A right-wing Israeli activist group tried today to counter the anti-Netanyahu campaign of a reserve generals’ peace group, Commanders for Israel’s Security, by announcing its own list of “Officers and Soldiers Against the Partisan-Political Use of the IDF.”
The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported on Monday that Im Tirtzu, best known for its attacks on the New Israel Fund, had gathered more than 400 signatures of retired officers and soldiers on a petition opposing the retired generals’ campaign. The petition was reported later in the day on the right-wing news site nrg.co.il, which said it included more than 1,000 signatures but didn’t mention Im Tirtzu’s role. Nrg’s report included a photo of the petition, which claims it has more than 1,000 signers, with 93 selected to illustrate .
The generals’ group, launched in November, calls for a regional peace conference with the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative as its frame of reference. It has 183 members. During the last two months, since the start of the election campaign, it has released a series of videos accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of irresponsibly exaggerating the threats Israel faces while failing to counter them effectively, and calling for his defeat.
The rightists’ statement says the generals’ actions “border on lawlessness” and questions their military record. “To our great regret, we have learned not infrequently in the past that the security predictions of those senior officers who were influenced by their political views were mistaken and cost Israeli society dearly in blood,” the petition says.
But the new ad unintentionally highlights the seriousness of the generals’ message and the feebleness of the right-wing counter-effort. The generals’ group consists entirely of veterans with the rank of general — including brigadier, major and lieutenant generals — along with retired chiefs and deputy chiefs of the Mossad, Shin Bet and national police. In all it includes about one-third of all living former generals.
The rightists’ petition, by contrast, lists exactly one ex-general, along with three retired colonels and 15 lieutenant colonels. The rest are field officers — majors, captains and lieutenants. Given that these are the names chosen for publication, it must be assumed that there aren’t many high-ranking names, if any, lurking among the other 900-plus signers left unpublished.
In what appears to be the largest-ever joint protest by senior Israeli security personnel, a group of 106 retired generals, Mossad directors and national police commissioners has signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to “initiate a diplomatic process” based on a regional framework for peace with the Palestinians.
Several of the signers told Israel’s Mako-Channel 2 News in interviews that Israel had the strength and the means to reach a two-state solution that “doesn’t entail a security risk,” but hadn’t managed to reach an agreement because of “weak leadership.”
“We’re on a steep slope toward an increasingly polarized society and moral decline, due to the need to keep millions of people under occupation on claims that are presented as security-related,” reserve Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven told Mako’s Roni Daniel. “I have no doubt that the prime minister seeks Israel’s welfare, but I think he suffers from some sort of political blindness that drives him to scare himself and us.”
The letter was initiated by a former Armored Corps commander, reserve Major General Amnon Reshef. He told Yediot Ahronot in an interview published Friday, and posted in English today on Yediot’s Ynetnews.com website, that he was “tired of a reality of rounds of fighting every few years instead of a genuine effort to adopt the Saudi initiative.”
He was referring to the Saudi-backed peace proposal that was adopted unanimously by the Arab League in 2002 (here is the full text) and later endorsed 56-0 by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, with Iran abstaining. It has since been repeatedly reaffirmed and its terms softened. As currently framed, it offers full peace, diplomatic recognition and “normal relations” between the Arab states and Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal to borders based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, with negotiated land swaps, and a “just” and mutually “agreed” compromise solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
The generals’ call echoes a proposal for a regional peace conference that was floated during the Gaza war this summer by Israel’s science minister, Yaakov Peri, a member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and a former director of the Shin Bet security service. It’s currently being advocated within the security cabinet by Lapid and justice minister Tzipi Livni.
Im Tirtzu, the right-wing Israeli truth squad best known for bashing the New Israel Fund, allowed itself a victory lap this week after taking credit for an “emergency” gathering in the Knesset on “delegitimization of Israel.”
Unfortunately, as with so much else the organization touches, the facts of the case are a bit murky. Im Tirtzu claimed in a press release afterward (full text appears below) that it had participated in a meeting of the Knesset Caucus on the Struggle Against De-legitimization of the State of Israel. The meeting’s topic, it said, was “organizations claiming to be Zionist, but which actually espouse BDS philosophies,” alluding to Im Tirtzu’s conspiratorial view of the New Israel Fund. The meeting had been convened, the release said, “as a result of Im Tirtzu’s campaign” to link the New Israel Fund with the BDS movement.
But a news report on the pro-settler news site Arutz Sheva-Israel National News said the caucus had convened “for an emergency discussion on the topic of anti-Israel boycotts in the wake of the rise of the extreme right in Europe.” The report cited Im Tirtzu leader Matan Peleg as one of a string of speakers, most of whom focused their remarks on European antisemitism, the shooting attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum and what’s been described as a link between the shooting and anti-Israel incitement.
The delegitimization caucus is one of 132 such groupings of Knesset members registered with the speaker’s office to advance specific causes. They range from promotion of Israeli-Arab peace to annexation of the West Bank, higher education, autism awareness, Israeli Arab economic development and a one-member “Tuesdays without meat” caucus.
The May 27 meeting reportedly drew several dozen attendees, including a half-dozen guest speakers, all but one of them right-wing specialists in left-wing perfidy, as well as seven Knesset members. The seven included four from the settler-backed HaBayit HaYehudi-Jewish Home party, two from Yisrael Beiteinu and one, caucus chairman Nissim Ze’ev, from Shas.
According to several reports, including a detailed account at the Haredi website Kooker, Ze’ev opened the meeting with a declaration that “delegitimization leads to anti-Semitism and antisemitism leads to terrorism.” He called for “dealing with” sources of funding for organizations that promote delegitimization and “exposing their true face,” as there are some that “pose as Zionist organizations.”
Caroline Glick / Wikimedia Commons
From the New Jersey Jewish News comes word that the campus Hillel at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, recently sponsored an appearance by a militant one-stater. The program was co-sponsored by, among others, two nearby Jewish federations including the state’s largest, the Jewish Federation of MetroWest (through its Jewish community relations committee).
You might think there’s a scandal brewing. But not likely. The one-stater in question is the fiery right-wing Israeli columnist Caroline Glick, senior contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post. Glick’s new book “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East” calls for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, a position she’s advocated for years. She’s vehemently opposed to the two-state solution. Her March 11 talk was also cosponsored by the equally one-statist Zionist Organization of America. It was “supported” by the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, where Rutgers is located.
Whether Glick’s Rutgers appearance violates the much-discussed national Hillel guidelines governing campus programming is probably a matter of interpretation. Contrary to popular belief, the guidelines don’t actually say anything about potential speakers supporting a two-state solution. They say that Hillel “will not partner with, house, or host” organizations or speakers that “Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders.” Unlike, say, AIPAC, which “strongly supports a two-state solution,” Hillel has no opinion on the matter.
Some people might argue that annexing the West Bank would result in an Israel that is either not Jewish or not democratic, but Glick and most of her fellow Zionist one-staters don’t agree. Most tend to dismiss the demographic projections that show Jews becoming a minority. Others come up with theoretical Israeli constitutional arrangements that somehow add up to a state that’s Jewish in character and still democratic. Their claims might not seem plausible, but there’s nothing in the guidelines about plausibility.
Where Glick and others like her might run afoul of the guidelines is in a separate clause that bars speakers who “foster an atmosphere of incivility.” The guidelines don’t define “incivility,” so we’re left again with a matter of interpretation. But Glick devotes a huge proportion of her writing to tearing down those who disagree with her and branding them as enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. I haven’t done a statistical analysis, but it seems as though she spends more time attacking Jews she disagrees with—along with allies of Israel, beginning with President Obama and his secretary of state—than advancing her own ideas.
Einat Wilf and Ehud Barak announce defection from Labor Party, January 17, 2011 / Wikimedia Commons
A former Labor Party Knesset member, Einat Wilf, is complaining that she’s been dropped from the program of the third annual Conference of the Israeli Left, sponsored Peace Now, because of her pro-Israel views.
In a Facebook post announcing her exclusion, the result of a vote by the Peace Now leadership, Wilf protests “the inability of those who preach tolerance to hear a point of view that is not their own.”
She reports that she’s been blackballed because she’s on the International Advisory Council of an Israeli organization, NGO Monitor, that combats left-wing “delegitimization” of Israel. This apparently raised a red flag, so to speak, among her leftist hosts. And she warns:
If the Israeli Left has no place for those who support a two-state solution and who also wage battle against those who seek to delegitimize Israel, it will not return to lead the country.
I know. It sounds awful. That is, unless you realize that the organization in question, NGO Monitor, devotes much of its energy and resources to attacking and seeking to defund many of the very organizations that will make up the Friday conference, including Peace Now itself.
The threatened Knesset investigation of the New Israel Fund by the Israeli right has been halted, for now, following several angry phone calls to Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin from irate American Jewish communal leaders, warning that an Israeli investigation could backfire on other Jewish organizations involved in Israel. Abe Foxman of ADL is quoted telling the New York Jewish Week it was “absurd to blame Goldstone on the NIF.” He told Barnea himself that the probe was “almost undemocratic.”
(I had previously written mistakenly that Foxman had called Rivlin. My apologies.)
The nastiness of the attack and the determination of the attackers shouldn’t be understated, though. The main victim, NIF president Naomi Chazan, a former deputy speaker of the Knesset, was summarily dropped without explanation as a columnist by the Jerusalem Post. She was also dropped as a visiting lecturer at a Jewish community event in Melbourne, Australia, to be co-sponsored by the Union for Progressive Judaism and the Zionist Council of Victoria (state), after the Zionist council pulled out. The Zionist council’s chief was quoted in The Age, an Australian daily, as saying “we don’t want to have anything to do” with the NIF. But the head of the Union for Progressive Judaism told another daily, The Australian, that the cancellation was a mutual decision between his group and Chazan “because both realised the controversy would detract from fund-raising.” Uh-huh.
Also worth a read: This eloquent column, translated from Maariv, by the widely respected chairman of Meretz, Chaim “Jumas” Oron, warning that attacks of this sort on dissenters by free-lance bullies — right down to the Nazi-style caricatures of Jews with horns — are the first step down the slippery slope toward fascism.
Here’s the Der Stuermer-style caricature of Chazan with horns that was run as a newspaper ad in the Jerusalem Post and carried as signs by protesters outside Chazan’s home.
And this report about two Maariv reporters who publicly attacked their own newspaper for giving front page coverage to Im Tirtzu and effectively providing the launching pad for the sliming of NIF.
A right-wing Israeli activist group is waging a multi-pronged public campaign to discredit the New Israel Fund (NIF), which supports human-rights groups in Israel.
The activist group, Im Tirtzu (“If you will it” — from Theodor Herzl’s epigram “If you will it, it is no dream”), made the Friday (January 29) front page of Maariv, Israel’s second-largest daily. In a three-page article in its tabloid weekend supplement, Maariv reports on the group’s new 112-page study claiming that NIF-funded organizations were a major source of damaging information in the Goldstone Report, the United Nations fact-finding mission on last year’s Gaza conflict. The study focuses on footnotes in the Goldstone Report, calculating the percentage of negative testimony on Israel that is sourced to NIF grantees.
According to the Maariv story (Hebrew only), touted with a blaring front-page headline reading “The ‘New Fund’ and the Lie Industry,” Im Tirtzu — which describes itself as “centrist” — is planning an ongoing campaign that will include outdoor signs depicting NIF president Naomi Chazan, a political scientist and former Knesset deputy speaker, with a horn protruding from her forehead (a play on the Hebrew word keren, which means both “horn” and “fund”).
At the end of the lengthy Maariv story, reporter Ben Caspit writes briefly that the study is “the latest example” in a “wave of demonization flooding the media” in Israel against human-rights organizations, which he says “do not work against Israel” and “are an integral part of a democratic state” with “an important role as watchdogs” protecting “universal rights.”
The group kicked off its public campaign Saturday night with a demonstration outside Chazan’s home by protesters reportedly dressed as Hamas members carrying signs “thanking” Chazan and the NIF. An announcement on its Hebrew Web site calls for a demonstration against the New Israel Fund on Monday morning February 1 outside the Herzliya Conference, an annual conference of world leaders on Middle East security.
The English Web site makes no mention at all of the NIF or the Im Tirtzu campaign against it.
In response to the Im Tirtzu study, according to a Maariv follow-up story on Sunday, the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee will hold hearings in the near future on the activities of NIF grantees, following a request by Kadima lawmaker Yisrael Hasson, a former deputy director of the Shin Bet security service, to committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi. The story quotes Hasson saying, “We have to investigate the matter of activity by groups that promote arrest warrants against IDF officers and contribute to activities that support Hamas.”