Thursday, February 4, 2010

Suppression of Dissent « Coteret

Cross-posted from Promised Land.

Other recent posts on the latest wave of suppression of dissent in Israel| Essays Hadas Ziv; Hagai El-Ad; Yariv Mohar; Aeyal Gross; Dorit Abramovitch | News and analysis IDF joins assault on Israeli human rights community; Israeli media goes after New Israel Fund: “Responsible for Goldstone Report”; Hagee and CUFI fund anti-NIF campaign organizer; Two senior Maariv reporters attack the anti-NIF campaign sponsored by their newspaper |

Following the Im Tirzu campaign: First Knesset steps against NIF

We should see the attack on the New Israel Fund in context: this was no isolated event, but part of a widespread campaign against human rights and peace activists

David Rotem

The Knesset committee for legislation decided Wednesday to look into foreign donations to non-profit organizations operating in Israel, and among them, those received and disbursed by the New Israel Fund. The investigation will be led by the chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK David Rotem (Israel Beitenu,) and a special subcommittee, to be formed immediately. Meanwhile, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) is pushing for a special Knesset investigation aimed against all Israeli human rights organizations which testified before the Goldstone commission.

Maariv reports that in a heated debate at the Knesset legislation committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) accused the NIF, Meretz party and the Israeli left of treason, no less:

“…NIF sponsors elements which are hostile to the state, and [by doing so] it causes us an unimaginable damage, not unlike our worse enemies… Meretz party has crossed the lines… former MK Naomi Chazan, which heads the NIF, has also crossed the lines.”

Yulia Shamalov Berkovich

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich from opposition party Kadima joined the attack on the NIF in saying that:

“We must say to all Israel-haters that enough is enough. We won’t sit quietly when our enemies from home try to lead an undemocratic revolution here, encouraging boycott, desertion and pacifistic refusal to serve in the IDF, based on lies and distortions. We must draw our lines and tell the traitors to our people that this is enough.”

Im Tirzu, a right-wing nonprofit organization, has launched last week a campaign against the NIF, claiming it sponsors organizations that support Hamas. In a front page story in Maariv, senior political correspondent Ben Caspit quoted a “research” by Im Tirzu, which supposedly showed how the NIF was responsible for 92 percent of the anti-Israeli evidence in the Goldstone report. Caspit went even further, and raised the notion the all the NIF activities in Israel – the fund aids more than 300 grassroots and social justice organizations – are a cover for anti-Israeli subversion.

Gilad Erdan

Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) which represented the government in the Knesset debate, praised Im Tirzu: “it is a Zionist organization, which is doing a very important and positive work.” During the debate, minister Erdan referred to judge Goldstone as “this liar”.

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One of the contributors to the progressive Jewschool blog asked yesterday how this campaign against the NIF and other nonprofits different from the smear campaigns we have seen against the left in the past.

While it is true that the Right has been attacking human rights organizations for as long as they existed in Israel, things have changed in the last few months, and those who care about Israeli politics should be aware of those changes.

Ad from the anti-NIF campaign

Ad on page 3 of the January 31 edition of the Jerusalem Post.

For start, the nature and the intensity of the attack changed. The Im Tirzu ads against the NIF shocked many American Jews — they reminded almost everyone of anti-Semitic cartoons — but in Israel they were considered legitimate. The tabloids had no problem publishing them, and you can still catch them as banners on popular news sites as Ynet.co.il and nrg.co.il. In fact, I don’t know of a paper or site that refused to run this ad. What’s even more important is the personalized nature of the attack – specifically targeting the head of the NIF, Naomi Chazan. We haven’t seen such viscous personal attacks since the assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Second, and unlike the attack on left wing politicians during the Oslo days, this time it is not only the political right that goes after human rights activists. And it’s not just smears. We are talking official government and Knesset policies, and real measures being taken. When minister Erdan praised Im Tirzu in the Knesset, he did so as the official representative of the government to the committee. This government includes even the labor party (though some labor MK’s came out in the NIF’s defense). In fact, some of the dominant figures in the campaign against the NIF are MK’s from opposition party Kadima, which under Tzipi Livni claim to represent the pro-peace alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud! Kadima’s official website even posted Im Tirzu’s accusations against the NIF.

Going after the left is now a policy which crosses party lines in Israel, with some of Israel’s most notable media people – Avri Gilad, Yair Lapid, Ben Dror Yemini and more – making a habit of attacking human rights organizations. Gilad and Yemini specifically joined the campaign against the NIF, repeating right wing lies and distorting facts. and if that’s wasn’t enough, this morning, the Israeli Government Press Office translated and disseminated Yemini’s article. Read more…

To read more about the right-wing Israeli campaign to smear NIF and other Israeli human rights organizations and the threat to Israeli democracy that it poses click here.

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