Im Tirtzu Hides Behind Respectable Mask of 'Zionism'

Israel has an atrophied political system, a thwarted justice system and media outlets that engage mainly in brainwashing.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Binyamin Ze'ev is turning in his grave once again: A McCarthyite movement has taken his best-known slogan for its name. Im Tirtzu, which deceptively calls itself a "moderate, centrist movement," gives a bad name to Herzl, a democrat and liberal, who coined the phrase "Im tirtzu, ain zo agada" (If you will it, it is no dream). The group's latest trick: a dirty war against the New Israel Fund for its funding of 16 organizations that provided documentation used in the Goldstone report.

Oy, gevalt! There are nongovernmental organizations that want Israel to be a better, more just state, and that the New Israel Fund dares to underwrite. Cities were plastered with posters featuring a caricature of NIF president Naomi Chazan wearing a horn - that's the level that the "movement" behind the campaign sinks to - and with the last name of that reviled figure, Goldstone, added to hers.

Maariv, the tabloid daily that never shrinks from McCarthyism, hastened to publish a ludicrous "expose" that is nothing more than a copy of Im Tirtzu's report. The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee created a subcommittee to "examine the sources of funding," media personality Avri Gilad called for Chazan's dismissal and the Jerusalem Post has already fired her as columnist for the newspaper. It's exactly how McCarthyism operated.

There's no lack of fascist movements in Israel and the wider world, nationalist, militarist and racist organizations that don't pretend to be anything but. Im Tirtzu hides behind the respectable mask of "Zionism." Under this camouflage people hunt down all signs of democracy and critical thought. Quiet, we're shooting, all the time. That is their "second Zionist revolution," an Israel without the High Court of Justice and without B'Tselem, militarist with neither criticism nor supervision. If that is Zionism, then it's better to be anti-Zionist.

Im Tirtzu's founder and chairman, Ronen Shoval, is their handsome patriot - blue-eyed and from the solidly bourgeois suburb of Ramat Hasharon, north of Tel Aviv. He's not some bearded settler nutcase who burns Palestinian fields. First, he tried his luck with the fight of the reserve duty soldiers after the Second Lebanon War. Then it was permissible to criticize a war, because Israelis died in it. Operation Cast Lead must not be criticized because nearly all those who died in it were Palestinians - and there were a lot of Palestinian deaths. After that struggle died out, this ridiculous Zionist turned to pursuing all demonstrations of criticism of Israel.

The one-time Habayit Hayehudi activist who now tries to wash his hands of the fact - what won't some people do for their career - once wrote that Israel cannot defend itself without the "protective wall of Judea and Samaria." This same person, who is completely devoid of all understanding of the essence of democracy, is now crudely going after the New Israel Fund, which since it was founded has distributed $140 million to dozens of NGOs that pursue peace, equality and social justice. Yes, these include charities that believe that Operation Cast Lead wreaked a moral disaster on Israel and acted accordingly. They took statements and published them - in other words they fulfilled their purpose, in a professional and credible manner. Even the Israel Defense Forces relied on their sources.

Just as Richard Goldstone must be thanked for formulating the IDF's next code of ethics, whether or not we admit it, so, too, the NIF must be thanked for reinforcing democracy. With an atrophied political system, a thwarted justice system, media outlets that engage mainly in brainwashing and an indifferent public - the nongovernmental organizations have become the last keeper of the seal of Israeli democracy. How lovely to show us and the world that there's still someone left here who operates in a different way; how encouraging to see that there are still alternatives to the official mechanisms. True, they are funded from abroad; no less, by the way, than Im Tirtzu or the right-wing NGOs that expel Palestinians from their homes and award prizes to rebellious soldiers from the right, but Im Tirtzu will not take action against them.

How can we truly know what happened in the Gaza Strip without Breaking the Silence, and how can we know what is happening in the West Bank every day without B'Tselem? But Im Tirtzu doesn't want us to know; it wants to cover our shame. That, to it, is patriotism, but in reality that is treason. How familiar the remarks sounded this weekend by Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadiq Amoli Larijani, calling for fighting human rights organizations in his country because they "confuse human rights with law and order." Im Tirtzu and Maariv couldn't have said it better.

If you will it, Naomi Chazan with the horn on her forehead is the beautiful face of Israel, infinitely more beautiful than Im Tirtzu, which tries to put horns on us all, the horns of a fascist state under the cover of Zionism.



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