This just in: Ronen Shuval, front man for Im Tirtzu’s attacks on the New Israel Fund and Israeli human rights groups, has threatened to sue the creator of the Facebook group “Im Tirtzu is a Fascist Movement” for (get this) “libel and lashon hara.”
Group creator Roy Yellen received an email saying in part, “Roy, hello. From looking at the ‘Im Tirtzu is a Fascist Movement’ group, it looks like you’re the creator. Im Tirtzu is not fascist and will not put up with libel and lashon hara.” The message then states that unless Yellen deletes the group with 72 hours, Shuval will consult a lawyer and sue, even if Yellen turns over ownership to another individual.
Yellen responded: “I received your threat to sue me. The reason this group was created is because of the false and misleading campaign against the New Israel Fund and Professor Naomi Chazan, its head. In this losing campaign, which was accompanied by Der Schtermer-like caricatures of Chazan, you blame the New Israel Fund and human rights organizations for hating the country and trying to purposely hurt it. And you put on a protest outside Prof. Chazan’s house that was reminiscent of the horrible days preceding Yitzak Rabin’s assassination by masquerading as Hamas activists…As a supporter of human rights organizations, the freedom of expression, and the freedom of assembly, I found it right to respond and so did 2,000 friends who joined. I have no intention of removing it. If needed, I will prove that I am speaking the truth in court.”
It’s necessary to mention that if civility is Shuval’s objection, then he should be the last to talk. Im Tirtzu ran an estimated $900,000 worth of 30 full-size billboards depicting former Deputy Knesset Speaker Naomi Chazan as a horned beast out to collaborate with the Goldstone Commission to weaken Israel. Their “research” was faked and very thoroughly debunked. Yet the campaign has culminated in one horrifyingly viable Knesset bill aimed at defunding social change groups.
Yet no one has challenged the accuracy of said “libelous” human rights reports — only that this information was damaging to Israel’s image. Im Tirtzu was founded to attack individuals perceived as less than patriotic. The editor of the student newspaper at Hebrew University reported that during Operation Cast Lead, “Im Tirtzu activists shouted things at [Arab Israeli students] like ‘We will burn your village,’ and ‘We will meet in reserve duty.’ But it doesn’t stop there. Every lecturer who proposes a different way of thinking about the situation here is accused, not of being a post-Zionist — which is the usual allegation — but of engaging in ‘anti-Zionist incitement.’ The goal is to frighten and intimidate everyone who thinks differently from or dares to criticize them.”
Herein I think lie the fascist accusations. Just as white power groups were (and are) a backlash against Americans in favor of civil rights, so too Im Tirtzu is backlash against civil rights in Israel. It appears that loyalty to the state is more important than the freedoms the state protects. This is a dark period for Israel and Diaspora Jews, but Israeli civil rights leader Hagai El-Al calls on the Diaspora community to fight harder, not despair. God willing, this phase will be temporary.
In a message in Hebrew to his group’s members, Yellen stated, “I have no intention of letting Im Tirtzu tell me what will be said and where, and I am happy the group bothers them…I think a proper response is asking more friends to join the group.”
Thank you, Roy (and Hagai, and Naomi). You give us inspiration to continue fighting. I hope you use your group to turn the tide against the anti-NGO bill in Israel. Those of us out here will support you with everything we have.