Dr. Amir Paz-Fuchs: McCarthyism, pure and simple
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; 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 |
Im Tirzu (“if you wish”), we’ll tell you a fairytale
An ill wind is blowing and gloomy clouds are darkening our skies. Another red line was crossed last weekend. In an alarming and alarmist article, Maariv’s Ben Caspit expounded his political philosophy and gave generous space to a pathetic and superficial “investigation” carried out by an organization called Im Tirtzu (“if you wish”). According to the investigation and the article, the New Israel Fund supports many of the Israeli organizations that provided the Goldstone Committee with incriminating material relating to the IDF. The article was powerful enough to convince the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to consider establishing a committee of inquiry to examine the forwarding of information by Israeli organizations to the UN’s investigative committee.
The background to this investigation and the article is perfectly obvious. The Israel Police arrests a woman for wrapping herself in a prayer-shawl; regularly stops youths who are inoffensively walking in the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem or the Hadar neighborhood of Haifa and carries out searches without legal grounds; disperses a demonstration that the court has ruled does not require a permit; and arrests human rights activists, including Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The Knesset comes up with its own initiatives – the Loyalty Law, the Citizenship Law, the Nakba Law – in order to deny Israeli Arabs their basic rights and the possibility to share a common fate in solidarity. Not to speak of the Infiltration Law, which threatens to imprison refugees or those who assist them for decades.
These are just a few examples from the past few months alone; there are many others. Who is trying to stop this repellent flood? Civil society organizations, which are funded by the New Israel Fund, among other sources. The New Israel Fund supports over 300 organizations active in the fields of women’s rights, the struggle against racism, immigrant absorption, single-parent families, and promoting equality and social justice in Israel. For Ben-Dror Yemini, however, editor of the opinions section in Ma’ariv, all this is just a sophisticated cover. He is convinced that “most of the bodies supported by the New Israel Fund are active in delegitimizing Israel… They are the biggest enemy… of the free world and human rights.” No less! Caspit follows suit with manipulative malice: “Are these activities by the Fund actually intended to conceal radical actions that undermine the foundations of the Zionist state?” His Machiavellian allusions do not end there. Responding to a question from the “journalist,” Ronen Shoval, chairman of Im Tirtzu, claims that the authors of the investigation drew on the intelligence skills they acquired during their army service. After all, for Shoval there is no difference between collecting information about “organizations that support Hamas and the New Israel Fund.”
The investigation names sixteen organizations that supposedly assisted Goldstone. The truth must be told: if the investigators of Im Tirtzu honed their skills in the Israeli Intelligence Corps then the IDF is in a worse state than we thought. A simple examination would have revealed that at least half of these organizations are not involved at all in the subject of the Gaza Strip, so that they could not possibly have had any information, let alone “incriminating” information, about the IDF operations. Many of the organizations are active in the field of human rights in general, and their publications were quoted in the Goldstone Report in chapters that have nothing to do with the fighting in Gaza. For example, one of the organizations mentioned in the Im Tirtzu investigation — Rabbis for Human Rights — appears in the context of a petition it submitted to prevent the demolition of homes in a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley. The publications of Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights association mentioned in the investigation relate to Israel’s planning policies, which strangle any possibility of development by Palestinians in “Area C” in the West Bank. The association Itach — Women Lawyers for Social Justice did not appear at all in the Goldstone investigation.
Unsurprisingly, Shoval, Caspit, and Yemini piously declare that their sole interest is to reveal the truth and encourage freedom of expression. There is no element of revealing the truth here. Is the argument about freedom of expression sincere and substantive in this case? Far from it. This is the conclusion to be drawn not only from their political positions but also from their intentions. An extreme right-wing activist such as Itamar Ben-Gvir can acknowledge the importance of the position of human rights organizations in supporting the right to carry out vigils without police interference. As he explains, this has been his principled position for years. Similarly, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel supported the demand by Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel to march in Umm al-Fahm. Genuine human rights discourse certainly serves diverse political orientations. But this is not the discourse proffered by Yemini, Caspit, and Shoval. Their discourse is in keeping with the strategy of the organization NGO Monitor, and its purpose is to silence expression. It is not about freedom of expression, but freedom of denigration. Its purpose is not to enrich public discussion, or even to advance a particular political position within the free market of ideas. Rather, it seeks to trample the opposing position through lies, manipulation, intimidation (as in the headline Fifth Column in Caspit’s article), and demonization. This is McCarthyism, pure and simple. Now more than ever we must remember the words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”