No, It’s Hardly a Childish Movement

Do you recall that Im Tirtzu disseminated the libel that Prof. Naomi Chazan (then chairwoman of the New Israel Fund) was giving secrets to the enemy via the Goldstone Report on Israel’s 2009 operation in Gaza?

Tal Niv
Tal Niv
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Tal Niv
Tal Niv

Hello, Avi Shilon, my name is Tal Niv. I’m one of the people against whom the Ir Tirtzu organization filed a libel suit, seeking damages of NIS 2.6 million, because we didn’t agree to shut down a Facebook group called “Im Tirtzu Tnuah Fascistit, Az Yesh” - “If You Want a Fascist Movement, There is One.”

In the past, Im Tirtzu succeeded in preventing the editors of Wikipedia from terming it a right-wing movement by threatening to sue. But I and the other members of our group decided to stick to our guns – because we spoke the truth.

It’s enjoyable, even interesting, and perhaps also useful to some extent, to read your comments, which paint Im Tirtzu as childish. And certainly it’s also important to discuss the methodology and philosophy of the law. But for now, I’d like you to close your eyes and recall what happened here in Israel just three years ago.

If you drove down Rokach Boulevard in Tel Aviv during the winter of 2010, you surely saw, as you went by the overpass near the amusement park, the caricature of Naomi Chazan with a horn coming out of her forehead. Do you recall that this “childish” organization, whose damage you seek to downplay with the forgiving tone of one who has never felt the weight of its displeasure, disseminated the libel that Professor Chazan (then chairwoman of the New Israel Fund) was giving secrets to the enemy via the Goldstone Report on Israel’s 2009 operation in Gaza?

And did you see the demonstration on Tel Aviv’s Levontin Street in April of that year, in which the organization’s activists – some of whom surely are good people who just want a Herzl logo to print on their shirts – dressed up like soldiers, chained themselves to each other like in pictures of prisoners of war and walked into giant cages, in order to accuse their political rivals of responsibility for their imagined torture? Are those who sent private investigators to the office of a lawyer who works for human rights – as the organization’s chairman, Ronen Shoval, admitted under questioning – and who enjoy official support from ministers who speak at their extremist conferences, still childish and innocent in your eyes?

That’s why I, Tal Niv, served as administrator of a Facebook group aimed at monitoring them. I expressed my opinion of them in real time, an opinion based partly on information available to everyone about the growth and consolidation of fascist movements.

These are the people who took us to court. The court didn’t reject their suit out of hand, but Im Tirtzu also vilified the court, as one can see from the sophistry that Erez Tadmor, one of the organization’s founders, engaged in this week. In his view, if a court doesn’t want to discuss a given issue, it’s against them, and if it does discuss a given issue, in accordance with the rules, then it’s also against them.

I don’t accept the assumption that Shoval and Tadmor are better Zionists than I am or are entitled to decide that my Zionism is insufficient. In fact, I fear that their behavior endangers the Zionist enterprise.

I was questioned with verbal violence during the trial. My skin isn’t thick. On the contrary, it’s thin. But the trial taught me a great deal about restraint and logic. The accusation that I “support the Palestinians” – which was hurled at me as if it were part crime and part mark of Cain – filled my heart with dread due to the very assumptions on which it rested.

I remember driving down Rokach Boulevard three years ago, with my daughters sitting in the back seat of the car and playing, as we passed under that horrifying caricature. I remember the exact moment, as if in a documentary film, when it became crystal clear to me – as distinct from intellectual musings about the validity of historiographical arguments, though in those too, by the way, we had experts on our side – that I personally would stand up for my right to speak.

Those people in Im Tirtzu were the ones who wanted to bring the case to court, not us. And now they’re the ones who want to make it go away.

Im Tirtzu protest against former NIF head Naomi Chazan. Credit: Dan Keinan

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