The upcoming London visit of a leading member of a controversial right-wing Zionist group described as having “fascist” tendencies has prompted a wave of criticism from Jewish groups in the UK.
Douglas Altabef, an executive board member of Im Tirtzu, will fly into London next month for an event on Sunday 11 September, where he will give a speech titled: ‘Reclaiming Zionism: The Return of the Indigenous People to their Rightful Land.’
The presentation is being organised by London-based grassroots group Campaign4Truth, whose motto is “anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism=anti-Judaism”.
Well-funded Im Tirtzu activists have previously attacked left-wing NGOs and individuals, infiltrating lectures to encourage students to campaign against left-wing academics, and portraying Israeli human rights activists as “protecting terrorists”.
Earlier this year, the group was forced to apologise after accusing national cultural heroes such as authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, actress Gila Almagor and singer Chava Alberstein of being “foreign moles”.
“They’ve over-extended themselves in their hate,” said New Israel Fund chief executive Adam Ognall, whose organisation has been targeted by Im Tirtzu.
“It would be a very bad thing if the British Jewish community began engaging with an organisation like this, particularly at a time like this. It is a discredited group, a , and I would expect Jewish community organisations to avoid it.”
Similarly, UK Jewish group Yachad said: “It is regrettable that any organisation would think it acceptable to give a platform to Im Tirtzu. It is widely described across the political spectrum in Israel as having fascist tendencies.”
Yachad founder Hannah Weisfeld added: “One would hope that any mainstream Jewish communal organisation would stay well away from such a dangerous organisation and even condemn their visit to the UK.”
The Board of Deputies did not comment.
Im Tirtzu, which has an active youth division, to groom “Israel’s future leaders,” aims to “promote Zionist values,” but has been deemed by an Israeli judge as having “fascist” tendencies, and been attacked by Israel’s most right-wing politicians.
In a 2013 libel action, which Im Tirzu brought against a Facebook group, Judge Rafael Yaakobi of the Jerusalem District Court agreed that the group’s positions have “a certain common denominator with certain principles of fascism.”
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett has called their methods “embarrassing and humiliating,” Likud Knesset Member Benny Begin has said the portrayal of artists as traitors showed “a longstanding, ugly and dangerous fascist trait”.
Altabef himself has previously suggested that “the multi-cultural morass in America… has robbed Jewishness of its particularity,” adding: “Only in a sovereign, holistically Jewish milieu can Judaism thrive and prosper.”
Speaking of a “resurgently radical Islam lay[ing] waste to… the Western world,” he said: “Flaccid Westerners are increasingly likely to blame us, the Jewish People, for sins committed against Islam, rather than confront the source of the maelstrom.”
A spokesman for Im Tirtzu told Jewish News: “As a grassroots movement, Im Tirtzu draws its support from the people of Israel who have rejected radical values that the New Israel Fund espouses, including the support of organisations that harm IDF soldiers. We are pleased to have been invited and are happy to talk with the UK’s Jewish community about standing up for Israel against those seeking to harm it.”