Im Tirtzu and the state of democracy in Israel

In light of the report issued this week by Im Tirtzu about a number of civil rights organizations, there have been many individuals from the left who have called Im Tirtzu a "fascist" organization.

At first, I thought that this was just the usual hyperbole that one sees all the time on the Internet.

But then I saw the following table on the NRG website. The table is taken directly from the report issued by Im Tirtzu.

There are a number of points to note regarding this table – points that paint a pretty clear picture of what Im Tirtzu is all about.

1) The table contains three columns – money received from overseas entities, "Palestinian" money received, and money received from the New Israel Fund. While there may be many individual Palestinians interested in peace with Israel, the PA, under the leadership of Abu Mazen, can only be described as an enemy of Israel at this point in time. The New Israel Fund is an organization that gives money to many democracy-related causes in Israel, including organizations that fight for freedom of speech and for equality for women. I realize that many people do not approve of all the causes funded by the New Israel Fund, but the idea of grouping the New Israel Fund together with an entity that is hostile to Israel can only be described as obscene.

2) While the "star" of the report was Shovrim Shtikah – an organization that has gone to great lengths to make Tzahal look bad, the table pretty much lists all of the serious civil rights groups active in Israel. This includes the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which did not hesitate to defend Kach activists such as Noam Federman when they were put in administrative detention in 1994.

3) One of the organizations listed in the table is the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. Many if not most Israelis believe that the use of torture is an important tool in ensuring security for Israel's citizens. That is a legitimate belief. At the same time, it is also legitimate for Israelis to oppose the use of torture on a number of grounds – including the fact that every systematic use of torture will always include a number of innocent people getting tortured due to mistaken identification or other factors. The idea that opposition to the use of torture makes an organization "anti-Israel" raises a lot of questions about our society.

4) Another organization listed in the table is Worker's Hotline. This is an organization that offers assistance to workers at the bottom of the totem pole who do not have recourse to other resources. This includes Palestinians workers and also refugees who may be here illegally. It is understandable that there are many Israelis who are not happy about an organization assisting illegal foreign workers. But to consider such an organization to be anti-Israel is both cruel and absurd.

5) If you look at the row for Amnesty International, you will see that there is no money listed in any of the three columns. So why are they in the table ? Well, it would seem that the approach of Im Tirtzu is: what the hell, if we're already making a blacklist, let's put everyone we hate in there.

Beyond the specifics in the table, the fact that Im Tirtzu calls this the “shtulim” report implies that these organizations are fifth-columns "planted" here by foreign governments – as bizarre a misrepresentation of reality as can be imagined.

The bottom line: I am not a political scientist so I don't know if Im Tirtzu is a "fascist" organization or not. But what I do know is this: I have been living in Israel for more than 30 years now. In that time, I have seen many different political organizations come and go. But Im Tirtzu is clearly the scariest organization I have ever seen in this country.

I find it quite alarming that the person behind this hate-mongering group, Ronen Shoval, was number 15 on Habayit Hayehudi's list for the Knesset. Without the various reserved spots in that party's list, he might have ended up in the Knesset.

The fact that this organization takes its name from a quote attributed to Theodore Herzl is the epitome of chutzpah, given the gap between this organization's view of Israel and the type of country that Herzl had in mind.

The support that Im Tirtzu has acquired among the Israeli public shows just how fragile Israeli democracy is.

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