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February 7, 2016 7:07 am

Israel Should Not Fund Its Own Defamation

avatar by Carol Greenwald

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Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev. Photo: Wikipedia.

Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev. Photo: Wikipedia.

Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) applauds Israeli MK Miri Regev ‘s legislative initiative to stop funding artistic endeavors that seek to delegitimize Israel as the Jewish state. Israeli taxpayers should not subsidize their own defamation.

Minister Regev’s legislation does not infringe on the free speech rights of the anti-Israel propagandists. Rather, it asserts the taxpayers’ legitimate rights not to have their taxes used to undermine the state.

Israel’s financial support for these defamatory plays, movies, etc., has no place at home, but it is most damaging to supporters of Israel abroad. How can we object to travesties like the Motti Lerner play, “Return to Haifa,” being performed in Washington, DC, when a Likud government pays to bring the troupe to Washington to perform it? This play alleges that Jews forced Arabs from Haifa in 1948. It also spuriously equates the murder of 1.5 million Jewish children in the Holocaust to the fictional abduction of an Arab child in 1948 Haifa.

When Israel and Israeli taxpayers provide support to such propaganda pieces, it becomes more difficult to object to Jewish charity money subsidizing these anti-Israel plays and movies.

Like the reaction of the Israeli Left to Minister Regev’s actions, some in the American Jewish community and press denounced us for infringing on free speech and denying American Jews the freedom of artistic expression enjoyed by Israelis. We argued that the real issue was the misuse of Jewish charity funds provided by the Jewish Federation to promote anti-Israel propaganda. Similarly, in Israel, freedom of expression is not the issue. Rather it is whether Israelis should pay taxes to fund their own defamation.

No other government subsidizes its own defamation. It is time for Israel to become a normal nation. We hope that this will also lead to American Jews being better positioned to pressure American Jewish institutions to cease and desist from using its members’ charitable donations to harm Israel.

We should be funding the travel for Israeli theater groups proud of the accomplishments of the Jewish people and Zionism. So many Americans and Europeans have little exposure to Israel, that seeing even one hostile presentation can negatively affect them.

The war against Israel is fought on many fronts. Delegitimizing Israel before audiences that do not know the facts is one such front. As the poet Natan Alterman wrote so prophetically: “How will I conquer this beleaguered one?…I’ll blight his mind until he forgets that his cause is just.”

Carol Greenwald is the Treasurer of COPMA.

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  • H. Givon

    An excellent article by Carol Greenwald whose message must be taken seriously! The liberal media too often distorts and omits the truth leading to a skewed view of Israel. Leftists build on this in an attempt to strengthen their viewpoint and lend credibility to their often false picture which is accepted by a naïve or misinformed public. The argument for free speech permits the proliferation of the leftist views of groups like B’Tselem, Yesh G’vul, Breaking the Silence, the New Israel Fund and others –all of whom work against the best interests of Israel abroad and are even supported by some of the country’s enemies. It is time for those who have unquestionable genuine concern for Israel to understand the harmful consequences of catering to those groups that use ‘art’ as a way of getting their message across. This includes Israeli citizens who bear the brunt of the harm done when their government subsidizes groups that demean the country both internally and in the Diaspora. It also includes Jewish federations that should use their funding to provide the public with the true picture of Israel –providing education about the miracle of the democratic country – her ancient and modern history, her legal rights, rebuffed efforts for regional peace, accomplishments, international cooperation that benefits humankind. This should be the goal of organizations that are Jewish – not in name only – but in action. This would be the real expression of ‘free speech’ which should be based on ‘truthful speech’.

  • Deborah Naim

    Dear Carol,
    I totally agree with you. It is absurd that our taxes can be used to fund delegitimize Israel.
    I salute your courage, care and understanding of this problem,

  • Judith Nusbaum

    My sentiments totally. Thank you for your important contribution to Israel.

  • Karin Schultz

    I couldn’t agree more – most people are confused about free speech. Anti-Israel groups like J Street are free to sponsor defamatory events that represent the wishes of their members and donors, but groups like the Federation are not obligated to subsidize a single anti-Israel program. In fact, they are obligated to not fund such hateful lies about Israel – to do so is a betrayal of their members. Declining to fund your opponents is not the same as suppressing their right to express themselves. let them do it on their own dime.