Im Tirtzu

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Im Tirtzu
Im tirtzu logo 40pc.png
Founded 2006[1]
Type Extra-parliamentary
Registration no. 580471662[1]
Area served Israel
Key people Ronen Shoval (Chairman and Founder)
Erez Tadmor (Spokesman and Founder)[2]
Mission "to strengthen and advance the values of Zionism in Israel"[3]
Website en.imti.org.il/index.html

Im Tirtzu (Hebrew: אם תרצו, lit. 'If you will it') is a Zionist[4] extra-parliamentary[3] group based in Israel. Its name is based on a phrase by Theodor Herzl – "אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה" or "If you will it, it is no dream."

The group's stated goal is to strengthen and promote "Zionist values" throughout Israel, especially on college campuses. Im Tirtzu is mostly known for its campaign against the New Israel Fund and against alleged bias in university curriculum. After the campaign, John Hagee, the largest funder of the group said it had misrepresented its focus and would discontinue funding.[5] It was founded in 2006 by Ronen Shoval, who also served as its chairman until his retirement in 2013, and Erez Tadmor, who was a group spokesperson until his retirement in 2011.

Following Ronen's retirement, Matan Peleg was elected as Im Tirtzu's chairman.[6] Peleg was the founder of the Im Tirtzu branch in Haifa and the head of the northern branch of the movement.[7][8] after Erez's retired, Matan replaced him in the role of missions coordinator.[9] Alon Schwartzer was elected as head of the policy department alongside Matan.[10]

The group has been described by some as belonging to the ultra-right,[11] though it describes itself as centrist. Following a libel action brought by the group against five critics, in September 2013 a Jerusalem court found that since Im Tirtzu can indeed be likened to fascism, it is not libelous to call it that. In the trial, one person was found guilty of slander in comparing Im Tirzu to Nazi racial policy.[12][13]

Activity

Claiming bias in Israeli universities

In 2008, Im Tirtzu published a report about the syllabuses used in various academic departments in Israel. According to the report, authors who reject the notion of nationality, or support anti-Zionist views, get much more exposure in reading lists. In 2010, Im Tirtzu sent Rivka Karmi, the head of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev a letter, demanding that the university stop the anti-Zionist bias in its Department of Politics and Government. The letter alleged that 9 out of 11 professors in the department were involved in extreme left-wing activities (among others, attempting to persuade other countries to join the Academic boycotts of Israel). Im Tirtzu threatened to notify the donors of the university if the problem was not rectified.[14]

In a joint statement about the above campaign, the heads of Israel's seven leading universities urged condemnation of what they called Im Tirtzu's "dangerous attempt to create a thought police."[11] Im Tirtzu responded, "All Im Tirtzu asked from BGU is that a solution be found to the extreme bias found in the Political Science department, where only post-Zionist opinions are presented."[15]

Following Im Tirtzu's report, the Israeli Council for Higher Education appointed an international committee to investigate the allegations. The committee came to the conclusion that the curriculum in the Political Science department is imbalanced. The committee said it was "concerned that the study of politics as a scientific discipline may be impeded by such strong emphasis on political activism," and recommended closing the department unless changes were made.[16] The report was widely criticized by academics, who said that it was politically motivated, noting that well-known scholars had been rejected from the committee because of their political views and that the original committee chair had resigned.[17] Minister of Education, Gideon Saar, said "I believe the report is important since it encourages public discussion" but rejected any attempts to block or apply conditions for donations to Israeli universities.[18][19]

Nakba Harta Campaign

In May 2011, with the approach of Nakba Day, Im Tirtzu launched a campaign accompanied by a 70-page booklet called "Nakba Bullshit" (נכבה חרטא) that describes the 1948 Palestinian exodus, called Nakba by Palestinians, "a lie that threatens to drown us like a tsunami." The booklet attempts to discredit what Im Tirtzu regards as "a narrative of myths and lies dealing with the teaching of the founding of the State of Israel".[20] On 15 May dozens of Im Tirtzu activists gathered outside the offices of UNRWA in Jerusalem holding signs and chanting, "They expelled, they attacked, they lost."[21]

Campaigns against artists

Im Tirtzu organized a campaign against Israeli-Arab actor Mohammed Bakri. Im Tirtzu objected to Bakri because of his involvement in the film Jenin, Jenin. In a Haaretz opinion piece, Im Tirtzu chairman Ronen Shoval called Jenin, Jenin an antisemitic blood libel "unprecedented in its fierceness" and referred to Bakri as a "sophisticated enemy." Shoval accused the Tzavta Club of offering a platform to "an inciter and a liar."[22] Im Tirtzu opposed a production of Federico Garcia Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba which took place in 2012 at Tel Aviv's Tzavta Theater. Israel's Academy of the Performing Arts was behind the production.[23]

Israeli television personality Gal Uchovsky accused Im Tirtzu, in the context of this campaign, of employing tactics that had been used by Nazis to persecute Jews. He further accused Im Tirzu's Ronen Shoval of being a "racist" and an "Arab hater." The comments were made on an interview aired by Israel Channel Two in January 2012.[24] Channel Two demanded that Uchovsky apologize for his remarks, and in February Uchovsky apologized for his "impolite" conduct.[25]

Annual convention 2011

Following the 'Nakba Harta' campaign, Im Tirtzu held its third annual convention. More than 300 activists and supporters participated in the convention. During the convention speeches were made by the movement's chairman, Ronen Shoval, the Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon, Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara, Coalition Chairman Ze'ev Elkin, and Knesset Members Faina Kirschenbaum, Tzipi Hotovely, Otniel Schneller (Kadima) and Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich (Kadima).[26]

Operation Protective Edge

During Operation Protective Edge, clothing and food products donated by the public were sent through Im Tirtzu to IDF soldiers.[27][28] Im Tirtzu also initiated a petition for filing UNHRC Complaints against Hamas.[29]

Campaign against NGOs

New Israel Fund

In 2010, Im Tirtzu published a document [30] and launched a campaign in the Israeli media that said there were connections between organizations supported by the New Israel Fund and the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (also known as the Goldstone Report). Im Tirtzu said that 92 percent of all Israeli testimonials in the report came from NIF funded organizations.[31] The campaign included posters of NIF chairwoman Naomi Chazan with a horn strapped by a string on her forehead (in Hebrew, the word "horn" also means "fund").[32] A report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) challenged Im Tirtzu's allegation, saying, "according to Im Tirtzu's own study, 16 NIF-affiliated groups comprise just 14 percent of all the sources for the Goldstone report." JTA also reported, "The 16 NGOs named in (the Im Tirtzu) report are a small portion of the more than 300 groups funded by the NIF, many of them having to do with building infrastructure, assisting immigrants, and defending the rights of women, the disabled and religious and ethnic minorities."[33]

Chazan responded that, in her eyes, the campaign was directed against democracy itself.[32] The executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai El-Ad, denied Im Tirtzu's allegations.[34] Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, likened Im Tirtzu's campaign against NIF to fascist tactics.[35] Gershon Baskin, a columnist in the Jerusalem Post, spoke out about the newspaper's decision to cancel Naomi Chazan's column and accused Im Tirtzu of using an "anti-Semitic motif" as part of a "witch-hunt" that "is reminiscent of the darkest days of McCarthyism.".[36] That poster was called "style Der Stürmer" by the Facebook group "Im Tirzu - fascists" and was charged for libel by "Im Tirtzu". The Judge Refael Yaakobi accepted the characterization of Im Tirtzu's poster as being similar in style to that of the Nazi party's newspaper, writing in the court's decision that "Examining that publication and the source for comparison reveals that indeed there is truth in the matter" [37]

During Operation Pillar of Defense, Im Tirtzu published an open letter in American Jewish newspapers addressed to the New Israel Fund chair. The letter gave examples of NIF funded organizations that Im Tirtzu said accused Israel of war crimes, and asked if the NIF agrees with their accusations.[38] The NIF described Im Tirtzu's charges as an "attack" and "unfounded".[39]

Machsom Watch

In May 2011 the organization called on Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to launch a criminal investigation into the operations of Machsom Watch (an NIF funded organization) for allegedly violating an IDF order prohibiting Israelis from entering the Palestinian village of Awarta.[40] About a week before the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed the identities of the murder suspects for the Itamar attack, senior Machsom Watch activist, Raya Yaron, was photographed hugging the mother of one of the men. Yaron said many other human rights organizations had also visited the village.[41]

Peace Now

In May 2012 Peace Now filed a police complaint that said Im Tirtzu activists had impersonated Peace Now activists and waved Palestinian flags during Jerusalem Day celebrations in what was reported as a presumed attempt to portray them as Palestinian sympathizers. They described Im Tirtzu as an "extremist movement" that, together with "extreme Islamic movements on the Arab side", they claimed would "drag us to a religious war steeped in blood". Im Tirtzu accused Peace Now of "impersonating an Israeli organization while operating with backing from foreign countries in order to give the Temple Mount to Palestinian Authority" and said freedom of speech gave them the right to ridicule Peace Now's positions.[42]

Adalah

In its document on the NIF's involvement in the Goldstone Report,[30] Im Tirtzu said Adalah participated in anti-Israel propaganda and was the leading NGO advocator in the Goldstone Report. Im Tirtzu cited all of Adalah's petitions and lawsuits against the IDF, challenging the organization's self-proclaimed motives "to promote and defend the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel."[43] In a 2012 article, Ronen Shovel criticised Adalah's petition to the attorney general of Israel, claiming that Operation “Pillar of Defense” was a “serious violation of laws of war amounting to war crimes.”[44]

Funding

According to an article in Haaretz, Im Tirtzu in 2010 received funding from the following sources:[45]

  • The Azrieli Group, a shareholder in Bank Leumi and LeumiCard, which also owns 13 malls throughout the country and a controlling share in the Sonol, Tambour and Supergaz companies and is behind the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv
  • Leo Schachter, Israel’s second-largest exporter of processed diamonds, headed by Elliot Tannenbaum
  • Keren Segal Leyisrael, a fund headed by Jerusalem businessman Yotam Bar-Hama
  • The Forum for Religious Zionism, an organization registered in 2010 in the name of Zvi Soibel, former director of the Bnei Akiva yeshiva in Kfar Haroeh.

John Hagee Ministries was a funder of Im Tirtzu but discontinued the funding on the grounds that Im Tirtzu "misrepresented its focus" by claiming that their work focused on "Zionist education" rather than "political" activity according to a spokesperson for the Evangelical organization.[5]

Libel suit

A libel suit of Im Tirzu failed (September 2013) in most of its claims, the Judge Refael Ya'akobi declared that there are elements of Fascism in Im Tirtzu,[46] and wrote also that there is truth in comparing the poster of "Im Tirtzu" against the New Israel Fund to the style of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer.[47] The judge wrote the following: "One should view these publications (against Im Tirtzu... רסטניאק) as saying and warning that past experience teaches that support of similar principles to those that Im Tirtzu supports... brought harsh and bad results".[48] A NIS 2.6-million lawsuit was filed by Im Tirtzu against Israelis who had opened a Facebook page that suggested that Im Tirtzu was a fascist group.[49] In September 2013, the judge rejected the majority of Im Tirtzu's arguments, and cleared four of the five defendants. One defendant, Roy Yellin, was found to have libelled Im Tirtzu by implying that the group shared the "Nazi race theory". However, the judge criticised Im Tirtzu for bringing the action in the first place, and postponed awarding any damages for the one successful claim.[13][50] In a 2012 sworn statement during the court proceedings, the world known historian and expert of Fascist movements Zeev Sternhell argued that Im Tirtzu's ideology and actions contained elements of Fascism.[51] In February 2014, the court rejected Im Tirtzu's claim for damages, though it also rejected the defendants' claim for legal costs.[52]

Opposition

In 2009, Im Tirtzu’s largest donor was the John Hagee Ministries (JHM) via the Christian-Zionist organization Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Im Tirtzu received US$100,000 from JHM and $34,000 from other sources. In 2010, The Jerusalem Post reported that JHM "expressed deep displeasure" with Im Tirtzu after its campaigns against the New Israel Fund and Ben-Gurion University and announced the cessation of its funding. A JHM spokesman said that Im Tirtzu "misrepresented its focus when they told us their mission was strictly Zionist education."[53]

The group's spokesperson, Erez Tadmor, was found guilty of embezzling munitions from the Israeli military.[54]

Support

In 2009, Abe Selig, writing for the Jerusalem Post, chose Im Tirtzu as: "Young Israelis of the year: Im Tirtzu (If You Will It): Herzl's army".[55]

In a 2012 Ministry of Culture and Education competition, Im Tirtzu won first prize for their video titled, "Zionism Without Jerusalem?" In a competition featuring almost 150 entries, Im Tirtu's video won the most popular video, and was awarded a prize of 25,000 shekels.[56]

Im Tirtzu has been one of the most active organization on college campuses throughout Israel, and has received support from many members of the Israeli Parliament and prominent Israeli writers and personalities.[26][57]

References

  1. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". Im Tirtzu. 
  2. ^ "Contact Us". Im Tirtzu. 
  3. ^ a b "Im Tirtzu official website (English)". Im Tirtzu. 
  4. ^ New Israel Fund comes out swinging against Im Tirtzu report, IsraelNationalNew (retrieved 20 November 2013).
  5. ^ a b http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/John-Hagee-to-cut-Im-Tirtzu-funding
  6. ^ Memorial for 96 years to Avshalom Feinberg's death, NRG Maariv
  7. ^ "A letter to the rector of Haifa University", Im titzu site
  8. ^ "Im tirtzu will take part in the memorial-day event In Isfiya", Carmel Portal
  9. ^ "Danon: Stop the incitement of Arab Mks", Arutz 7
  10. ^ "Who is organizing the illegal-immigrants protest", Galey Israel
  11. ^ a b 'McCarthyism' Rises in Israel (Inter Press Service, August 26, 2010)
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ a b Hasson, Nir (7 September 2013). "Rejecting bulk of libel suit, court rules Im Tirtzu movement can be likened to Fascism". Haaretz. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  14. ^ "Jerusalem Post". Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  15. ^ McCarthyism and post-Zionism (Jerusalem Post, August 23, 2010)
  16. ^ Recommendation: Shut down 'leftist' department (Ynet, November 23, 2011)
  17. ^ Nesher, Talila (December 20, 2011). "International academics seek to keep 'biased' department at Israeli university open". Haaretz. 
  18. ^ Coalition of Women for Peace, Status Report (2012). "Israel Against Democracy". All-Out War: 33. 
  19. ^ "Right-wing group Im Tirzu threatens BGU donations". Jpost. 18 October 2010. 
  20. ^ Ben Hartman; Lahav Harkov (13 May 2011). "Im Tirtzu launches campaign against ‘myths’ of the Nakba". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 15 May 2011. "As Palestinians in the West Bank and Arab Israelis inside the Green Line plan to commemorate 'Nakba Day' on Sunday May 15, the right-wing student group Im Tirtzu has launched a campaign to discredit what it says is a narrative of myths and lies dealing with the teaching of the founding of the State of Israel." 
  21. ^ Eli, Yossi (15 May 2011). "פעילי אם תרצו מפגינים מול משרדי אונר"א נגד יום הנכבה" [Tens of Im Tirtzu activists protest outside UNRWA offices against Nakba Day]. NRG Maariv (in Hebrew). Retrieved 15 May 2011. "עשרות פעילי תנועת "אם תרצו" מפגינים מול משרדי אונר"א, סמוך לגבעת התחמושת בירושלים תחת הכותרת "נכבה חארטה" בסמוך ומניפים שלטים כנגד יום הנכבה והאו"ם וקוראים: "הם גרשו, הם תקפו ,הם הפסידו"." 
  22. ^ Shoval, Ronen (15 February 2012). "מגיניו של בכרי" [Bakri's defenders]. Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  23. ^ Michael Handelzalts (2012-01-31). "Behind the curtain of a right-wing campaign against an Israeli-Arab actor". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  24. ^ [2]
  25. ^ Barak, Roi (12 February 2012). "אוחובסקי התנצל בפני יו"ר 'אם תרצו' לאחר שכינהו 'מפלצת'" [Uchovsky apologizes to Im Tirtzu chairman after calling him a 'monster']. Globes (in Hebrew). Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  26. ^ a b "Im Tirtzu´s Third Annual Convention". haOlam.de. 
  27. ^ "Yair Netanyahu for the soldiers". walla.co.il. 
  28. ^ "Netanyahu's Son Volunteers with Anti-NIF NGO". Arutz 7. 7/24/2014. 
  29. ^ Ronen, Gil (8/14/2014). "Hundreds of Sderot Residents File UNHRC Complaints against Hamas". http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/184049#.U_472I2Sy4Q (Arutz 7). 
  30. ^ a b "Im tirtzu's report regarding the NIF". 
  31. ^ Israel Harel. "The New Israel Fund for Deepening the Jewish-Arab Rift". Haaretz. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  32. ^ a b Esti Ahronovitz (22 August 2011). "Fighting for Israel’s soul". Haaretz. 
  33. ^ http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/archives/article_ba70fa3a-2abe-5e10-b22a-ab95f94f05a5.html
  34. ^ Hagai El-Ad (13 May 2010). "Pins in the Goldstone voodoo doll". Haaretz. 
  35. ^ Gideon Levy (7 February 2010). "Im Tirtzu hides behind respectable mask of 'Zionism'". Haaretz. 
  36. ^ BASKIN, GERSHON (2010-02-09). "A dark day for democracy". The Jerusalem Post (JTA). Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  37. ^ <http://www.the7eye.org.il/77493>
  38. ^ "The Algemeiner". Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  39. ^ "Fact Sheet following Im Tirtzu Ad Blitz". New Israel Fund. 13 December 2012. 
  40. ^ Katz, Yaakov (2 May 2011). "Im Tirtzu calls for criminal investigation of Machsom Watch". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 15 May 2011. "Im Tirtzu, a self-described Zionist extra-parliamentary group, has asked Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to open a criminal investigation against activists from Machsom Watch who allegedly entered the Palestinian village of Awarta last month in violation of an IDF order." 
  41. ^ "Jerusalem Post". Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  42. ^ Potter, George (21 May 2012). "Peace Now cries foul on Palestinian flag wavers". The Times Of Israel. Retrieved 21 May 2012. "Peace Now cries foul on Palestinian flag waversLeft-wing group files complaint with police, claims right-wing Im Tirtzu activists impersonated it in Jerusalem Day parade" 
  43. ^ "The influence of the New Israel Fund organizations on the Goldstone Report". Im Tirtzu. 
  44. ^ Tirtzu, Im. "New article by Ronen Shoval". Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  45. ^ Uri Blau (2011-12-30). "Major Israeli businesses helped quadruple donations to right-wing Im Tirtzu movement". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  46. ^ <http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.545657>
  47. ^ <http://www.the7eye.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/%D7%A4%D7%A1%D7%A7-%D7%93%D7%99%D7%9F-%D7%90%D7%9D-%D7%AA%D7%A8%D7%A6%D7%95.pdf>
  48. ^ <http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/10/2676349>
  49. ^ [3]
  50. ^ Persico, Oren. "(No to sterility) לא לסטריליות". The 7th Eye. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  51. ^ [4]
  52. ^ Nir Hasson (Feb 3, 2014). "Jerusalem court throws out Im Tirtzu’s claim against left-wing activists". Haaretz. 
  53. ^ Gil Shefler (23 August 2010). "John Hagee Ministries cuts funds from Im Tirtzu". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  54. ^ http://www.nrg.co.il/online/54/ART2/067/985.html
  55. ^ http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Article.aspx?id=155300
  56. ^ Haaretz. "Culture Ministry to award NIS 25,000 to Im Tirtzu for short film". Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  57. ^ Maariv. "Academic Brainwashing". Retrieved 8 January 2013. 

External links

Interviews
Articles
  • [5], An article on Im Tirtzu's flotilla demonstration on Maariv's news site
  • [6] Article on Im Tirtzu's flotilla demonstration on Arutz 7's news
  • [7], An article on the flotilla on Yediot Ahronot's news
  • [8], Channel 2 News – "Mivzak Hatzot" – July 5
  • [9], An article on the flotilla on the Israeli Druze News site
  • [10], Radio Kol Rega (local radio in Israel's northern region)
  • [11], An article in English:
  • [12], An article in Russian
  • [13], An article in Spanish on Radio Hai: (Latin American Jewish Radio)
  • [14], Chinese news agency
  • [15] A Hebrew article on Im Tirtzu and Zionism