Yariv Mohar is an Israeli culture critic. He blogs at Explorer, where a Hebrew version of this post appeared this morning. For background, see Noam Sheizaf’s wrap, Hadas Ziv’s critique, and Hagai El-Ad’s essay, as well as an exposé of the funding of the NGO behind the anti-NIF by Pastor Hagee and CUFI.
Im Tirzu (“If You Wish”) to risk Israel’s security
The extreme right-wing organization of Im Tirzu (“If You Wish”), wishes not only to monopolize Zionism and patriotism, but also to gravely delegitimize Israeli human rights organizations and other critical voices in the Israeli society. In a report it issued recently, Im Tirzu blames the human rights organizations and the New Israel Fund of making “murder libels against the IDF,” which it claims were made in and after the Goldstone report. Im Tirzu even launched an inciting street campaign in the same spirit. In the long run, however, this spirit will harm not only the human rights organizations, but also Israel’s security as a whole.
Im Tirzu charged that reports and testimonies produced by Israeli human rights organizations that are sponsored, among others, by the New Israel Fund, served to substantiate the Goldstone report. In addition to various distortions, mistakes, lies and half-truths found in the Im Tirzu report, it is based on a false basic assumption.
The way the organization sees it, Israel’s “dirty laundry” was taken out because of the Israeli human rights organizations — as if CNN, Al-Jazeera, and Palestinian and international human rights organizations were never there to witness what happened. Furthermore, the argument that Israeli sources are considered more reliable, and thus create the most damage to Israel’s image, is rather weak. The Israeli organizations made sure they produce a balanced and professional picture, and severely criticized Hamas for firing at Israeli civilians. If it were not for them, the report on Operation Cast Lead might have been much harsher and more critical.
At the same time, if the Israeli defense establishment were more attentive to the human rights organizations to begin with, Israel’s standing would have been much better. Taking human rights under consideration does not equal the delegitimization of the struggle against terror. Organizations such as The Council for Peace and Security exposed, on several occasions, how a policy that impairs on human rights cannot be reasonably justified with security reasons and actually harms Israel’s security. Even in the specific context of Operation Cast Lead, it is clear today that an impartial Israeli commission of inquiry would have been the best tool to ward off the comprehensive criticism that was leveled at Israel, and could help distinguishing between legitimate criticism and remarks that only give Israel a bad name.
Still, the vision of the report that will follow the next war we will engage in, God forbid, is particularly troubling. Should the Im Tirzu vision materialize, that report would not include reports by Israeli human rights organizations because they would abstain from criticizing the government and the army. Instead, that report will contain only biased and one-sided reports by Palestinian and international organizations that are not particularly attentive to criticizing voices that emerge from Israel. It would make Israel look like a semi-democratic state that used to have a critical civil society, but whose current atmosphere and legislation castrates and silences other voices. The claim that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East” would be obfuscated so that there would be no real distinction between it and the terror-sponsoring states.
Such an atmosphere would lose us the world’s sympathy, and as we witness a radicalization of IDF norms, God forbid, we will witness many more initiatives to isolate Israeli globally. The US and EU support might also be questioned, and the economic forces will respond accordingly. A large and progressive part of the US and European Jewry would feel even more alienated from Israel. This would make smear and incitement campaigns against Israel face little to no international resistance. The Im Tirzu vision itself will thus be distorted.
The Im Tirzu ision is the opposite of Herzl’s vision. It is a dangerously short-sighted vision. It conflicts with the core values of the Israeli society as described in the Declaration of Independence. It needlessly puts Israel in harm’s way in the name of some simplistic, childish, and twisted vision of patriotism that does not suit an open, democratic state.