Las Vegas and Macao. The paper has a circulation of 255,000 copies on weekdays, and currently has no Weekend edition. According to the January 2009 TGI poll, Israel Hayom is read by 23.2 percent of the Jewish public, which makes it second only to the tabloid “Yedioth Ahronoth”. The paper’s chief editor is Amos Regev. Israel Hayom has a web site in Hebrew that presents the paper’s printed edition in PDF format.

Sheldon Adelson, the owner on Israel Hayom (the name means “Israel Today” in Hebrew) is a known supporter of the Republican Party, George W Bush and Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson never hid his discontent with the Israeli media, which, he often claimed, is biased to the left and not appreciative enough towards Netanyahu.
Read the rest of this entry »