Bank Leumi, the National Bank of Israel, initiated a campaign, called Two Million Good Reasons, aimed at rewarding Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with funding for their efforts on behalf of the good of society.
One hundred forty NGOs entered the contest, uploading videos to YouTube showcasing their volunteer work in an effort to amass the greatest amount of votes. Based on public support, the bank would distribute two million shekels ($540,000) between the sixty leading organizations.
Upon witnessing the widespread success of Im Tirtzu in the competition, the radical left in Israel vehemently lashed out against Bank Leumi for consenting to the movement’s participation. Members of Peace Now threatened to start a boycott and close their accounts at Bank Leumi unless Im Tirtzu were disqualified.
Despite accusations from radical leftists that Im Tirtzu has political affiliations, their real grievance stems from the fact that they are unable to tolerate views or beliefs that differ from their own. In fact, Bank Leumi initially announced that the mission of Im Tirtzu coincides, completely, with the guidelines of the competition. Moreover, one of the guiding principles of the competition was to promote Zionism. It was only after the bank found itself in the midst of a barrage of negative PR that is issued a statement closing down the contest.
Im Tirtzu prides itself on providing a voice that is diametrically opposed to the anti-Zionist and post-Zionist sentiments prevalent in today’s public discourse. At the same time, it prides itself on remaining apolitical, not affiliated with any political party or group. In fact, Im Tirtzu continues to receive support from across the political spectrum.
As an institution dedicated to the people of Israel and land of Israel, Im Tirtzu spends its time, energy and funding on programming and activities designed to assist, inspire and contribute to all walks of Jewish life. We promote Zionism on university campuses, help new immigrants with their absorption into Israeli society, support students in need of assistance, visit and support Holocaust survivors, work with farmers in the Negev and Galilee, volunteer in Sderot, help minorities acclimate to Israeli society, support soldiers, plant forests and stand firmly against anarchist demonstrations.
The objections to Im Tirtzu’s pro-Israel activities and advocacy come from many of those on the radical left who accept funding from foreign governments and impede, inhibit and undermine the sovereignty and democracy of the country.
Clearly, the thought of Im Tirtzu emerging victorious from this competition, with the support of the public, is something they simply could not bear.
Unfortunately, Bank Leumi succumbed to ugly left-wing threats. Im Tirtzu was in first place as the most popular non-profit organization when the bank decided to stop the project.
Thanks to its unrelenting efforts, Peace Now had its way with Bank Leumi. But this is hardly about one group or one competition. The leaders of Peace Now consider it legitimate to accept funding from foreign countries. By doing so, they undermine Israeli democracy. Not only do they silence the values of Zionism and nationalism, they undermine organizations that seek to improve the lives of sick children, Holocaust survivors, victims of cancer and so many other people in need.
Ronen Shoval is founder and chairman of Im Tirtzu.