If You Will It

We're the good guys, they're the bad guys, and those who think otherwise should shut up.

Im Tirzu is clearly a symptom. It looks like a symptom, smells like a symptom, sounds like a symptom, acts like a symptom. What's less clear is just what disease is involved, what infection in the Israeli body is emitting this stench.

MK Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) speaking at a meeting with Im Tirzu
Tess Scheflan

The series of public operations for which Im Tirzu is responsible leads to the standard answer: Im Tirzu is a symptom of a surge in nationalism. The logic goes like this: Israelis have trouble dealing with the complexity of their actions, with the implications of the occupation, and when international pressure increases and frustration rises, so does the demand for a one-dimensional way of thinking that negates the other and heightens the aggressor's sense of victimhood.

This isn't a bad answer, since it provides a reasonable explanation for many of the elements that make up the situation. But this answer is incomplete, because it is difficult to reconcile with the fact that Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar was the guest of honor at the movement's annual convention a few months ago. Why is Gideon Sa'ar the element that won't allow the simple answer that Im Tirzu is a symptom of an increase in the level of nationalism? Because the education minister gives legitimacy to this movement. And on the face of it, this education minister, who likes to DJ at Tel Aviv clubs and who opposes the deportation of 400 children of foreign workers, does not represent nationalism. Patriotism maybe, Zionism apparently, but certainly not nationalism.

So then, just how do Im Tirzu and Gideon Sa'ar go together? How did such a crude symptom of violent nationalism become an acceptable notion to the education minister of the State of Israel?

Perhaps the solution to the riddle lies in precisely this point: Im Tirzu is not a movement whose essence represents the increase in the level of nationalism (although it does this ). Im Tirzu is a movement whose essence gives representation to the true views of certain people in the government, like the education minister.

Im Tirzu is essentially the extreme thinking that isn't voiced out loud for public relations reasons. Im Tirzu is Gideon Sa'ar's gut feelings the moment before they have to be dressed in a suit and asked to run the country. Im Tirzu is the gap between formal appearances and gut feelings, between diplomatically addressing the nations of the world and the thought that is uttered only in private, which is: We are the good guys, they are the bad guys, and anyone who thinks otherwise should shut up.

Im Tirzu is the government's executive arm for the purpose of silencing.

Im Tirzu

October 2008: Wikipedia defines Im Tirzu as a right-wing movement. In response, movement chairman Ronen Shoval threatens to sue the site. Wikipedia removes the entry

August 2009: Im Tirzu members send Ben-Gurion University president Rivka Carmi a letter calling for the dismissal of Dr. Neve Gordon

December 2009: 200 Im Tirzu student activists demonstrate at the Hebrew University in support of IDF operations and inhabitants of the south

January 2010: Im Tirzu publishes a report alleging that 92 percent of the incriminating quotes in the Goldstone Report come from Israeli organizations supported by the New Israel Fund January 31, 2010: Ben Caspit devotes his entire Maariv column to the data from Im Tirzu's report

February 2010: Im Tirzu campaigns against New Israel Fund chairwoman Naomi Hazan. Posters depict Hazan with a rhinoceros horn and an enlongated nose

March 2010: The annual Im Tirzu convention is held at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar is guest of honor and delivers a speech at the ceremony

April 2010: Im Tirzu distributes a new version of the Yizkor memorial prayer to synagogues, containing the line, "Let the people of Israel remember those from within it, flesh of their flesh, who participated in claims against its officers and soldiers"

May 31, 2010: Im Tirzu sues the Facebook group "Im Tirzu is a fascist movement"

July 4, 2010: Haaretz publishes an op-ed by Im Tirzu chairman Ronen Shoval calling for a struggle on behalf of academic freedom

August 17, 2010: Im Tirzu threatens the Ben-Gurion University president that if she doesn't take steps to halt the faculty's "anti-Zionist tendency," it will seek to reduce donations to the university