I recently learned of an advertisement created by the centrist Zionist organization, Im Tirtzu, that was highly critical of the New Israel Fund (NIF), political scientist and NIF President Naomi Chazan and the Goldstone Report. Im Tirtzu also published an analysis of the Goldstone Report that revealed much of the evidence mobilized by Goldstone was gleaned from sources supported by the NIF. In the wake of the ad and report, Chazan has been dismissed from her position at the Jerusalem Post.
The report has lead to the appointment of a Knesset Special Commission to investigate the contributions of foreign governments and organizations to Israeli Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and has also revealed connections between Goldstone, the Ford Foundation, and “extensive quoting” of organizations funded by the Foundation. Artutz Sheva’s Gil Ronen notes:
One such organization is the International Center for Transitional Justice, which accuses Israel in its website of grave violations of international law, including ‘extrajudicial executions, prolonged administrative detention, torture, forced displacement (often repeated), extensive property confiscation and destruction, movement restrictions, and collective punishment, much of this within the framework of a four-decade-long occupation.’”
Goldstone has been a member of the ICTJ’s Board of Directors since 2004…
As exposed by Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, Goldstone was also a member of the Board of Directors of a third group, Human Rights Watch as late as July 2008. The organization accused Israel of war crimes well before the Goldstone Commission was appointed. HRW also receives hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from the Ford Foundation.
The Jewish and Israeli Left have responded to the ad and report by claiming Im Tirtzu is engaging in McCarthyist tactics and encouraging the development of fascism in Israel. What led them to respond in such an extreme manner? When I took a look at the ad (see below) I could understand why they were upset. The imagery is indeed controversial. But is it really akin to that produced by fascist periodicals like Der Stürmer or the anti-Semitic illustrations common in newspapers and magazines across the Islamic world today?
As you can see, Chazan is wearing a horn with the letters NIF attached to her head by a piece of string. Offensive? Perhaps. But it is obvious the horn is not part of her body. It is more like a mask. Contrast this to the classic and contemporary anti-Semitic imagery below.
In these images, the figure is demonic and disfigured. In the bottom two, horns are not a mask but instead are part of the figure’s body. While some may think this is a minor differentiation, I disagree. It is incredibly important.
Setting aside the illustration and advertisement, what about the report produced by Im Tirtzu? The JPost notes:
According to the report, 92 percent of the negative citations used in the Goldstone Report to criticize the IDF’s conduct in Gaza last year came from 16 Israeli NGOs, which Im Tirtzu has alleged received some $7.8 million in financial support from the NIF in 2008-2009 alone.”
Among the NGOs listed in the report are Adalah, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Center for the Defense of the Individual, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, Doctors for Human Rights, Gisha, Bimkom, Rabbis for Human Rights, Itach, Other Voice, New Profile, Machsom Watch and Who Profits from the Occupation.
The report states that the above NGOs contributed “hundreds” of testimonies and other materials to the Goldstone Report, and that while Palestinian and UN sources inside Gaza were also consulted during Judge Richard Goldstone’s investigation in the Gaza Strip last summer, the bulk of the damage was done using the material provided by the Israeli NGOs.
The Left has also focused on Im Tirtzu’s chairman and founder, Ronen Shoval. Shoval has a history of activism in right-wing circles including the Orange Cell which opposed the withdrawal from Gaza. However, he has repeatedly stated that Im Tirtzu is a “centrist, extraparliamentary movement that wishes to renew and bolster Zionist values in the State of Israel, and counter post-and anti-Zionist phenomena.” Shoval also authored an oped in Ma-ariv, “The Need for a New Center” in which he called for a “reviatalization of centrist Zionist ideology in Israel”
But what is the real substance of the Left’s critique of Im Tirtzu? And what specific aspect of the organization’s ideology is fascist? There is nothing on the group’s website that links Im Tirtzu with anything remotely fascistic. Instead, opponents rely on a tactic of guilt by association, something they claim Im Tirtzu is using against the NIF. For example, Jonathan Lis in Haaretz writes:
[A] Haaretz probe found that the influencial forces behind the movement make no secret of their rightist political loyalties. Financially, Im Tirtzu is supported by a foundation that has contributed to radical right-wing organizations such as the Women in Green; Pastor John Hagee, the head of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) which contributed to Im Tirtzu, has been implicated in the past by a number of anti-Semitic statements.
Ideologically, the movement’s chairman Ronen Shoval used to be spokesman of the “Orange Cell,” a student chapter at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that fought against the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and supported the settlement project. Shoval was even honored for his efforts with a citation from the evicted settlement block of Gush Katif.
The main channel for donations to Im Tirtzu is the Central Fund of Israel. In addition to Women in Green and Im Tirtzu, it supports Honenu, an organization sponsoring legal defense to radical right-wing activists in trouble with the law. Honenu boasts of financially supporting the families of the Bat Ayin underground, convicted for trying to bomb a girls’ school in East Jerusalem in 2002; of Ami Popper, who shot four Palestinian laborers during the first intifada; Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed participants in a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem in 2005; and Haggai Amir, brother of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir. Im Tirtzu’s Web site asks donations to be sent through the American foundation.
As to anything actually published by the organization, the forces of the Left have yet to bring forward anything. If you have some evidence linking this group to fascism–actual fascism, not simply promoting policies you happen to disagree with–please produce it. It is a horrendous accusation to make without any proof.