There has been a lot of recent discussion surrounding a Jewish News article (“Controversial Zionist Group Leader’s UK Visit Criticised”) covering the upcoming UK visit of Im Tirtzu, a well-known Israeli non-governmental organisation that received a less-than-flattering portrayal in the article.
As someone who has volunteered in Im Tirtzu for many years, first as an activist and later as a university branch coordinator, and currently works for the organisation, I would like to clear up several half-truths and untruths in the article.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand who Im Tirtzu (IMTI) is. IMTI is the largest Zionist movement in Israel, with over 6,000 active members and fifteen branches on universities and colleges throughout the country. IMTI activists are all volunteers and are not “well-funded” as stated in the article.
In addition to nurturing Zionism on campuses, which includes running the largest Zionist extra-curricular program in Israel and embracing minorities who support Israel and serve in the IDF, IMTI is well-known for combating the phenomenon of “BDS from within”; that is, opposing Israeli individuals and organisations (often funded by foreign governments) that work to harm the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel.
Contrary to the article’s editorial line, IMTI enjoys wide public support in Israel, not only from the people, but from politicians and opinion makers as well.
A simple Google search would reveal endorsements of IMTI by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Nobel Prize Laureate Yisrael Aumann, as well as numerous IMTI events featuring leading Israeli cultural and academic figures.
IMTI also enjoys wide support in the Knesset. This past year alone, IMTI initiated a Knesset Caucus aimed at assisting minorities, initiated two Knesset committees on the topic of academic politicisation, and participated in dozens of Knesset discussions.
Nevertheless, the article painted the highly misleading picture of a fringe organisation embroiled in constant controversy, rejected by both sides of the political aisle.
But given the organisations cited in the article, this is not surprising in the least. For those who don’t know, the New Israel Fund (NIF) is a US-based non-profit organisation that funds vehemently anti-Israel organisations, which, inter alia, accuse Israel of war crimes, defend terrorists in court, label Israel an apartheid state, and call for boycotts.
Yachad, which I was admittedly unfamiliar with prior to this article, appears to be from the same mold as it supports anti-Israel organisations like the NIF-funded Breaking the Silence.
The NIF and other like-minded groups have been widely shunned and utterly rejected by Israeli society. It takes incredible chutzpah for the NIF to label IMTI as “discredited,” when that is how the NIF itself is viewed by the Israeli public.
Sadly, the article’s objectivity was tainted by the assertion that IMTI’s visit “prompted a wave of criticism from Jewish groups in the UK.” This “wave of criticism,” as is apparent from the article, is nothing more than the NIF and Yachad at work.
With all the article’s focus and repetitious use of the word “fascism,” which was based on a 2013 district court libel case filed by IMTI, it was rather odd that there was no mention of the Supreme Court’s verdict overturning the lower court’s ruling and deeming it invalid.
Similarly, there was a convenient lack of context regarding Naftali Bennett’s quote cited in the article, which suggested that he was opposed to IMTI. Yes, Bennett did criticise an IMTI Facebook post, but after the movement issued an apology, he wrote: “Good job, my friends at Im Tirtzu. When we make a mistake, we fix it. Now continue with your work on behalf of the IDF and the State of Israel!”
Fierce opposition, indeed.
The unfortunate reality is that the article’s agenda was very much in line with the thought police of radical organizations like the NIF that slander anyone who dares call out their nefarious anti-Israel activity.
Perhaps the NIF’s UK chief executive should heed his own organisation’s call to “recognise and reinforce the essential pluralism of Israeli society and tolerance for diversity,” before issuing hypocritical statements advising British Jewry to “avoid” engaging with Im Tirtzu.
This undemocratic attempt to stifle dialogue is representative of the true “my way or else” colors of the NIF.
Thankfully, the people of Israel have embraced Im Tirtzu and have rejected the radical activity of the New Israel Fund and other anti-Israel groups.
I would expect, and hope, that the UK’s Jewish community would do the same.
Tickets to the event can be reserved here: http://bit.ly/C4TSalon5
• The writer is the head of English development and external relations for the Im Tirtzu movement.