Dimi Reider is a journalist and photographer, working from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. His articles have been published in the Guardian, Jerusalem Post, Index on Censorship, Counterpunch and Peace Reporter. Dimi co-edits Kav-Hutz – an attempt to provide fresh and engaging commentary and analysis on the world outside Israel. He currently works for Haaretz newspaper. He blogs at Dimi’s Notes.
Scroll down for update on this post.
Grassroots and governmental campaigning against interfaith mingling is nothing new in Israel: Just a few months ago there was a “task force” set up by the municipalioty of Petah Tikva, which is basically a suburb of Tel Aviv. The job of the task force was to patrol the city at night and break up Arab-Jewish dates. The London Times also covered the activities of a concerned parents’ group vigilante gang patrolling the rapidly integrating Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, intimidating mixed couples.
On top of that, we have the activities of a huge, quasi-paramilitary group called Yad Leachim that goes on army-style”rescue operations” of Jewish women from their Gentile husbands (homegrown terrorist Jacob Teitel boasts working with them for a while, which they deny), and, lest we forget, the insane Jewish Agency campaign about non-Jewish partners kidnapping 50% of the young Jews in the Diaspora.
But this is the first time officially sanctioned racism, funded by taxpayers, has come to Tel Aviv, Israel’s liberal heartland.
Moria Ben Yossef, Zman Tel-Aviv [Maariv Tel-Aviv Weekly Magazine] February 23 2010 [Hebrew original here]
The municipal finance committee decided three weeks ago to give NIS 250,000 [~$66,000] to what it refers to as “‘an aid program for immigrant girls at risk”. The program will be launched this month in the Shapira, Kiryat Shalom and Nevs Ofer neighborhoods. The committee said some of the project’s aims are ‘locating immigrant girls at risk… case-specific family and community intervention to locate the girls… and locating the appropriate figures in the community to treat the girls.’
The program is aimed to treat up to 120 young women under 22, and is jointly run by the Tel Aviv Municipality, the Absorption Ministry (which will sponsor 75 percent of it), and the World Congress of Bukharan Jews
…”the term ‘distressed immigrant girls’ is politically correct whitewash for the true destination of the budget,” a senior source in the municipality said. “This is a war against the trend of scores of Jewish girls getting together with minority men and with migrant workers, and then getting into trouble with their families and the families of the minority men, that often ostracize them for being Jewish.”
According to councilwoman Yael Ben Yeffet (City for All), who sits on the finance committee, municipality director-general Menachem Leibe said at the meeting that the girls in question belong mainly to the Bukhara community, who get together with criminals and minority men. “When I asked him if getting together with members of minorities constituted being at risk, Leibe replied: ‘For the families that ostracise them it is’”, Ben Yeffet said.
The decision to support the boycott appears to have resulted from lobbying by councilman Benjamin Babyuf (Shas), himself a Bukhara Jew and a resident of Kiryat Shalom. Babyuf approached some months ago mayor Ron Huldai with a request to set up a municipal organization to locate and treat the girls in question. In his request, Babyuf spoke of girls getting “assimilated,” and suggested increasing funding to part-time religious schools operate by Shas, which take up young women meeting with Arab men.
These girls come from a poor socio-economic background,” Babyouf explains. “They don’t get enough attention. Very often these are unpopular girls whose appearance is unattractive, and these men use this,” he said.
“It’s happening across the country and in Tel Aviv, too, but it’s particularly rife in Jaffa and the south of the city, where the population is more diverse,” said a Shas activists who had been running the part-time religious schools for 20 years and can only be identified as N. “They got out hunting for girls… we’re talking about local Arabs and Arabs from villages coming to Tel Aviv for work. At first they shower them with love and money, they spoil them, and then they take them back to their village – usually after getting married. From our experience we know this is where this Romeo and Juliet plot turns into an action movie. They become enslaved. We had some really hard cases of girls who approached us and we helped them. They were begging to leave but their Arab boyfriends wouldn’t let them.”
N said there were more than 10 part-time religious schools capable of taking care of the girls, but they were suffering from overload and lack of funds. “We’re collapsing. Hundreds of girls are going through this. Girl falling after girl,” he said.
“It’s a frightening thing, the girls also begin using drugs and alcohol,” said Yaffo activist David Machlouf. “About a year and a half ago I witnessed the shocking case of a 15-year-old girl. This Arab guy hit on her, she became pregnant and got an abortion, He took her to his village and they dressed her up in a galabiya (Arab Dress) but everyone treated her horrifically, calling her a Jew-Jew. At some point she complained against him so he beat her up really badly. After that we took her to an organization in Bnei Brak, but later she went back to him again.”
UPDATE: In a statement issued today, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) expressed shock at the racism of the Tel Aviv municipality, as reported in the Ma’ariv article.
Hagai El-Ad, the director of the ACRI, said: “Neither the municipality of Tel Aviv nor any other official body is responsible for ‘racial purity.’ The idea of the municipality interfering in the weaving of romantic connections is inconceivable.”
For further information from the ACRI, contact spokeswoman Nirit Moskowitz.
Phone: +972 3 560 8185
As reported here yesterday (February 21 2010) condemnation of Deputy FM Danny Ayalon’s snubbing of the J Street sponsored US congressional delegation has been nearly universal. The only exception was a Kahanist MK. Now joined only by neoconservative apologist Shmuel Rosner (Maariv Hebrew.) Indeed, even a mainline conservative like Yehuda Ben Meir penned a blistering op-ed in this morning’s Haaretz (February 22 2010.)
Yediot’s editorial page is also an ongoing venue for critical commentary. This morning, columnist Yael Gvirtz further elaborated on the ”foreign policy gone wild” theme of Sunday’s op-ed by Uri Misgav.
Op-ed, Yael Gvirtz, Yediot, February 22 2010 [Hebrew original here]
It is hard to keep track: the damage with Turkey has not been fixed yet, the weekly damage with the Palestinians and the Arabs of Israel has not been assessed yet, and now we have opened a new front of confrontation with the Congress in Washington. Danny Ayalon is managing to outdo even Lieberman with his diplomatic recklessness, and that is no mean feat.The government of Israel may have countless ministers, but none of them have a deputy minister the likes of the Foreign Minister’s. The damage is too great, too daily. It must stop immediately. Ayalon has to go. If Netanyahu is unable to exercise his responsibility and get Lieberman out of the Foreign Ministry, the least he can do is remove Ayalon immediately.
Without the Israeli government having a political agenda, in the vacuum where the deputy foreign minister is almost the only one (except for his minister) creating “political headlines” abroad, the assassination in Dubai and the diplomatic embarrassment over the illegal use of passports suddenly emphasize the obvious: that Israel needs a functioning Foreign Ministry, professional Israeli diplomacy and diplomatic credit with the rest of the world. It needs every drop of milk that Lieberman and Ayalon spilled down the drain in the last year. Everything built over years of steadfast work was wildly smashed in one year and is gone.
Until now it was a disaster, but now it is a calamity. Until now Netanyahu and Barak tried to put out the daily fires by issuing explanations that “it is not us.” Now we are talking directly about the state of Israel, the need to handle the Dubai mess, the embarrassment and the damage to our intelligence colleagues in Europe. This fire is too big for the last standing icon we have in the international scene, Shimon Peres, to put it out. Now it is plain to see that Israel does not have a Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry has burned down and our credit in the world was destroyed.It is bad enough that Ayalon treats the Foreign Ministry as if he were the boss, but his declarations and actions now show that the boss has gone crazy, that the deputy minister has shot Israel’s already beaten up image to hell. Even if when he was appointed he could have been given credit for having elementary diplomatic experience, one year later it is clear that his was a radical casting error that made Israel’s foreign policy a bizarre parody. It is clear that Israel’s image and foreign relations are in the hands of a pyromaniac, just like we can be sure that the next diplomatic catastrophe of his doing is around the next corner.
When eyebrows were raised over the appointment of Lieberman and Ayalon, Netanyahu intimated that the appointment doesn’t really matter because he would be managing foreign policy himself. But as opposed to Rabin and Sharon, Netanyahu has not led any diplomatic program in the last year, so he cannot enjoy the defense claim that he served as the acting foreign minister. In fact, he abandoned the Foreign Ministry and its staff to the two bandits from Yisrael Beiteinu and let them do with it as they pleased.
The problem is that even a supposedly magician does not have a big enough magic trick to blur and cover a destructive reality. Reality always shows itself in the end and now it’s time has come. The luxury of escaping it has ended. In the present mess Netanyahu cannot allow himself to wait any longer. He has to preempt Ayalon’s next blow by pulling this thorn out of the Foreign Ministry as the first step in repairing the damage.
Yediot’s Misgav on Ayalon and J Street: “Is there no-one in our government of midgets who can stand up and put an end to this madness?”
Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, was on the phone. He sounded agitated. “My great-grandfather came to Israel in the First Aliyah – he was one of the founders of Petach Tikva,” he declared. “The grandparents were among the first residents of Tel Aviv. They took part in the lottery for the shacks on the sand dunes. My father was a member of the Etzel. He organized the dispatch of weapons from America on the Altalena and he was on the deck of the ship when it was shelled. I live in Israel myself for years. No-one can teach me about what it means to love Israel. It’s unthinkable that the only way to love Israel is to agree with the political philosophy of Danny Ayalon.”
This week, Ben-Ami and J Street led a delegation of Congresspeople who came to Israel for a study tour and an exchange of opinions. Five members of the House of Representatives, all supporters of Israel, and all members of the Democratic Party, which ensures a solid majority in both Houses on Capitol Hill. Ben-Ami notes that most of the visit was fascinating and effective. “In Amman we met with King Abdullah and the Jordanian prime minister. We sat with Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. We received briefings from UN officials in the Gaza Strip. We spoke to representatives of the Yesha Council and Peace Now. Naturally, we also submitted requests in advance to meet with Netanyahu and Barak, or at least with a senior Foreign Ministry official, but no such meeting materialized.”
The story has already been covered: On the instruction of Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon, the delegation was denied access to senior Foreign Ministry officials. It would be offensive to compare Danny Ayalon to Sancho Panza would be offensive – offensive to Sancho Panza, that is. Don Quixote’s assistant was intelligent and cunning and tried to correct his master’s mistaken perception of reality. Ayalon has recently gone out of his way to show stupidity and to wag his tail to please his master. Don Quixote may have tilted at windmills but he was motivated by idealism and good intentions. Lieberman is destructive and malicious and his approach is driven by personal and political machinations.
Under the aura of this pair, and with the tacit agreement of Netanyahu and Barak, Israel’s foreign policy has become a caricature. It has to be seen to be believed. The state of the Jewish people, which has fought boycotts for generations – in the UN Assembly, in Asia, in the Arab world, in academia, and in sport – has become the kingdom of boycotts and banishments. This is happening at the same time that Israel is subject to worsening international isolation, and astonishingly the targets are series of allies: Sweden, Norway, Turkey, and now J Street.
J Street is an organization that is sworn to uncompromising support for Israel and for a peace process that will secure the nation’s existence. It represents extremely powerful and important streams in American Jewry, particularly under a Democratic Administration. I have written here in the past about the foolishness of ignoring this stream, but last week saw new records of crudity and stupidity. “The Congresspeople told me that they were astonished, offended, and hurt by the attitude of the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli government toward them,” Ben-Ami told me. “My feeling is that you need to look in depth into how you cope with differences of opinion in Israel.”
The visitors were so offended that in an exceptional move they convened a press conference, demanded an official explanation, and protested at their depiction as enemies of Israel. It will be interesting to see what they have to tell their friend Rahm Emanuel when they return to Washington DC. Is there no-one in our government of midgets who can stand up and put an end to this madness?
Throughout the scandal over Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s “boycott” of the J Street sponsored congressional delegation to Israel (a good wrap here,) not one Israeli official, politician or public opinion maker came out in public support of Ayalon. Except that is, MK Michael Ben Ari, a self-proclaimed Kahanist with connections to the JDL, who was recently denied entry into the US. This short interview with the settler news service Arutz 7, is worth reading in full for an understanding of some of the forces supporting Israel’s current foreign policy.
MK Dr. Michael Ben Ari praises the deputy foreign minister’s treatment of the US congressmen from the left wing J Street
Benny Tucker, inn, February 18
MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union) tells Arutz 7 that Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon did well to refuse to meet the American Congress people who came here on behalf of the left-wing organization J Street. “Those people do not represent the US administration. They came here on behalf of a hostile organization, J Street, an organization connected to the anti-Zionist left. Yossi Beilin is one of the moderate members of that group. These are people who are connected to the Goldstone report.”
He rejects the Congress people’s claim that they supported Israeli governments through the ages. “They are liars and frauds, as opposed to the AIPAC lobby that really does support all Israeli governments. J Street only supports Israel when it capitulates. The rest of the time they incite against us and it is good that Ayalon showed them we will not be their punching bags and we will know how to defend our honor.”
MK Ben Ari claims that J Street makes cynical use of the Congressmen to restore its status and image. “They want international legitimacy, but everybody knows they are an anti-Semitic lobby that acts against Israel. They are dangerous people and they use the Congress people in order to try to receive legitimacy.”
He doesn’t understand why they are surprised that the deputy foreign minister wouldn’t meet them. “The deputy foreign minister is supposed to meet somebody at his level, like the deputy of Hillary Clinton. Why do they have to meet Congressmen? Can I, MK Michael Ben Ari, meet Hillary Clinton? Of course not, so I don’t understand why they are so surprised. I suggest that people like MK Shlomo Mula, or MK Meir Shetreet and MK Orit Zuaretz go meet them because they support them.”
He says to this day the US refuses to give him an entrance visa and he is not sorry about that. “I received a message from Congressmen that Mitchell told them they do not want people like me to enter the US. Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin does not want to send me to the US either. He prefers to send people like Barake and Tibi to represent Israel there.”
On Thursday (February 11, 2010,) we reported on the involvement of Kahanists in anti-NIF advocacy in the US. The story below, from this morning’s Israel Hayom (a tabloid owned by Sheldon Adelson,) reports that (apparently following the UC Irvine incident) they are now organizing to provide security for Ambassador Michael Oren and other Israeli dignitaries at US public events. Hopefully, the results of this initiative will not resemble scenes from The Altamont Free Concert.
The initiative: To revive the Jewish Defense League that Kahana founded; The goal: To protect Israeli speakers abroad
Efrat Porsher, Israel Hayom, February 14 2010
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Israel’s US Ambassador Michael Oren may not like the new initiative, but in the wake of recent incidents, they and other representatives of Israel worldwide are in for some unexpected help from extreme-right activists.
In recent days, prominent right-wing activists conversed with activists of the Jewish Defense League abroad, as well as with other right-wing activists and students who attend universities in the USA and Europe, who expressed an interest in the idea of reviving the League. The Jewish Defense League was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahana in the late 1960s, and it was active for some two decades before it faded away.
The idea to revive the League was born after pro-Palestinian students interrupted lectures by Ayalon and Oren in US and British universities. The League will work in two directions. First, organization activists will show up at events that Israeli diplomats are expected to address and try to prevent students from interrupting their lectures. Second, they will prevent diplomats from enemy countries or from countries that are hostile toward Israel from speaking at university venues. “Those who exploded events attended by Israeli representatives will live to regret it,” said right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Kach, Kahana’s political movement, was outlawed in 1988.
Now that Im Tirzu has been discredited all manner of right-wing hacks are attempting to keep the anti-NIF libel alive. There are the usual suspects, of course, like NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg, who, though shamed, can still get some space in the more parochial Jewish media; or settler fundamentalist leader Israel Harel, who serves as Haaretz’s token nationalist columnist.
Apparently, however, my expectations of an outlet like the New York Jewish Week (NYJW) were unrealistically high. They have just given slander space to a recently exposed fraud. In a column labeled “special” to the NYJW, David Bedein of the “Israel Resource News Agency” (IRNA) regurgitates Im Tirzu’s copiously debunked allegations, adding a few flourishes of his own.
What is remarkable is the fact that less than a year ago, Bedein and his “agency” were very publicly revealed as a Kahanist front-group. An attempt at Swiftboating a Palestinian-Israeli organization misfired. The targeted group — I’lam — happens to specialize in the study of media demonization and they did some research of their own. The carefully documented result is worth reading in full here. But only this photo of Samuel Sokol, a senior “journalist” at IRNA who shares bylines with Bedein, should perhaps have been enough to prompt even a junior editor at the NYJW to take a look into the veracity of the facts he was publishing. The banner in the background reads “We are all Kahana; Kahana was right.”
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; Amir Paz-Fuchs| 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; Israeli McCarthyism, circa 2010; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part I: Keshev’s Yizhar Be’er; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part II: Ha’ir media critic on journalism as propaganda; Delegitimization and censorship continue: JPost stops publishing Naomi Chazan’s columns; Nahum Barnea: How US Jewish leaders stepped in to block the Knesset anti-NIF bill; Yediot’s Sima Kadmon methodically deconstructs the anti-NIF smear campaign; Contextualizing the JPost and Chazan: You can’t have it both ways |
Fact checking the anti-NIF report: Systematic omission and distortion of data
This analysis compiles a critical mass of examples of misrepresentation of data in the Im Tirzu anti-NIF “report.” A recent Keshev report underscores substantial omission of relevant data. Combined, regardless of whether they are the result of malice or incompetence, these systematic flaws are more than enough to cast doubt on the reliability of the entire report and on the organization using it to demonize Prof. Naomi Chazan as an individual, the NIF as an organization and Israeli human rights NGOs as a community.
On January 29 2010, journalist Ben Caspit presented his political credo in Maariv’s Friday Political Supplement, providing broad and extensive platform to a shallow and poorly conducted “report” by a movement named Im Tirzu (“if you wish” in Hebrew) According to the “report” and the article, “the New Israel Fund sponsors very many Israeli organizations that supplied the Goldstone Committee with incriminating materials against the IDF.” That was reason enough for the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to establish a subcommittee to look into how foreign foundations sponsor Israeli organizations.
However, detailed examination of the data supporting the allegations against the sixteenIsraeli NGOs listed by the “report” should be reason for worry for anyone honestly concerned about Israel’s future: If indeed, as Im Tirzu leader Ronen Shoval told Caspit, the researchers were trained by the IDF Intelligence Corps, our security situation is even worse than previously thought. The “report” is so amateurish that its authors would have flunked their course if they submitted it as a college paper. There would also be a good chance the institution would task a faculty panel to investigate suspicion of intentional distortion of data.
Omission of data
A report by Keshev — The Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel examined the main Israeli sources referred to by the Goldstone report and, unsurprisingly, found that the Im Tirzu study simply chose to ignore many of the citations: of Israeli cabinet members [see Yishai quote below], IDF generals [paragraph 14, see Eizenkot quote below], government-affiliated organizations, and major Israeli media, Maariv included. If we are to follow the rationale of the “report”, they too should be accused of “causing Israel serious political damage and harming its military ability to defend itself at war,” and they too should be considered “extreme leftists and anti-Zionists” (sic).
The Keshev report presents the main Israeli sources of information that the Goldstone committee used, including the then CO Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot, who adopted the Dahia doctrine according to which “We will employ disproportional force and inflict huge damage and devastation on every village from which rockets were fired at Israel” because “the way we see it, these are not civilian village but rather military bases”; then CO Southern Command Dan Harel, who said: “We will attack not only terrorists and launchers…but also government buildings, production centers of the security apparatuses, and more”; or Minister Eli Yishai, who stated: “We can destroy Gaza to make them realize that they should not mess with us….. I believe they should be all razed. Thousands of houses, tunnels, and infrastructures should be destroyed.”
Systematic distortion of data
Following in the footsteps of Keshev’s Yizhar Be’er, who focused on the omissions of the Im Tirzu “report,” I will now proceed to examine the substance of the charges leveled at the Israeli NGOs. Allegedly these organizations provided the Goldstone committee with “incriminating materials.” How did the Im Tirzu researchers reach that conclusion? They counted the report’s footnotes (!) and eagerly listed the organizations they mentioned. The problem is that if only those researchers bothered to read the footnoted texts, they would have realized that in many cases, the issues did not at all pertain to Gaza, but to the West Bank and even to human rights in Israel.
Furthermore, in most cases, the cited passages were taken from reports, press releases, or petitions to the Israeli High Court of Justice authored and published or filed long before the Gaza war. Many were authored by organizations whose mandates do not include the Gaza Strip and their materials were cited in relation to human rights in Israel generally. Of the sixteen organizations listed, only four actually testified before the committee.
Below is a list of citations which the Im Tirzu “report” used to support its allegations, but which, for better or worse, cannot be substantially connected with the committee’s research inasmuch as it pertains to the inquiry of the IDF and defense forces’ activities during the Gaza operation.
Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel: The only relevant data this NGO provided was an assessment of the number of Gazans who were detained without a trial during the operation, arguing that they were not allowed to have a phone call. Since the UN committee members met with and interviewed some of those detainees, the Adalah’s submission was superfluous. The three other Adalah citations counted by Im Tirzu are clearly irrelevant: reporting on the arrests of Israeli citizens who protested within Israel during the war; a report on Area C in the West Bank; and (the peak of absurdity) a petition still pending in court (footnote 789 of the Goldstone report.)
- B’Tselem — The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: A multitude of Goldstone citations of B’Tselem reports counted have nothing to do with the Gaza war. These “incriminating materials” include: First Intifada casualty figures, the implications of the separation barrier and impediments to freedom of movement on Palestinian life in the West Bank, violations of the human rights of East Jerusalem Palestinians, and a report on the IDF’s failure to investigate reports of criminal behavior by soldiers during the Second Intifada. Undoubtedly, however, the most damaging “material” was BTselem’s confirmation of the number of Israelis (!) killed by Kassam rockets during the war,
- The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): ”Incriminating materials” include a report [page 5] on police refusal to permit a demonstration in Tel Aviv during the war if Palestine flags were displayed and a report East Jerusalem residents’ rights. In addition, ACRI joined Attorney Daniel Reisner, former head of the IDF International Law Department, in providing information regarding the ratio of IDF investigations to civilian deaths during the Second Intifada (footnote 750).
- Hamoked — Center for Defense of the Individual: Citations irrelevant to IDF conduct during the war: Palestinian freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; quotation of Justice Minister Daniel Friedman (!) calling for the denial of rights to Palestinian security prisoners in Israel as an instrument of pressure for the release of Gilad Schalit; and a High Court of Justice petition prison conditions in Israel.
- Yesh Din — Volunteers for Human Rights: This NGO operates almost exclusively in the West Bank, which explains why Goldstone cited its reports on on Israeli military courts in the West Bank, IDF accountability regarding violence against Palestinian non-combatants in the West Bank (which cites a 2005 Maariv article!), and a High Court of Justice petition on West Bank residents held in Israeli prisons. Despite their lack of relevance, Im Tirzu aggregated these citations into the “incriminating materials” statistics.
- Physicians for Human Rights — Israel (PHR-I): A multitude of PHR sourced “incriminating materials” counted by Im Tirzu refer to issues such as: the pre-war Palestinian, ongoing closure policies, and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners. An interview the committee held with PHR representatives (footnote 1037) on the lack of bomb shelters in Israeli Bedouin villages within Kassam rocket range is also considered “incriminating” by Im Tirzu.
- Gisha — Legal Center for Freedom of Movement: A report on the implications of the pre-war Gaza blockade and a position paper on the ongoing Israeli policy of separating the Gaza Strip and West Bank, are considered by Im Tirzu as war crimes eveidence.
- Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights: That organization never dealt with the situation in the Gaza Strip, neither during the (relative) calm nor during the fighting. Indeed the only references to its materials relate to planning policies in Area C in the West Bank, and with the impact of the separation fence Palestinian life in the West Bank. According to Im Tirzu, however, these are among the cornerstones of the Goldstone’s criticism of the IDF’s conduct during the war.
- Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR): This NGO earned its place on the “incriminating sixteen” list beacuse of one citation — as a petitioner against the demolition of the vast majority of houses in a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley.
- Itach — Women Lawyers for Social Justice: This NGO is not even mentioned in the Goldstone report. Im Tirzu decided to include it anyway, however, because it found a reference in one of its publications to a letter by eight other human rights organizations to the attorney general, urging an independent Israeli investigation ion IDF conduct during the war. Similarly, Machsom Watch and New Profile are listed because of their association with anti-war protests in Israel. Both organizations are not referenced by Goldstone.
- Other Voice (Kol Aher) — For a Civil Solution in the Sderot-Gaza Region provided the Goldstone committee with information for the chapter it devoted to the daily and ongoing suffering of Sderot residents and students of the Sapir College because of Kassam attacks.
This analysis provides a critical mass of examples of misrepresentation of data in the Im Tirzu “report.” The Keshev report underscores substantial omission of relevant data. Combined, regardless of whether they are the result of malice or incompetence, these systematic flaws are more than enough to cast doubt on the reliability of the entire report and the organization using it to demonize Prof. Naomi Chazan as individual, the NIF as an organization and Israeli human rights NGOs as a community. Yet for ten days media outlets have been treating the issue as, at best, a symmetrical controversy. Independent fact-checking, is, apparently, an anachronism.
Editor’s note: In an interview tonight (February 9 2010) Im Tirzu leader Ronen Shoval told the JTA’s Ron Kampeas (one of the few journalists covering the substance of the report consistently and responsibly) to “check the Goldstone report for a single mention of Sderot from an NIF group and get back to me.” Items 2 and 11 provide multiple mentions. If Shoval is willing to include Bedouin citizens of Israel, even if though they are not Jews, in this equation, item 6 also applies. What is Shoval thinking? Either he is not familiar with the report or he assumes that nobody will bother to check the veracity of his assertions. This is the man who sees himself as a future national leader; the man whose reporting nearly led the Knesset to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry.
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; Amir Paz-Fuchs| 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; Israeli McCarthyism, circa 2010; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part I: Keshev’s Yizhar Be’er; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part II: Ha’ir media critic on journalism as propaganda; Delegitimization and censorship continue: JPost stops publishing Naomi Chazan’s columns; Nahum Barnea: How US Jewish leaders stepped in to block the Knesset anti-NIF bill; Yediot’s Sima Kadmon methodically deconstructs the anti-NIF smear campaign |
The firing of Naomi Chazan by The Jerusalem Post has quickly turned the newspaper into a convenient (and attractive) punching bag for the many in Israel and among Jewish-Americans angry and indignant over the anti-NIF smear campaign. Indeed, its conduct in this matter has been more than problematic, as I will expound below.
I believe it is important, however, to be careful not to allow this sorry episode to sully the reputation of what is largely a quality newsroom. Reporters like Dan Izenberg, Tovah Lazaroff, Ben Hartman, Ron Friedman, and Hilary Leila-Krieger, to name just a few, regularly produce good journalism, under incredibly difficult conditions. Abe Selig has closely followed an issue I have been intimately involved in — the emerging protest movement against the evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah — and his reporting has been both fair and balanced (not in the Fox News sense.) He has also done a professional job following the issue at hand.
The news editor, Amir Mizroch, is a responsible and conscientious journalist. On Gaza-related issues, he recently investigated and published an important report on questionable Israeli conduct, which went above and beyond what most of the Israeli media, except Haaretz, were willing to do. In addition, he was the first, on his personal blog, to expose the problematic connection between the Israeli Government Press Office and Maariv’s sponsorship of the anti-NIF campaign.
Many Jewish-Americans have a compelling need to consume in-depth English-language reporting on Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian issues. The English editions of Haaretz and, to a lesser extent, Ynet, are important, but insufficient. The Jerusalem Post expands the breadth of information available and its newsroom performs an important function.
The Post’s editorial line is, in understatement, not my cup of tea. Some of its columnists, like Caroline Glick, engage in a kind of fascist demagoguery that makes even Fox News appear mainstream. Blogger Shmuel Rosner consistently and dishonestly wraps neoconservative talking points in a “centrist” wrapping and seems to operate without any kind of effective editorial supervision. That, however, is part of what a vibrant public discourse is all about and is irrelevant to this discussion.
Having said all that, I will cut to the chase — on the recent Naomi Chazan flap, the Jerusalem Post’s behavior has been unethical and duplicitous. It was the first among the Israeli media, last Sunday (January 31 2010) to publish the Im Tirzu ad, with its explicit incitement and anti-Semitic overtones. When I questioned a senior journalist at the paper about it, he replied, in effect, that there was a firewall between the business and editorial sections of the paper. That is a contentious, but legitimate argument (Haaretz’s editors overruled their ad departments.)
The following day (February 1 2010,) Chazan’s lawyer, Gilead Sher, sent a letter to all the business managements of the Israeli media outlets running the ads — the Post, Maariv and Ynet — demanding that they cease and desist. Notably in this context, this correspondence did not stop the Maariv and Ynet editorial departments from running commentary by NIF associates throughout the week.
On Friday morning, Haaretz English edition’s Dimi Reider revealed that Chazan had been informed by the Post’s editor-in-chief, David Horowitz, that her column was to be discontinued after 14 years. Over the weekend, this development was heralded (including on Coteret) as a sign that the Post had joined the Im Tirzu campaign. This morning (February 7 2010,) Horovitz demurred — the reason for the firing was the above-mentioned legal correspondence.
The Jerusalem Post is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, it is shirking responsibility for the content of the ad by claiming “separation of powers.” On the other, it is justifying the removal of Chazan from the editorial section by pointing to her confrontation with the business section. This is either dishonest or an admission that the editors are completely subservient to the whims of their bosses. Both options do not bode well for the paper. Its journalists and readers deserve better.
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; Amir Paz-Fuchs| 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; Israeli McCarthyism, circa 2010; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part I: Keshev’s Yizhar Be’er; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part II: Ha’ir media critic on journalism as propaganda; Delegitimization and censorship continue: JPost stops publishing Naomi Chazan’s columns; Nahum Barnea: How US Jewish leaders stepped in to block the Knesset anti-NIF bill |
Sima Kadmon is senior political commentator at Yediot, second in stature only to Nahum Barnea. She devotes much of her Friday (February 5 2010) column to a methodical deconstruction of the motivation and methodology behind the Im Tirzu anti-NIF smear campaign. Kadmon adds domestic depth to Nahum Barnea’s exposé of the role mainstream Jewish-American leaders played in putting the brakes on the Knesset’s participation in the campaign.
Note how the column concludes with a quote from Meretz Chairman MK Chaim (Jumes) Oron, who was the first politician from the Israeli left to take a public stand on this issue.
The transition from a democratic to a fascist society does not happen in a single move, Oron said upon emerging from the plenum hall. It is done in several steps – some of which may go unnoticed, some of which we may share, and others may be initiated or not opposed by the government. In the end, the society finds itself in a totally different place, and then everyone starts asking how it happened.
I have a feeling, he said, that we are already on this slippery slope, and even more so over the past few weeks. The powers that can stop this process have weakened. This is a very critical moment, he said. I hope it would make those who weep over the left’s defeat shake off their mourning mood and realize this is war. This is a struggle for the future and shape of this country.
Here’s a link to a translation of an important op-ed Oron published on the issue of last Thursday (February4 2010.)
Excerpt from column, Sima Kadmon, Yediot Friday Political Supplement, February 5 2010
Ronen Shoval is a young, energetic, and ambitious man. He is an obvious right-wing activist who established the Orange Cells in the universities and struggled hard against the evacuation of the Katif Bloc. He demonstrated ceaselessly, raised the banner of the settlers’ struggle in the media, and became their darling. He was even given a slot on the Jewish Home [Habeyit Heyhudi] list of Knesset candidates in the last elections. Ronen Shoval, however, failed miserably in his war against the left, the media, and the Israeli Governments. The disengagement happened and the media and the majority of the public supported it.
Then he had a revelation. Shoval realized that the public does not want to listen to the weird pro-settler right, and decided he would be the wiser. He dropped the Orange Cells and founded the Im Tirzu movement. What is Im Tirzu? It is, in fact, more of the same, but Shoval stated that his new organization 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.” On various occasions, Shoval explained that his movement will balance out Peace Now which, according to him, dominates the public discourse.
The next stage in Shoval’s plan was reaching the national media, deciding it was no longer the enemy but rather a tool to be used to promote his goals. This right-wing activist studied the way Peace Now publish their reports about the settlers and how B’Tselem runs reports about human rights abuse, and decided he can do it too. So he sat down and authored a report that aimed at portraying Israeli human rights groups as collaborators with the enemy.
The conclusion that his report attempted to draw was that the Goldstone report was, for the most part, fed by Israeli organizations that are, for the most part, sponsored by the New Israel Fund — a philanthropic fund that raises millions of dollars for worthy social causes in Israel. Among others, it finances the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and other civil rights groups. The Shoval report attempted to besmirch the fund and the organizations it sponsors. Keshev — The Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel, examined the Im Tirzu report and issued its own report that clearly shows Shoval’s crude distortions and manipulation. For example, citing statistical data, the Shoval report claims that 92% of the “incriminating” arguments against the State of Israel in the Goldstone report were cited from Israeli left-wing organizations.
Keshev proved that the Im Tirzu report ignored the main sources that served Goldstone, mainly remarks by senior officers and cabinet members such as Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, and Minister Eli Yishai, as cited in the Israeli media. Another important source was an article by Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gavriel Siboni of the Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.
They presented the policy the IDF followed in Operation Cast Lead in no uncertain terms. Defining the goals of the operation, Minister Yishai said: “We can destroy Gaza to make them realize that they should not mess with us. This is a great opportunity to smash thousands of terrorists’ houses and make them think twice before they fire their Kassams” — remarks that the Walla! news portal carried and the Goldstone report cited. And this is only one of some 450 quotations from Israeli sources that the Im Tirzu report overlooked.
Orange Cells activist Shoval succeeded. His dubious report caught the media attention and was extensively covered by Maariv last week. Shoval has managed in lumping together important human rights organizations and a fund that provides millions of dollars for worthy Israeli causes with the Goldstone report. After all, Goldstone, with whom Israel refused to cooperate, had been defined by the government as one-sided and biased, which is how the public views him.
This is war
Last Wednesday, before Berlusconi arrived here, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee convened and decided to establish a subcommittee that would look into the sources of foreign funds that sponsor Israeli associations. Though this was not stated explicitly, clearly the target was the New Israel Fund. The political argument behind the demand that the issue be investigated is that someone is financing anti-Israeli associations; that the fund is actually a cover for anti-Zionist activities; and that organizations such as ACRI, PHR, Breaking the Silence, Machsom Watch, and others are actually anti-patriotic groups.
Sloppy McCarthyism is still McCarthyism: From the lectern of the Israel Academia Monitor
On the art of using invented headlines as “proof”
Recent years have seen the flourishing of various right-wing “monitoring groups”, claiming to act in the name of truth and justice, in order to expose those evil ones among us “scheming against Israel” (a euphemism for taking action against apartheid, racism and war crimes committed in our name). In the past few weeks, we have also witnessed one-sided attempts to block funds going to Israeli peace and human rights NGOs or smear and even muzzle Israeli peace and human rights activists.
Coteret has covered the honorable Prof. Gerald Steinberg and his NGO Monitor‘s attempts at silencing our criticism of Israeli policies. However, the jewels in the crown of a vast McCarthyite US-Israeli network may be those academic monitoring groups which keep a watchful eye on lecturers and students who have the nerve to criticize American or Israeli human rights violations. Most US-based readers are probably familiar with fifth columnist hunter Daniel Pipes and his
Campus Watch. Another monitoring group is Haifa University Dr. Steven Plaut‘s IsraCampus. Plaut is a rather vociferous fellow. A few years ago he smeared dedicated Israeli peace activist Dr. Neve Gordon as a ”Judenrat Wannabe”, which resulted in the filing of a successful libel suit by Neve. Plaut seems to be consistent in his reluctance to mince words.
It turns out that IsraCampus has a little sister, called the Israel Academia Monitor (IAM). According to various publications, IAM is run by one Dana Barnett, whose righteous views are presented here (Hebrew), in an interview with Israeli Channel One TV’s Keren Neubach. Note that around minute 03:00 Barnett vehemently denies allegations that her NGO is all about silencing dissenting
voices. She speaks in the name of “academic excellence”, and argues that IAM merely monitors all forms of political activity by lecturers (carried out at the expense of academic duties.) Well, not exactly…
This writer has been communicating with the IAM for some time now (let it be known, for the sake of full disclosure, that his support of terrorism had been exposed by an IAM headline). The following excerpts from various exchanges should speak for themselves. The often frustrating exchanges beg a sigh of frustration along the lines of O sancta simplicitas! One should bear in mind that a great deal of harm has been done throughout history by righteous useful idiots.
If it is of any comfort, please note that our eloquent opponents are not always united, and that trouble may erupt in the McCarthyite paradise too.
Now, without any further delay, let us delve into the wonderful world of IAM polemics (with pearls of spelling and grammar left untouched).