Two senior Maariv reporters attack the anti-NIF campaign sponsored by their newspaper
As Noam Sheizaf demonstrates, Maariv, Israel’s third-largest newspaper, has been a primary instrument for the dissemination of the recently launched anti-NIF smear campaign. To its credit, however, the newspaper has hosted dissenting opinion on a daily basis, in both the print and online editions. This morning (February 3 2010,) two senior reporters, social affairs correspondent Merav David and diplomatic affairs correspondent Maya Bengel, published a particularly incisive criticism of the campaign and related Israeli policies. A translation with links to supporting documentation is provided below.
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The Im Tirtzu movement declares in its advertisements that its purpose is “a second Zionist revolution in public discourse in Israel.” If we were to judge it on the basis of the campaign it launched this week against the New Israel Fund (NIF), it would see that Im Tirtzu’s Zionist revolution includes an annulment of Israeli democracy.Im Tirtzu published a report this week that reviews statements that were submitted to the Goldstone commission by Israeli human rights organizations that receive financing from the New Israel Fund. The report and the campaign that followed in its wake accuse the New Israel Fund and the organizations responsible for the publication of a blood libel against the IDF and of collaboration with the enemy. The campaign absolutely delegitimizes organizations that are extraordinarily vital for Israeli democracy, even when they voice criticism that is painful to hear.The more severe problem is that the discourse that that campaign represents has trickled down into the Israeli media, including this very newspaper in which this article has been published, as if this were a central and normative school of thought in Israeli society. The article that was published by Ma’ariv cast Ronen Shoval, the chairman of Im Tirtzu, as “married with two children, lives in Ramat Hasharon, secular, served in the Armored Corps”—the good old fashioned good Israeli. The truth is that Shoval represents a nationalist organization with an extremist ideology that calls for an end to freedom of speech, in the event that the speaker belongs to a “subversive” organization, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
There is no problem with the fact that the report was published, but the question is how it is to be treated. When the datum that was prominently cited in all reports was that 92% of the quotes from Israeli sources that substantiate Goldstone’s allegations against the IDF originated with organizations that are funded by the New Israel Fund, it sounds sensational. But even the report itself admits that the organizations funded by the New Israel Fund constituted only 14% of the sources the Goldstone report used. For some reason, that datum was not reported by the media. It wasn’t a good idea to report it prominently because then the story would have shrunk back to its natural proportions—yet another news item and hardly a foundation for a campaign of incitement.After all, Judge Goldstone visited Gaza. Did he need the Israeli human rights organizations necessarily? Aren’t there other human rights organizations? Doesn’t the UN have bases in Gaza? The fine print of the report are filed with ludicrous information. Among the 16 organizations that are cited as having collaborated with Goldstone is the movement Itach, whose sole purpose is to defend impoverished women (what was the organization’s crime? It signed a petition calling for the establishment of an Israeli investigative committee), and the Kol Aher movement, which comprised Sderot residents, which submitted testimony by Israelis to the Goldstone commission.But even if we were to accept the validity of the argument that without the Israelis’ contribution there wouldn’t have been a Goldstone report, does the information that was submitted to the UN commission constitute a blood libel? And if it does, why were criminal investigations launched in the wake of those complaints by the Military Police? Why did Judge Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avi Mandelblit said to Ha’aretz that B’Tselem, which “stars” in the report, helps the army clarify complaints and “aspires like we do to the investigation of the truth?” Is the death of eight members of a single family, one of whom was a two-year-old toddler, by a phosphorous bomb, not a complaint that ought to be looked into? It certainly is against the backdrop of reports about two high-ranking officers who had a disciplinary hearing after they approved the use of phosphorous bombs and endangered lives.
A complaint about the family that was killed, as in the case of other complaints, was submitted to the Military Prosecutor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. The organizations called on the attorney general to form an independent Israeli investigative committee. Only after he refused was the information passed onto the Goldstone commission. In his farewell interview, Meni Mazuz said that “it would be a grave mistake not to form a committee.” Had Mazuz accepted those organizations’ demand to form a committee a year ago, the entire Goldstone saga might have been averted.
The New Israel Fund and the organizations that are cited by the report busy themselves every day protecting the rights of women, the unemployed, the handicapped, foreign workers, Arab citizens of Israel and also Palestinians. To sum up their contribution to democracy as a project to prevent violence in sports is hardly serious. Israeli society cannot afford to remove them from public discourse.