Israel’s Icons, the Untouchables and Im Tirtzu
The Israeli Zionist organization Im Tirtzu’s campaign was perhaps shrill, inelegant and unsophisticated, but the icons it criticized well deserved to be disgraced for many of their past and present activities.
Im Tirtzu produced a video, labeling activists of the political left as “moles” — agents from foreign countries — and accused them of aiding terrorism. The video begins by showing a terrorist drawing a knife and continues on to suggest that four prolific activists of the Left — B’Tselem Director Hagai Elad, Avner Gvaryahu from Breaking the Silence, Director of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel Yishai Menuhin, and Sigal Ben Ari from HaMoked — as defenders of terrorism.
Im Tirtzu subsequently launched a new campaign singling out Israeli artists associated with leftist groups, labeling them foreign “moles,” and singling out several of Israel’s most well-known icons, including writers Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua; actress Gila Almagor; and singers Rona Keinan and Chava Alberstein.
Im Tirtzu has been described as ultra-Right, ultra-nationalist and ultra-Zionist, but it would appear that none of these labels correctly describes this organization. To do it justice, it should be seen through the prism of the founding pioneers of Zionism. The group’s declared objective is to buttress and promote “Zionist values” in Israel and especially on college campuses. It has actively campaigned against Breaking the Silence (an organization engaged in smear campaigns targeting the IDF) and The New Israel Fund, a left-wing NGO.
The Left delegitimizes all critical investigation of its activities and shuts down free speech in the name of protecting free speech. It also avoids the intellectual challenge of debating conflicting views. The Left’s pushback against “public shaming” can be seen as a reaction of the old guard against the empowerment of previously suppressed voices. It invokes memories of Big Brother, McCarthyism and the tyranny of Fascism and Nazism, and with these epithets batters its critics into timid capitulation. It prevents the free exchange of ideas, encourages self-censorship and leaves people afraid to express their “non-politically correct” views. It is this Orwellianism that is destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth and manipulation of the past. It is this that risks destroying the very fabric of democracy.
Celebrities protect themselves behind the mantle of political correctness when they are justifiably denounced, ridiculed or censured for their inequitable criticism of Israel. These high priests of “morality” and ambassadors of social awareness were the acolytes of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, who on 13 November 1974 addressed the UN General Assembly in military garb and a pistol in his belt, as he proclaimed, “Today, I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun.” Arafat, a killer of innocents, a ruthless and corrupt demagogue dedicated to Israel’s eventual destruction. Have the luminaries of the Left, bitter defamers of Israel, ever apologized for its disgraceful endorsement of him?
The world is changing and the Left’s belief system is being challenged as never before. It is being confronted with the reality that human nature hasn’t conformed to its advancement of a politically correct Utopian society. When it aligns itself with Israel’s enemies — either through ignorance, obliviousness or duplicity — its “good intentions” damage, undermine and delegitimize Israel. Non-liberal progressives who apologize, even cringe, before the onslaught of the societal elites, do not denote the achievements of the Left, but rather illuminate the impotence of the conservative and traditional elements in Israeli society who are cowed into silence.
Malcolm Dash is the Director of Operations at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies www.strategic-israel.org.