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Im Tirzu becomes a right-wing liability (and sparks a neocon-theocon proxy war?)

August 24, 2010 6 comments

Ronen Shoval, Im Tirzu Chairman

Im Tirzu apparently overplayed its hand when it went after Ben Gurion University (BGU). Even the usually timid heads of the Israeli academe felt they had to react: Their institutions were under threat. One by one they gave interviews and published op-eds. As Hebrew University’s Avner de-Shalit writes in this morning’s Haaretz, these students have simply gone too far:

But now the cat is out of the bag. Im Tirtzu is no longer calling for changes in curriculum content; it is waging an ugly political battle over staffing: It wants the lecturers replaced.

The movement’s campaign has thus undergone an enormous shift. At first, it complained of (leftist) political considerations in the appointment of lecturers and said this must not be permitted. Now, it says (rightist) political considerations should govern the appointment of lecturers.

De-Shalit is careful, however, to frame his criticism patriotically and to imply that they have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (!):

Moreover, Im Tirtzu prides itself on its Zionist orientation. This writer is also a Zionist, and proud of it. But Zionism, like any national movement, has different shades and expressions. And Im Tirtzu’s shade appears to be blatantly anti-patriotic. Instead of being proud of the scholarly achievements of Israeli researchers, the movement is threatening to stop donations by Jews abroad.

Maybe this is a Zionist act, according to their understanding of Zionism, but it is certainly not a patriotic one. In practice, Im Tirtzu is joining those who call for a boycott of Israeli universities.

Shaul Mofaz, a populist former IDF Chief of Staff and current rival for the leadership of Kadima, is also patriotically appalled: “Im Tirzu thugs” went after BGU’s funding. From an op-ed in this morning’s Maariv [full text translation at bottom of post; Hebrew original here]:

The members of this organization clearly love the State of Israel. They speak of Zionism with sparkling eyes and are prepared to fight for it. But the main difference between them and the folks of the university is precisely the main difference between Ben-Gurion and others who speak daily about the importance of settling the Negev: they spoke, he acted. So one moment before somebody rushes on a journey to stop the donations from America, he or she will be better off undertaking a Zionist act and going for a journey across the Negev. The journey will end with a tour of the university. Anyone seeing and getting to know this glorious and important institution will realize that no lecturer, as anti-Zionist as he or she may be, can bring it down. The most important and powerful Zionist movement in Israel today includes more than twenty thousand students, and it both researches and creates social involvement. It’s name is Ben-Gurion University.

Hagee

This is too much for Pastor Hagee, a major Im Tirzu funder (and, the Jerusalem Post reports this morning, also a contributor to BGU) and he drops them like a stone:

“Im Tirtzu misrepresented its focus when they told us their mission was strictly Zionist education,” Ari Morgenstern, the spokesman for JHM [John Hagee Ministries], said.

“We had no prior knowledge of Im Tirtzu’s political actions and we never seek to involve ourselves in Israel’s internal political debate.”

Has this sparked a kind of American conservative donor proxy war? Shuki Balas of Latma, Caroline Glick’s Hasbara outfit, which is funded by Frank Gaffney‘s neoconservative Center for Security Policy does not mince words to describe what he thinks of the Christian Zionist leader (emphasis mine):

Following the storm, the central funder of the Im Tirzu movement has stopped the flow of funds [link in original to Hebrew version]. Let’s ignore, for now, the repeated lie that Im Tirzu demanded the dismissal of lecturers at Ben Gurion University, and that they were critical of “left-wing bias” when their letter talked about “right-wing bias”. Natasha Mozgoviya [Haaretz's DC correspondent] that Preacher John Hagee, the same one who was called “marginal”, “extremist”, “apocalyptic” and many other compliments, will stop his contributions to Im Tirzu. (In my opinion, that’s a good thing and it’s about time.) But this seems proof that Im Tirzu’s agenda, in contrast to what left says in its criticism, is incompatible with the agenda of the infamous Hagee.

Only in Israel, as they say.

—-

Im Tirtzu thugs

Op-ed, Shaul Mofaz, Maariv, August 24 2010

Settling the Negev has always  been one of the guiding principles of the Zionist movement. The man to have exalted this principle more than all others was David Ben-Gurion, the most wise and Zionist leader the state could have sought. Ben-Gurion viewed the settlement of the Negev as a primary social, economic, and national undertaking. Contrary to those who speak eloquently about values and Zionism but in practice do nothing, Ben-Gurion acted according on his belief and joined Kibbutz Sde Boker.

Recently an organization called Im Tirtzu has begun a tough campaign directed against the university named after Ben-Gurion. This organization has even informed the university’s president Prof. Rivka Carmi that in the event that she fails to dismiss faculty members with “left wing agendas” it will approach foreign investors and ensure that they cut off their donations to the university. This organization has been conducting its campaign in the name of Zionism. In the name of Zionism it is threatening to harm one of Zionism’s most beautiful, important and successful enterprises in Israel.

Ben-Gurion University and the adjacent Soroka Hospital are among Israel’s most successful and great institutions. The university is the main reason that youth leave central Israel and move to the Negev. The university conducts extensive and invaluable social activity among Israel’s southern communities. Beer Sheva’s university students are the most socially active, the most familiar with their communities and involved in them.

I am not familiar with these youths of the Im Tirtzu movement. It may be fairly presumed that they are indeed conducting their activity with the profound belief in the justice of their ways and love for the State of Israel. I believe, truly and honestly, that Israeli lecturers who publish articles that call for an academic boycott on Israel are unworthy of academic posts that are financed by the Israeli taxpayer. But from here to attacking Ben-Gurion University and to employ thuggery that may jeopardize the very existence of the university and its students, the distance is great. Very great.

The donations received by the universities are used for research and development. Many students from southern Israel study at the university for whom it is the only possibility to pursue studies in a top ranking institution and still remain in their parents’ home. The donations also help create scholarships for poor students. Anyone with clear vision can see that such a process [attacking the university] spells throwing out the baby together with the bath water, and causing damage to a great many people. These students are the ones who hear the very lecturers against whom Im Tirtzu’s campaign ranted. Some of them are no less Zionist than the members of Im Tirtzu. Most of them served in the army, continue to serve in the reserves and care about Israel. They understand no less than many of us the essence of Zionism, as they live in the Negev on a daily basis. Does anyone believe that these students lack the ability to tell right from wrong? Does anyone believe that some delusional lecturer like Niv Gordon will cause this or that student to stop doing reserve duty? Are Im Tirtzu the only Zionists left out there? The answer is no. Unequivocally no.

Read more…

Hudson’s co-founder, the Israeli academic purge and the subversion of US Middle East policy

August 22, 2010 10 comments

Evidence is mounting that the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS) — an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing” — is a creature of  The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies.

Hudson is the primary financial backer of the IZS, providing at least half of the organization’s total reported multi-year funding, but the connection does not end there.

Max Singer

Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute, its former President and current Senior Fellow, is also the IZS’s Research Director. At least according to his bio on the Hudson website: The IZS site only identifies him as a member of the Advisory Committee. Its 2006 brochure (page 8), however, states that he is a member of the International Board of Governors and is one of the ex-officio members of the Projects Committee, which “as such, are invited to all deliberative sessions and events.” According to the IZS’s verbal report to the Israeli Registrar of Associations for 2008 (the last one filed), Singer’s wife, Suzanne, is one of three members of the NGO’s “Council”, the sovereign decision-making body under Israeli law.

As the IZS’s Research Director, Singer would presumably be responsible for the research that pressured the President of Tel-Aviv University to take the extraordinary step of examining the syllabi of his institution’s Sociology Department for “left-wing bias”. The introduction to the IZS’s 2006 brochure (page 1), which Singer co-signed, indicates that he saw this type of activity as part of the organization’s strategic purpose:

IZS 2006 Brochure

The IZS will help liberate the public discourse in Israeli society from the self-imposed constraints of the prevalent dogma and internalized notions of the politically correct. Israeli society needs to be freed from the acceptance of double standards so that we can become comfortable asserting our own national purpose as a sovereign Jewish community.

This goal would fit well within the stated purpose of a Hudson Institute project, which was launched at the same time as funding of the IZS began (emphasis in the original):

The Future of Zionism. The Center for Middle East Policy is launching a multi-year project to examine the future of Zionism and its implications for the State of Israel. Israel faces an ideological crisis: As the recent Gaza pullout showed, societal divisions between secular and religious Israelis and between left and right wing camps have become so pronounced that they threaten to overpower the Zionist consensus that traditionally unified the nation. [Hudson Institute Form 990 Report to the IRS for 2005, page 23].

For a generation, Singer has been involved in designing and promoting aggressive US foreign policy. In the early 1980’s he was on the board of Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA), a controversial organization involved in the Iran-Contras scandal. In 2002, he published The Many Compelling Reasons for War with Iraq.

A Democratic administration is in power in Washington and Singer has moved to Jerusalem, so he has found a new instrument for beltway influence: The government of Israel. From a July 17 policy note published by the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University (emphasis mine):

To prevent Obama from bringing America behind his different view of the world, Israel needs to help Americans appreciate the way that Obama sees things differently than they do. The views of most Americans, and of most of the American political world, are much closer to Israel’s understanding of Middle Eastern realities than to Obama’s perceptions. Israeli actions can help Americans to recognize the conflicts between what they believe and the premises of Obama’s proposed policies. The critical element in Israel’s policy concerning the US is the degree to which Israel is able to recognize, stimulate, and get the benefit of the parts of the American policy-making system that do not share President Obama’s radically different ideas about the world. Israel does not have to act as if Obama’s views will necessarily determine the policy of the US, and it certainly does not have to assume that Obama’s current views will dominate US policy-making for many years. Israel has the power, if it has the fortitude, to influence the degree to which Obama is able to make the tectonic change in American policy that he would like to make.

Netanyahu’s Senior Diplomatic Adviser, Ron Dermer, seems to have acted on this advice, incurring the wrath of Rahm Emanuel. From Ben Caspit’s August 19 column in Maariv:

Emanuel was angry, he claimed, because Dermer briefed certain Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, against the President and Emanuel himself.

Hudson Institute, Uzi Arad (and Iran) ctd.: The money piles up

August 22, 2010 1 comment

Last Thursday (August 19 2010) Coteret demonstrated that The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, has been the largest financial backer of the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS) — an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing.” Hudson provided at least half of the NGO’s total reported multi-year funding, dwarfing all other sources of income.

The post also mentioned that, in the 2006 tax year, Hudson  provided $600,000 to the Atlantic Forum of Israel (AFI), an opaque, security-oriented, organization founded by the Israeli National Security Adviser, Uzi Arad, and run by him until last year.

Hudson Institute form 990 for 2008

Further analysis of Hudson’s IRS filings shows that this was not an isolated transaction. The institute’s form 990 for 2008 (page 10) lists the AFI as the fifth “highest paid independent contractor for professional services”  for the previous tax year, when it received $110,000 for “public policy research.”

Beyond raising the total value of the relationship between the Hudson Institute and Arad’s outfit to at least $710,000, this information also reveals a multi-faceted relationship: AFI was both a grantee and a contractor for the institute.

Thursday’s post made the following case for a full disclosure of the relationship:

  • The question of whether Israel should attack Iran and whether the US should support such a move is very tangibly on the (publicly perceived, at least) policy agenda of both governments.
  • Numerous Hudson Institute scholars, past and present, have taken very hawkish positions on this question (see this very recent article for one example.)
  • Uzi Arad has publicly articulated his (hawkish) position on the issue.
  • The Hudson Institute recently provided an opaque, security-oriented, NGO founded by Uzi Arad and, until last year, run by him, with over half a million dollars of funding.
  • The Hudson Institute is a central component of an active and ideological neoconservative opposition to the foreign and security policy of the current US President; Uzi Arad serves as National Security Adviser to the current Israeli Prime Minister.

Hudson Inst primary financial backer of NGO behind campaign to purge Israeli universities of “leftists”

August 19, 2010 29 comments

Shira Beery provided significant research for this post.

—–

Newly uncovered documentation reveals that The Hudson Institute, an influential and activist neoconservative think-tank, has provided nearly $500,000 to the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing.” The grants represent more than half of the IZS’s total reported multi-year funding and position Hudson as the organization’s largest donor.

In addition, the documents indicate that Hudson provided $600,000 to The Atlantic Forum of Israel, an opaque, security-oriented, organization founded by the Israeli National Security Adviser, Uzi Arad, and run by him until last year.

—–

Partisan pressure on the Israeli academe has been building up for a few months, but came to a head over the past few days. Much of the public’s attention has focused on Im Tirzu’s blunt threat to go after the funding of Ben Gurion University unless it acts immediately to remove “post-Zionist” faculty from its Political Science Department. The week began, however, with a report that the President of Tel-Aviv University was examining the syllabi of his institution’s Sociology Department, following advocacy by the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), a right-wing organization established by settler leader Israel Harel (profiled by Coteret here). In an article in this morning’s Haaretz, Or Kashti asserts that the two events, and the NGOs behind them, are closely related:

Im Tirtzu chairman Ronen Shoval and the organization’s spokesperson, Erez Tadmor, took part in a Young Leadership program run by the Institute for Zionist Strategies several years ago, seemingly contradicting the two men’s earlier assertion that they were not acting in concert with the institute in their public campaign against the “anti-Zionist bias” in Israeli universities.

[...]

The IZS report on sociology departments is reminiscent of Im Tirtzu’s report on political science departments. Not only is the methodology of the two reports identical (an examination of syllabi and a classification of lecturers into categories such as “Zionist” and “anti-Zionist” ), but the conclusions they reached about the state of Israeli academia are similar.

Until the final months of 2009, both Im Tirzu and the IZS were nearly unknown in the Israeli public sphere and, until now, their sources of funding have remained obscure. On Wednesday, Calcalist, a business daily published by Yediot, revealed that Christian Zionist John Hagee’s CUFI had channeled $120,000 to Im Tirzu through the Houston Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency [a full translation of article can be read here, courtesy of Judaism Without Borders.]

Previously unpublished documents, analyzed in this post, demonstrate that The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, has been the largest financial backer of the IZS, providing at least half of the NGO’s total multi-year funding and dwarfing all other sources.

Hudson Institute form 990 for 2007

Hudson’s form 990 report to the IRS for 2006 (page 17) states that the institute transferred $230,000 in the previous tax year to “support Israeli public policy research.” Form 990 for 2007 (last page) states that a further $256,185 were transferred in the previous tax year for “consulting/research.”

According to the IZS’s own reports to the Israeli Registrar of Associations, the Hudson Institute provided 100% of the organization’s external funding in 2006 — $105,881[1] — and 2007 — $325,462[2]. External funding for 2008 (the last year reported) was $50,351[3], coming exclusively from a rather bizarre source: The Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF)[4].

The IZS was established at the end of 2004 (registration document here). Its 2006 financial report states that donations worth $431,597[5] were received in 2005. The Hudson Institute’s form 990 for 2005 does not provide details of external grants. Therefore, confirming that it was also behind these funds requires the IZS’s 2005 report, which Coteret has not yet obtained. Even if this year is discounted, however, Hudson has provided over 53% of IZS’s total reported funding and is its largest donor.

Wurmser

Instead of detailing its grants in the 2005 report, Hudson provides a narrative report of its programs, broken down by the resident scholar responsible for their implementation. On page 23, under “Planned Projects” for Senior Fellow Meyrav Wurmser (if the name does not strike a bell, I encourage you to follow the link), of the institute’s Center for Middle East Policy, appears a brief description that may hint at the purpose of the institute’s support for the IZS (emphasis mine):

IZS financial report for 2007

The Hudson Institute’s involvement in controversial and partisan battles in the Israeli public sphere is legitimate. What is not is the fact that it is hidden from the public eye. The organizations share information on their financial relationship with their respective regulators but not with the general public. Both the IZS and the Hudson websites do not mention the organizations’ connection. In Hebrew, the IZS site simply states that its funding is “private.” In English, it refers potential donors to a newly established (it has registered but not yet filed with the IRS) US charity,  “Friends of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.” Indeed, identifying and documenting this connection required many days of work spread over the better part of a year.

In this context, at the same time the assault on pluralism in the Israeli academe intensified this week, the “NGO Transparency Law” — a thinly veiled attempt to suppress Israeli human rights groups — was making headway in the Knesset (probably not coincidentally, the IZS godfathered the bill along with Gerald Steinberg’s NGO Monitor.) Writing in this morning’s Jerusalem post, Hagai El-Ad, Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) observes:

In recent months Israelis have witnessed an unprecedented barrage of anti-democratic campaigns, from Im Tirzu to the Land of Israel Forum. All of these campaigns are funded by unknown sources.

[...]

It is the funding of those wishing to silence Israel’s human rights groups that is hidden from the public.

Arad

It appears that the Hudson Institute’s opaque involvement in Israeli affairs is not limited to “democracy” issues and encompasses high-level geopolitics as well. Its form 990 for 2007 (last page) reports on the transfer of $600,000 to the “Atlantic Forum of Israel” in the previous tax year. Trying to understand what this organization does is no easy task. Its website is “under construction”. The website of the (now defunct) American Jewish Congress explains that it is Israel’s official non-governmental representative” to NATO. An October 2009 article in Haaretz reports that Uzi Arad resigned as President of the Forum before assuming the position of Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser. The Saban Forum 2007 itinerary (page 9) adds that Arad founded the NGO.

Why is this significant? It may not be, but there are any number of important reasons why this information should be fully in the public domain and subject to further scrutiny. Consider this one, for example:

  • The question of whether Israel should attack Iran and whether the US should support such a move is very tangibly on the (publicly perceived, at least) policy agenda of both governments.
  • Numerous Hudson Institute scholars, past and present, have taken very hawkish positions on this question (see this very recent article for one example.)
  • Uzi Arad has publicly articulated his (hawkish) position on the issue.
  • The Hudson Institute recently provided an opaque, security-oriented, NGO founded by Uzi Arad and, until last year, run by him, with over half a million dollars of funding.
  • The Hudson Institute is a central component of an active and ideological neoconservative opposition to the foreign and security policy of the current US President; Uzi Arad serves as National Security Adviser to the current Israeli Prime Minister.

The facts listed above may be unrelated. That cannot be confirmed, however, without full disclosure. All involved (and given what’s at stake, that includes you and me) have an interest in moving that process forward.

——

Footnotes

  1. NIS 471,858 at an average yearly exchange rate of 4.4565. Click here to view original report, data on page numbered 8.
  2. NIS 1,337,031 at an average yearly exchange rate of 4.1081. Click here to view original report, data on pages numbered 3 and 7.
  3. NIS 180,650 at an average yearly exchange rate of 3.5878. Click here to view original report, data on pages numbered 3 and 7.
  4. A UK  charity “founded in 1865 and is the oldest organization in the world created specifically for the study of the Levant.” Its grants, however, are made to individual researchers, and the 2008 grant list does not mention the IZS or anyone associated with it.
  5. NIS 1,936,922 at average yearly exchange rate of 4.4878. Click here to view original report, data on page numbered 3.

[Video] Channel Ten News: Construction starts at Shepherd Hotel settlement compound in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem

June 28, 2010 12 comments

Transcript follows video.

This comes on the day of the publication of the Jerusalem Municipality Master Plan, with plans for expansion of settlement enclaves across the city. Last night, riots broke out in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan as settlers, backed by Border Police, moved to evict Palestinians from a structure used as a mosque.

Israel began today building at the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem

Channel Ten TV News, June 27 2010 20:31

Yaacov Elon: Very quietly Israel began construction of a new neighborhood in the Shepherd Hotel complex in East Jerusalem. Our correspondent Roi Sharon joins us directly from there. You can hear the construction sounds in the background. What’s happening there, Roi?

Roi Sharon: Work ended here this afternoon at the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Work began this morning, the construction that has already caused several diplomatic crises between Jerusalem and Washington, materialized this morning when the construction team arrived here with a micro fine drill and began the work. The story of this hotel begins in 1985, when the American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz bought the compound and asked the Jerusalem municipality for permission to build here. The city planning and construction committee held the plans up for years and exactly a year ago the committee decided to give Moskowitz a permit to build 20 housing units here plus an underground parking lot. As soon as the decision became known a diplomatic crisis broke out between Jerusalem and Washington, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking Israel immediately to cancel the building permits. This morning the construction work began and now we shall see whether the work goes on as planned and whether we can expect a new diplomatic crisis.

Yaacov Elon: construction at Sheikh Jarrah. Thank you Roi Sharon.

Gingrich on cover of Adelson’s Israeli daily: US polices could lead to a “second Holocaust”

May 30, 2010 12 comments

Sheldon Adelson’s tabloid freebie, Israel Hayom (cynically called by many the “Bibiton” — “Netanyahu paper”) provided a platform for someone who has until now was almost unknow  in the Israeli public debate: Newt Gingrich. The cover of this weekend’s (May 28 2010) Friday political supplement, Israel Hashavua (Israel This Week) displays a full page photo of Gingrich, with the banner headline: “The Obama Administration is Denying Reality.” Here is the caption:

Exclusive to “Israel Hayom”: An article by Newt Gingrich, one of the leading Republicans in the US. The former Chairman of the House of Representatives attacks the blindness of the Western Elites: “Evading the confrontation with Evil may bring a second Holocaust, the mistakes made by the White House will exact a terrible price.”

The article itself, on page 4, is headlined “Denying Reality”. Here are the sub-headlines:

The behavior of the Obama administration regarding Iran and terror is characterized by a complete disconnect from reality. Gingrich, a prominent Republican Party leader, warns that the Western Elites are evading a confrontation with Evil and that the flight from reality could bring a second Holocaust to the Jewish People. An alarm bell, before it’s too late.

The full Hebrew original can viewed here and at the bottom of this post.

In a tangentially related development, this morning’s (May 30 2010) reports that Netanyahu is frantically scrambling to block legislation that could shut-down Adelson’s paper (Dershowitz, Foxman and Sharansky have already been recruited in this effort):

Netanyahu sends bureau chief to Rabbi Ovadia to thwart bill outlawing free papers

Tova Tzimuki and Zvika Brott, Yediot, May 30 2010 [page 18; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected to vote today on a bill banning the distribution of newspapers for free for a period of over a year. It is predicted that due to the heavy pressure applied by the prime minister, Likud ministers will oppose the bill — and it will fail to pass.

In recent days the Prime Minister’s Bureau has worked around the clock in order to thwart the bill proposed by Marina Solodkin (Kadima). Ministers told Yedioth Ahronoth that Netanyahu’s associates were applying much pressure on them so that they oppose the bill. Netanyahu is not interested in seeing the bill turn into law, because of the support he receives from the freely distributed paper Israel Hayom owned partially by Sheldon Adelson. As part of his attempts, Netanyahu sent bureau chief Natan Eshel to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to convince him to instruct Shas ministers to oppose the bill.

A report on this matter was broadcast already Friday by Channel Ten TV News. The report stated that the Prime Minister’s Bureau was “hysterical.”

[…]

The bill’s sponsor, MK Marina Solodkin wishes to change the law so that a nationally circulated paper may not be distributed free or at an extremely low cost for a period of over one year. “Our concern is that money talks and that through money a person of means will be able to purchase public opinion on a matter he or she holds particularly dear, as is done in undemocratic states,” some MKs explained.

In the bill’s preamble Solodkin states: “the phenomenon of distributing newspapers nationally for free over such a long period severely harms written journalism and can, in the future, produce the rise of monopolies in this sphere and a strike a severe blow to the freedom of speech. This, is in view of the fact that newspapers distributed for free create unequal and unfair competition with those newspapers that are sold for a price.”

She further states that distributing a newspaper nationally for free over such a long period could cause the bankruptcy of  newspapers that are for sale.

[…]

Read more…

Breaking: Hagee and CUFI fund anti-NIF campaign organizer

February 1, 2010 31 comments

The antisemite who finances Zionist self-righteousness

The Im Tirtzu movement accuses the New Israel Fund of financing anti-Zionist organizations, but all the while enjoys donations from an evangelist preacher who believes “Hitler was carrying out God’s will”

Danit Gottfried, Walla [Israeli news portal owned by Haaretz group], February 1 2010 [Hebrew original here]

Hagee

In the last days various media have been running a campaign against the New Israel Fund, which defines itself as a venture capital fund for social initiatives. Behind the campaign are activists for the Im Tirtzu movement, which defines itself as an extra-parliamentary movement to strengthen Zionist values in Israel. Im Tirtzu claims NIF funds 16 left-wing organizations that were quoted by the Goldstone report and contributed to the collection of false charges against IDF soldiers during Operation Cast Lead and the negative world climate against Israel.

Among other things, the campaign included a demonstration in front of the home of the president of NIF, Professor Naomi Chazan, in which the demonstrators were dressed up as Hamas members and carried signs saying “we love Chazan and hate the IDF,” and posters showing Chazan’s face with a large horn coming out of her forehead.

But an investigation by Walla! found that some of the funding for Im Tirtzu itself comes from parties that are not regarded with fondness or agreement by the Jewish public. Donors to the movement include the Christian American lobby CUFI – Christians United for Israel, headed by evangelist preacher John Hagee. The organization’s website specifies the sum it gave Im Tirtzu — $100,000.

Hagee was in the headlines in 2008 during the US presidential campaign, when a recording circulated in which he claimed that “Hitler was fulfilling God’s will, to return the Jews to the land of Israel according to the biblical prophecy.” Right after the radical comment, Republican presidential contender John McCain had to repudiate Hagee’s public support. Additionally, in his book “Who Is a Jew?” Hagee claims that “Hitler was half Jewish, from the descendents of Esau,” and that “the Holocaust happened because the Jews rebelled and denied the real God.” He claimed that “Jewish rebelliousness is the reason for the anti-Semitism and persecution they suffered over the years.”

About the economic crisis that hit the US and the world in 2008, Hagee said that “the U.S. Federal Reserve is under the control of a few shareholders, including the Jewish Rothschild family.” He added that “the Rothschild family is part of an extensive economic conspiracy by strong shareholders who reside in Europe.” Hagee is considered a controversial and extreme figure among the Jewish communities in America, after he called the Reform Jews “poisoned” and “spiritually blind.”

Read more…

Dershowitz: The case for Adelson (with Sharansky and Foxman)

December 27, 2009 9 comments
Sheldon Adelson

Adelson

Sheldon Adelson, an American billionaire casino tycoon, has long been trading money for political influence in the Israeli sphere. He’s the underwriter of the  Shalem Center, for example, Israel’s neoconservative nexus. It numbers among its alumni many of the senior staffers at the current Prime Minister’s Office, including Ron Dermer, a leader of the ongoing campaign to suppress Israeli human rights groups, and Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, who recently boycotted the J Street conference  and continues in his attempts to de-legitimize the the organization.

In 2007, Adelson went a step further and established a newspaper, Israel Hayom. Obviously not for profit, the new venture was quickly dubbed the “Bibiton”, Hebrew for “Netanyahu paper”. On December 4 2009, Coteret quoted Israel prize laureate Nahum Barnea of Yediot, who, in a recent Globes interview, bluntly warned that Adelson was a clear and present danger to Israeli democracy. On December 10 2009, we reported on a new bi-partisan Knesset bill aimed at outlawing foreign ownership of Israeli newspapers, obviously aimed at Adelson and Israel Hayom.

The proposed legislation has put Adelson on the defensive. On December 17 2009 he gave an interview to the JTA’s Jacob Berkman (The Funderamentalist), in which, ironically, he argued that Israel Hayom was “fair and balanced.” The public war of words has escalated as Maariv, which Haaretz reports was intimately involved in drafting the bill, has been running op-ed pieces decrying the threat to democracy posed by Israel Hayom on a near daily basis.

Sharansky and admirer

On Friday (December 25 2009) Israel Hayom threw a lavish 700 guest bash in Tel-Aviv to celebrate the launch of its weekend edition. Adelson used the podium to promise he would not surrender and to reiterate the “fair and balanced” message. This morning’s (December 27 2009) edition of the paper devotes half of a page to the speech. The rest of the page is devoted to criticism of the new bill by three high-profile advocates of Israel: Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency; Abraham Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); and Alan M. Dershowitz (full text after the cut).

As much as I dread Adelson’s undue influence on the Israeli public sphere, I oppose the new bill. As Noam Sheizaf points out, the dangers this type of legislation poses to the remains of Israeli democracy far outweigh Israel Hayom’s damage. The neoconservative rush to Adelson’s defense, however, is worthy of scrutiny because of the insight it provides into their unique brand of influence peddling, rife with hypocrisy and factual omission.

Foxman

Sharansky, who indignantly states that “this act does not add dignity to societies that pass such laws,” conveniently neglects to disclose that he is materially beholden to Adelson. He found a comfortable home at the Shalem Center to pass the time between his resignation from the Knesset in 2006 to his controversial appointment to the Jewish Agency position in 2009. He was appointed to head the Center’s “new strategic studies program,” soon after christened The Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies after the billionaire’s foundation made $4.5 million donation.

Foxman is quoted as warning (presumably the bill’s backers) “do not harm US Jews.” The question of why this issue is the the ADL Director’s business is, unfortunately, moot, given the fact that he has overseen an incredible and highly problematic expansion of the organization’s mandate. The interest of honesty and ethics would, however, still be served if Foxman mentioned the fact that he and Adelson are “friends” and that he has made use of the tycoon’s private jet on occasion.

Dershowitz

Dershowitz has no overt material links to Adelson, at least not any that I could find. His statement, however, is a cynical classic. Dershowitz is incensed, decrying  the bill as “an unconstitutional act.” If he was a consistent and vocal critic of Israeli domestic legislation one would be inclined this latest from the Harvard legal scholar. But the man who opens his bio with “one of [the United State's] ‘most distinguished defenders of individual rights,'” has been silent on Israel’s latest constitutional civil rights crisis and a host of other threats to Israeli democracy. The ease in which Dershowitz chooses to tether his reputation to financial interests, just because they share his political views, is testament to how pro-Israeli advocacy has warped the intellectual standards of some Jewish-Americans.

Sharansky: Believe the bill will not pass, competition for freedom of opinion must not be restricted

The Jewish Agency chairman and former prisoner of Zion: “The bill they are trying to get through the Knesset is designed against a single person only, Sheldon Adelson, which is an outrage”; American lawyer Alan Dershowitz: “This is an unconstitutional law that will give Israel a bad name”; Abe Foxman: “Israel needs aid not just from governments, but also from the world Jewry”

Yuri Yalon and Boaz Bismut, Israel Hayom, December 27 2009

“The bill is redundant at best, and impairs on individual civil rights in the worst case,” said Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, who strongly opposes the bill that is meant to prevent foreign ownership of an Israeli newspaper.

“As a society, we are interested in greater competition in the media, but once people are prevented from investing in them, worldviews are restricted,” said Sharansky, who served many years as a prisoner of Zion under the Soviet regime and suffered gag attempts first hand.  “There must not be a media monopoly, but as many views as possible should be expressed,” he added.  “We should accept the fact that newspapers may be ideologically-motivated, just like Haaretz holds one set of views and Makor Rishon, has another.” Read more…

High Court petitioned on “Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles”

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

The Jerusalem Post reports that a liberal orthodox group is petitioning the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to order the indictment of the author of the “Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles

Rabbi Elitzur, Author of the "Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles"

A group of petitioners on Sunday called on the High Court of Justice to indict two Yitzhar settlement rabbis for writing and marketing a book in which they say Jewish religious law permits the murder of Palestinian babies and that at times it is preferable to deliberately kill innocent people.

“There are reasons for killing babies even though they have not violated the seven sins, because of the danger that will be caused if they are allowed to live and grow up to be as evil as their parents,” the petitioners quoted from the book, “The Torah of the King.”

Attempts to criminalize expression in Israel never succeed. The Attorney General interprets the incitement law very narrowly in accordance with a landmark HCJ ruling from 2000. In the few cases that an investigation is opened, it rarely results in an indictment. The courts are also reluctant to convict and when they do, usually years after the event, the sentences are so light that they have no deterrence value.

Liberal Israelis should be happy that this is the legal state of affairs. It’s no accident that the petition on which the HCJ ruled was submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Strict limits on freedom of expression undermine democracy and provide a handy tool for government to suppress political opposition — already an emerging problem in Israel.

The petitioners are undoubtedly well intentioned, but they have chosen an ineffective, and ultimately dangerous, mode of action. Their cause would have been better served if they focused their energies on blocking government funding of the yeshiva in question or rescinding federal tax exemptions for its US supporters.

US tax dollars at work: TV interview with Rabbi Dov Wolpe

December 20, 2009 2 comments

Background

  • On December 1 2009 a front-page investigative report in Haaretz revealed that Machanaim a US 501c3 tax exempt charity was funding the Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land (aka SOS Israel,) an Israeli NGO paying soldiers to refuse orders to move against settlements and settlers.
  • Ami Kaufman

    On December 9 Coteret reported that SOS Israel had also begun paying soldiers bounties for dead Palestinians. On the same day, the Israeli Attorney General ordered police to investigate the NGO.

  • Progressive US bloggers, such as Richard Silverstein, have begun questioning the legality, morality and wisdom of continued tax exemptions for charities supporting settlementand radical right-wing activities. On December 16, the Forward’s Gal Beckerman reported that Machanaim was simply a front with a PO Box maintained by Rabbi Dov Wolpe, the head of SOS Israel, and that it was in violation of US tax law.

This post – Ami Kaufman, an Israeli journalist and editor, recorded and subtitled an Israeli television interview with Rabbi Wolpe, which provides chilling insight into the kind of man US tax dollars are funding.  Cross-posted from Kaufman’s blog, Half & Half. Read more…

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