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Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

Blasphemy as a National Security Threat

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Spain has begun deportation proceedings against Imran Firasat, a Christian refugee from Pakistan, for making a documentary about Mohammed and thereby threatening the national security of Spain. If Firasat is deported back to Pakistan, he will face the death penalty proving that it’s a short step from the Spanish Inquisition to the Pakistani Inquisition.

The United States has a man sitting in prison for making another blasphemous movie, which the government spent weeks blaming for worldwide attacks on American embassies. And he isn’t the first man persecuted or prosecuted for offending Islam. Offending Islam has become a national security issue involving all levels of government. When Bubba the Love Sponge, a Tampa DJ, proposed to burn a Koran, the commander of the Afghanistan war contacted his girlfriend (who would later be stalked by Petraeus’ girlfriend) to contact the Mayor of Tampa to keep Bubba from burning a Koran. Instead of explaining how the American system works to the Lebanese temptress and her four-star general, the mayor wrote back that the city was working on it. That month 50 percent more Americans were killed in Afghanistan in the long slow death march of the war, but a Koran was not burned in Tampa. Mission accomplished.Muslims did not have to kill a great number of Americans to enforce blasphemy law in this country. Counting the various reactions to burnt Korans, rumors of a flushed Koran and assorted things of that nature, the number is still well below a hundred. Even counting every casualty in the war from September 11 onward, it took fewer deaths to make the United States give up on the Bill of Rights than it took to liberate it in the War of Independence.

But it’s not really about the deaths, if it were then the United States wouldn’t be senselessly squandering the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan to avoid offending the natives. It’s not the death of men that our leaders are worried about, but the death of stability.

Knowing that a hundred men will die today in car accidents does not alarm anyone, but knowing that somewhere a dozen men might die in a bomb explosion, anywhere and at any time, can bring a nations to its knees. That is the difference between predictable and unpredictable death. Predictable death makes it possible for most everyone to go about doing what they normally do. Unpredictable death however erodes daily order.

Blasphemy makes terrorism seem predictable. It delivers that false sense of control that is at the root of Stockholm Syndrome, the seductive illusion that the thug can be reasoned with and that we can restore control over our perilous environment by accepting responsibility for the enemy’s violence. If we meet a set of conditions then we will have peace. And what kind of lunatic wouldn’t want peace? The kind who needs to be deported or locked up in the name of peace.

When an entire country goes Stockholm then it is no longer interested in winning the war, only in surviving the peace. In a Stockholm country, national security consists of locking up anyone who can be blamed for sabotaging the peacemaking. The less peace there is, the more the peacemakers go on the hunt for “extremists” who are to blame for the lack of it. The more their vision of a better world fails, the more stern measures they must take against their own people. Peace is always one more denunciation of extremism away.

The same countries whose leaders have spent a century and a half blathering incessantly about a truly progressive order under international law have shown no ability to cope with the old-fashioned kind of war. They can quote verbatim the laws of war, but understand poorly that war makes its own laws. War’s simplest law is that you pick a pretext, any popular pretext, make your demands and then go on the attack. If the other side is foolish enough to meet your demands, then it has shown its weakness and must be attacked again and again.

Muslims have restored blasphemy prosecutions to the United States and Europe through violence. Like Khrushchev banging his shoe on the United Nations delegate desk, they did their best to convince the rest of the world that they were violently irrational and liable to do all sorts of things if their demands weren’t met. And their demands were met. Rather than going medieval on their asses, the civilized world instead went medieval on anyone who offended the medieval cult of Islam.

Western Critics of Democracy – “Accomplices to Injustice”

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Support for people who criticize their own Western democratic societies is now all too apparent among many Western intellectuals, academics, members of the media, international organizations, and religious groups which, while refusing to challenge cases of injustice, particularly in Muslim countries, instead criticize and condemn the state of Israel at every turn, despite the continuing physical and rhetorical aggression against it.

Intellectual support for, or acquiescence in, tyrannical regimes and unjust rulers is familiar in history. It runs from Plato supporting the tyrant of Syracuse; Seneca praising Nero; Aristotle advising Alexander the Great, and it extends to modern times with individuals such as Martin Heidegger approving, for a time, Hitler, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who, in 1947, justified the fraudulent Moscow Trials which condemned the Russian critics of Stalin.

The Dean of Canterbury in Britain for over 30 years, Hewlett Johnson, embodied a deluded, fanatical mind at work: safe in his ecclesiastical position, and suffering no penalties for his utterances and actions, Johnson was a life-long admirer of both Communism in theory, and the Soviet Union in action. He defended the Nazi-Soviet Pact of September 1939 — the prelude to Hitler’s start of World War II. Johnson’s undying admiration for Communism led him to defend both the arrest in 1949 on false charges, of Cardinal Mindzenty by the Hungarian secret police, and the Soviet invasion of Hungary — for which he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1950, and the Stalin International Peace Prize in 1951.

As George Orwell – himself familiar with such “fellow travelers” of the Soviet Communist regime who, in their irresponsible fashion, supported or excused that regime despite its tyranny and brutality, and at no cost to themselves – wrote, “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.”

These critics, consciously or not, are now allying with groups and states whose open, ultimate, objective is the destruction of the state of Israel. In fairness, people with this mindset have, in recent years, also supported worthy causes, such as sanctions against the apartheid state of South Africa and calls for its abolition. Such support, however, could hardly be considered courageous: no one had to pay any price for it; on the contrary, there were benefits, both ideological and personal, such as enlarged self-esteem or glory in success.

What is important is that the compassion shown by these individuals has not been present in the face of gratuitous attacks on democratic values, or in the face of aggression, physical and rhetorical, against the state of Israel. Nor have Western Europeans, at least, been willing to face the real problems currently exponentiating there, such as the mass immigration of people from other cultures, who have failed to be successfully integrated into Western societies, as well as the rise of Islamism. The critics of their own democratic societies rarely discuss the real difficulties, both demographically and politically, of the multicultural societies of Britain and France, or what the significance might be of over half the Muslims in Britain believing that it was actually the CIA or the Israeli Mossad which were responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York City.

What can explain this failure by self-proclaimed high-minded people to respond not only to the physical violence against a tiny democratic ally, but also to the attacks on free speech, or the attempts to prevent criticism of some activity supposedly based on religious principles, such as Christians continually being burned alive in their churches in Nigeria by the fundamentalist goup, Boko Haram [literally: "Western Education Is Forbidden"], or the the possible judicial murder by Iran of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani for refusing to recant his conversion to Christianity, or Iran’s illegal, ongoing threats of genocide against a fellow member of the United Nations?

Part of the explanation, at least regarding Europeans, may be due to what Walter Laqueur, in After the Fall, called a “crisis of lack of will, inertia, tiredness, self-doubt, a lack of self-confidence.” Other people, who are perhaps seeking fame, or acceptance as politically correct, or even material rewards, or who are simply ignorant of political reality, pay no price for their appeasement of the actions and language of countries and groups that are critical of, and actively threaten, democratic values.

Israel’s Derfner Affair

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

            One of the most bizarre controversies concerning freedom of the press and freedom of speech has been afflicting Israel in recent days.  The basic question is whether there exists some sort of natural right to advocate the mass murder of Jews.

 

The affair began when Larry Derfner, a left-wing columnist for the Jerusalem Post – probably the most pluralistic and balanced newspaper in Israel, giving ample room for opining by writers right, left and center – justified the killing of Israelis by Palestinian terrorists.

Derfner’s comments were actually published on a blog not connected with the newspaper, and it was his response to the mass murder perpetrated by Palestinians and some Egyptian collaborators near Eilat a few weeks back.
 
Derfner’s posting began: “I think a lot of people who realize that the occupation is wrong also realize that the Palestinians have the right to resist it – to use violence against Israelis, even to kill Israelis, especially when Israel is showing zero willingness to end the occupation . But people don’t want to say this, especially right after a terror attack like this last one that killed eight Israelis near Eilat . I think it’s time to overcome this reticence because this unwillingness to say outright that Palestinians have the right to fight the occupation, especially now, inadvertently helps keep the occupation going.
 
He went on: “But if, on the other hand, we were to say very forthrightly what many of us believe and the rest of us suspect – that the Palestinians, like every nation living under hostile rule, have the right to fight back, that their terrorism, especially in the face of a rejectionist Israeli government, is justified  - what effect would that have? A powerful one, I think, because the truth is powerful.  If those who oppose the occupation acknowledged publicly that it justifies Palestinian terrorism, then those who support the occupation would have to explain why it doesn’t.”
 
Of course Derfner failed to volunteer himself and his own family to be murdered by Palestinian terrorists resisting Israeli occupation.
 
Derfner’s comments triggered a firestorm. Hundreds of Jerusalem Post readers cancelled their subscriptions. Within days the editor of the Post announced the paper would no longer employ or publish Derfner.
 
Derfner issued a “clarification” and a sort of apology, but he remained fired. He then took to the pages of the Forward to try to spin his advocacy of murder into something less offensive.
 
While Derfner was being denounced for his advocacy of murder, leftists in Israel and around the world were defending him. Leftist blogs denounced the Post and its editor for engaging in the suppression freedom of speech, using words like “fascists” and “McCarthyists.”
 
Firing Derfner had nothing to do with freedom of speech. No one is stopping Derfner from standing on the street corners of Zion and advocating the murder of Jews. Actually, open advocacy of murder is against the law in Israel and is decidedly not regarded as protected speech, but that law is never applied against Israeli leftists.
 
Nevertheless, the Left is outraged that the Jerusalem Post “suppressed diversity of opinion and pluralism” by sacking Derfner. This is amusing coming from leftists, who are at the forefront of the campaign against freedom of speech and pluralism of ideas. For the radical left there is one single correct set of opinions – and democracy means only people holding those opinions should be entitled to express them in the media.
 
The most interesting defense of Derfner appeared in a blog entry published in the Huffington Post. It was written by Bradley Burston, a senior editor at Haaretz, Israel’s leftist daily newspaper.
 
            In his posting, Burston complained that pluralism and diversity of opinion at the Jerusalem Post were jeopardized by the canning of Derfner.
 
Burston happens to be employed by what is probably the most non-pluralistic newspaper in the Western world. The levels of pluralism and diversity at Haaretzare similar to those found in Pravda during the Brezhnev era.
 
Haaretz is a monolithic engine of propaganda in which virtually no non-leftist opinion is permitted. Its editorial pages are uniformly far left and anti-Zionist. Once a week a token right-winger is allowed to publish an op-ed – obviously so that editors like Burston can roll their eyes whenever anyone says Haaretz has no pluralism or diversity.
 
The propagandizing at Haaretz fills the paper and is not restricted to the editorial page. News stories are distorted to give them leftist ideological themes, twists and messages. Book reviews are invariably leftist and ideological.
 
So here we have the spectacle of an editor for a newspaper that suppresses diversity of opinion – and that imposes its political bias even on the most minor news stories – whining about the Jerusalem Post’s alleged lack pluralism and diversity.
 
Burston writes that the “management of the Jerusalem Post has caved in to what amounts to a political boycott.” No it hasn’t. It simply maintained fundamental standards of decency. Unlike Haaretz.
 
Burston is suddenly all in favor of pluralism and diversity. But never, Stalin forbid, at his own newspaper.
 
Leftists like Burston are  proclaiming Derfner some sort of free-speech martyr. Because freedom of speech for leftists means the right to agree with the left but never the right to denounce it, disagree with it, or mock it.
 
 

Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com.  He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Israel’s Fickle Standards Of Free Speech

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The eminent law professor Robert Bork once described the Israeli Supreme Court as the worst in the Western world. Israel, Bork wrote, “has set a standard for judicial imperialism that can probably never be surpassed, and, one devoutly hopes, will never be equaled elsewhere.”
 
Bork finds “less and less reason for the Israeli people to bother electing a legislature and executive; the attorney general, with the backing of the Supreme Court, can decide almost everything for them.”
 
Making matters worse, judges in Israel, including Supreme Court judges, are chosen by a non-elected panel dominated by other judges, and there are no possibilities for impeachment of judges by the parliament or by ballot initiative.
 
Israel’s Supreme Court has been dominated by the anti-democratic doctrine of “judicial activism” for a generation. In many cases its rulings are attempts to implement the leftist ideology of judges. The unelected justices of the Supreme Court claim the right, invented by them out of thin air, to overturn laws passed by the elected representatives of the people.
 
Not surprisingly, the Israeli Supreme Court is militantly aggressive in defending the liberties of Israeli Arabs and far leftists, but seems to have little interest in defending civil liberties, including freedom of speech, for others.
 
The court recently refused to review the decision of the Nazareth Appeals court in the long-running Plaut-Gordon lawsuit, in effect leaving the earlier decision by the Nazareth court in place. It took the Supreme Court nearly two years to decide not to review the earlier appeals court decision. Its refusal in essence formally establishes infringements on freedom of expression in Israel.
 
The Neve Gordon SLAPP suit filed against me, which began a decade ago, should have been summarily dismissed in the very first round of litigation.
 
Gordon is a far left academic who routinely calls for Israel to be eliminated and who insists Israel is a fascist, Nazi-like apartheid regime. He sued me because I’d accused him of being a “groupie” of the Israel-hating American academic Norman Finkelstein. I also denounced Gordon for serving as a human shield for wanted terrorist murderers and interfering with Israeli anti-terror operations.
 
His suit was assigned to an Arab judge whose husband was the right-hand party man of Azmi Bishara, the accused Israeli Arab spy now in hiding. She found for Gordon. In essence her verdict amounted to the rule that treason in Israel is protected speech but criticism of treason is libelous.
 
That lower court ruling was later reversed in the Nazareth Appeals Court, but Gordon was allowed to retain 10 percent of the damages the first judge had granted him. That 10 percent was based entirely on the use of the term “Judenrat-wannabe” in reference to Gordon’s activities.
 
I then filed a Supreme Court appeal. After dragging its feet, the Supreme Court panel of three judges (two Jewish and one Arab) decided there was insufficient constitutional or public interest in reviewing the Nazareth appeals ruling, in effect allowing it to stand. And, in effect, also preserving the suppression of freedom of speech contained in that verdict.
 
The Israeli Supreme Court once again refused to defend the “semi-constitutional” defenses of freedom of speech that are supposed to exist in Israel. In their ruling, the judges appeared not to have read my appeal, and so failed to note that the description of Gordon as a “judenrat-wannabe” that was deemed “libelous” was in fact a reference to Gordon’s serving as a human shield for wanted murderers and his illegal interference with Israeli military operations against terrorists.
 
For all intents and purposes, the Israeli Supreme Court re-established Israel’s status as a mere semi-democracy, one in which freedom of speech does not really exist, at least not for non-leftists.
 
The Supreme Court’s ruling established the principle that everyone in Israel may use “Holocaust-era imagery” in discourse, except for critics of the left. The Nazareth appeals court had ruled that my use of the term “judenrat” was not protected speech. Of course, routine denunciations by Israeli leftists and Arabs against Israel as a Nazi or fascist entity are protected speech.
 
The Supreme Court even ignored its own earlier ruling (Freij vs. Kol Hazman) that came out after the Nazareth Appeals ruling in Gordon-Plaut, which stated that use of Holocaust-era imagery in discourse actually is permitted in Israel, especially in political discourse.
 
            The opposition to democracy and freedom of speech in the Israeli legal community transcends court justices. In recent months we have seen repeated rounds of petitioning in favor of leftist causes signed by numerous professors and other faculty members in Israeli law schools. At the same time, it is all but impossible to find examples of law professors speaking out in favor of freedom of speech for non-leftists.
 
In short, Israeli law schools have become home to masses of law professors and other academics who are either fundamentally anti-democratic or too intimidated and cowardly to take a public stand in favor of freedom of speech.
 

Meanwhile, Israeli judges and leftists are campaigning against a Knesset proposal to require parliamentary approval of judicial appointments. They consider the idea preposterous. I mean, what does the Knesset think this is here, the United States?

 

 

Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa.His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.comHe can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Israeli Left’s Mind-Numbing Hypocrisy On Freedom Of Speech

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

The assault on freedom of speech in Israel by the leftist establishment continues, manifested in a series of arrests of rabbis merely for expressing opinions.
 
Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef (the son of Rav Ovadia Yosef) were both arrested for the “crime” of approving a book. In response, Rabbi Lior’s followers rioted violently. I strongly oppose such behavior, but I know it was triggered by the anti-democratic zeal of the prosecution in its attempts to suppress freedom of speech.
 
This is all about a 230-page esoteric book written by Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur concerning the halachic rules under which non-Jewish non-combatants may be killed during wartime. (The question of collateral harm to civilians arises in halacha as it does in other real-world ethical debates.)
 
The publication of the book was foolish and has served to needlessly antagonize non-Jews. Predictably, it is being featured on anti-Semitic websites as “proof” that Jews connive to murder gentiles (al-Jazeera ran a piece claiming rabbis approve the murder of gentile babies).
 
As one prominent Orthodox Israeli rabbi has said regarding the book, some rabbis should be prohibited from taking pen to hand. Just because something should theoretically be protected speech doesn’t mean it’s smart to say it or write it.
 
(Of course, the position of Israel’s leftist elite is that the book is not protected speech, and that even praising the book or recommending that others read it is illegal “incitement” and “racism.”)
 
Having said that, and given that the book was published, potential provocation notwithstanding, the Israeli judicial establishment has been using it as an excuse to suppress freedom of speech. The authors of the tract themselves have not yet been indicted but are expected to be.
 
Meanwhile, the leftist SWAT teams in the Ministry of Justice are going after any rabbi with anything positive to say about the book.
 
The persecution of rabbis for expressing an opinion on someone else’s book stands in sharp and dramatic contrast to the treatment of Sheikh Salah. Head of the Islamofascist movement in Israel, the sheikh regularly and openly calls for the annihilation of Israel.
 
Two years back, he spoke at the University of Haifa and called for Arab students to become suicide bombers. He is so openly genocidal that he was just arrested in Britain when he slipped through passport control and managed to enter the country. But with the exception of one incident when he punched a policeman, he has never been arrested or indicted in Israel.
 
Persecuting rabbis who exercise their freedom of speech about a controversial book is not all the anti-democratic left is up to. According to Haaretz, authorities are preparing to prosecute rabbis who call on Jews not to sell or lease property in Jewish neighborhoods to Arabs. This is “racist,” cry the leftists.
 
But it is evidently not racist for leftists and Arabs to call for the prohibition of sales and renting of property to Jews in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of East Jerusalem. There is no thought of prosecuting or indicting anyone for that.
 
The hypocrisy of the left when it comes to freedom of speech is mind numbing. At my own university (Haifa) the tenured left is obsessed these days with justifying and celebrating the decision by the law school to prohibit the singing of the Israeli national anthem lest it offend the delicate sensitivities of Arab students, some of whom regularly hold rallies with Hamas banners and who distribute photos of bin Laden.
 
Scores of tenured leftists are posting support for the decision on an internal university chat list. Some of those express the opinion that the anthem is a racist anti-Arab song and should be banned altogether. At least one Jewish faculty member called for the singing of the PLO anthem “Baladi Baladi” at the university. I have no doubt most of these people would also like to ban all Israeli flags from campus.
 
Now as it turns out, most of the tenured leftists so upset by the idea of Arab students having to be present when the Israeli national anthem is sung also just sent a petition to the university rector and president demanding that Sheikh Salah again be allowed to speak at the university. After that last incident on campus, when the genocidal sheikh called for suicide bombers, the university decided he would not be allowed to speak on campus again. (Tel Aviv University came forward to fill the void and hosted Salah a few weeks back.)
 
So here we have scores of tenured university faculty members insisting, in the name of freedom of speech and academic freedom, that the genocidal sheikh be allowed to speak on campus and call for mass murder of Jews. Many of those signing were faculty members of the law school.
 
So guess how many of those same people, including the law school’s tenured left, have expressed protest and indignation over the arrests of Rabbi Lior and Rabbi Yosef? How many objected to that infringement of freedom of speech?
 

That’s right, not a single one.

 

 

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Israeli Left’s Checklist For Academic Freedom

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

With so much recent debate in Israel about academic freedom, I thought it would be constructive to describe the current politically correct ideas about academic freedom held and proliferated by the academic left:
 
● There is only one correct point of view, that of the radical left. It is the main function of universities to operate as centers for the proliferation of radical leftist ideology and for indoctrination into progressive thought.
 
            ●* There is no reason for any courses to provide students with any point of view other than the correct one. Students should express correct ideas if they expect to pass the course.
 
● Faculty members who express opinions that leftist colleagues and students might find offensive must be prohibited and suppressed. Ditto for those who dare to criticize organizations like the New Israel fund; that criticism makes some people feel offended and sad.
 
● While faculty members who express opinions leftist students might find offensive should be fired or at least disciplined, there is nothing wrong with radical anti-Israel faculty members using their classrooms to lecture students on why IDF soldiers resemble Nazis, why terrorist attacks against Israel are morally just, why Israel should be destroyed, why Jews are morally inferior.
 
● Academic freedom means anti-Israel radical faculty members have the right to denounce and demonize Israel and call it foul names, but no one has the right to criticize radical anti-Israel faculty members or accuse them of disloyalty.
 
● Criticism of anti-Israel faculty members is McCarthyism and must be suppressed at all costs, at all times. It is also incitement.
 
● There are those who claim real commitment to freedom of speech is exhibited by defending the free-expression rights of those with whom one disagrees. This is nonsense. Politically-correct defenders of academic freedom should not be expected to criticize the anti-democratic suppression of the freedom of speech of people on the right.
 
● Because there is only one correct view, and it is a radical leftist anti-Israel view, those adhering to this view must be hired and promoted even if they have no academic publication records at all or only very thin ones. This is how one shows solidarity in the struggle for peace.
 
● Leftist anti-Israel faculty members are entitled to unlimited freedom of speech, but donors to Israeli universities, elected politicians, students, and non-leftist faculty members are not. They have no cause to interfere in university matters that do not concern them.
 
● Israeli taxpayers are not entitled to any accountability or say in Israeli universities. It is their job to pony up the funds that keep anti-Israel faculty members in their cushy jobs, where the latter can, without interference, advocate attacks against, harm to, and boycotts of those very same taxpaying citizens. Taxpayers who express reluctance to finance academic sedition are anti-democratic, unhygienic troglodytes.
 
● Students who dare disagree with the correct ideas of radical anti-Israel faculty members should have their grades lowered.
 
● Students who go to prison because they refuse to serve in the IDF deserve university backing and support, but those who go to reserves do not – and should be barred from entering classrooms in uniform.
 
● Calling for world boycotts of Israel is academic freedom. Denouncing such callers as traitors is McCarthyism.
 
● Academic diversity means having Ashkenazim, Mizrachim, women and Arabs in the same department all expressing the same leftist anti-Israel ideas. It never means including non-leftists in an academic department to achieve diversity by expressing dissident non-leftist ideas.
 
            ● There is no reason for students to be exposed to any ideas other than those of the radical anti-Israel left, including in course readings and lectures. There is no reason for leftist faculty members to balance their own biases in class by mentioning the views of those who disagree with them.
 
● Faculty chat lists should be censored so that leftists may freely insult non-leftists, but no one should be allowed to answer them in kind.
 
● Whenever a radical leftist is presented with documentation of facts that contradict leftist theology, the leftist must insist that no facts have been presented at all.
 
● No facts contradicting leftist theology are admissible. They must be dismissed as being “right-wing.”
 
● The only permissible set of policies that may be advocated for Israel is that of accommodation to the just demands of the Arabs. If peace has not been achieved, it is because Israel has not been accommodating enough.
 
● Churning out anti-Israel hate propaganda must always be counted as scholastic achievement and research.
 
● Watchdog groups like Isracampus or NGO Monitor should be suppressed for their questioning of leftist orthodoxy.
 

● Critical thinking must never involve criticism of the radical left.

 

 

            Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Why The Left Hates Im Tirtzu

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

           Israel’s Im Tirtzu student organization bills itself as the “Second Zionist Revolution.” Until a few weeks ago, that sounded like youthful bravado. But the group has raised eyebrows – and hackles – with its unprecedented grand slam in the Israeli media against the New Israel Fund.
 
           Led by Hebrew University graduate student Ronen Shoval, Im Tirtzu has emerged as the leading campus organization among Israeli students. It is solidly Zionist and nationalist, and has both secular and religious members.
 
Im Tirtzu had been making headlines even before the controversy surrounding NIF. It earlier collected complaints from students at several schools, especially Tel Aviv University, concerning harassments of Zionist students by anti-Israel faculty radicals. Many students claim they are penalized by leftist faculty members if they dare challenge the classroom biases imposed on them.
 
In response to Im Tirtzu’s complaints, the administration of Tel Aviv University launched an investigation into those abuses and the matter was also raised for debate in the Knesset.
 
The New Israel Fund is a left-of-center outfit funded in part by American Jews but mainly by the Ford Foundation and some groups in the EU. Critics of NIF sometimes claim the “New Israel” it seeks to fund is really Palestine.
 
Some of what NIF funds is harmless, or even beneficial, like shelters for battered women. But the bulk of its funding goes to leftist political activism inside Israel.
 
The current media frenzy began when Im Tirtzu released a 120-page report on the activities supported by the New Israel Fund. As Im Tirtzu’s Shoval told me: “Supposedly in the name of freedom of speech, the New Israel Fund has financed a massive campaign of defamation against Israel and its soldiers, but then has demanded that Im Tirtzu be silenced. Inventing imaginary war crimes by Israel is NIF’s idea of progressive democracy, but criticism of NIF by students is incitement and must be suppressed.”
 
The new controversy was triggered by the UN’s Goldstone report, which denounced Israel for war crimes and human rights abuses supposedly committed by Israeli soldiers during Operation Cast Lead while glossing over the thousands of rocket attacks that had made military action necessary in the first place.
 
The fairy tales of Israeli “human rights abuses” and “war crimes” by Goldstone were taken not from the usual anti-Israel propaganda websites and media outlets but were provided to the Goldstone “investigators” by numerous radical Israeli propaganda groups.
 
The funding of these extremist groups has long been the focus of the NGO-Monitor watchdog group, headed by Bar-Ilan University professor Gerald Steinberg. His website exposes non-governmental organizations that pretend to be human-rights or peace organizations but are in fact nothing more than Bash-Israel hate groups. They invariably get the bulk of their funding from outside Israel, often from sources hostile to Israel.
 
            The Im Tirtzu students gathered data from NGO-Monitor and other sources and issued their devastating report (which includes 60 pages of tables). According to it, 92 percent of the anti-Israel smears in the Goldstone report came directly from organizations financed by the New Israel Fund.
 
Within days, the Israeli daily Maariv carried the story of the Im Tirtzu report on its front page, with several news and opinion pieces congratulating the students for their work and denouncing the New Israel Fund.
 
             The Maariv story was followed up by the rest of the Israeli mainstream media. Only Haaretz, the daily described by some wags as the Palestinian newspaper published in Hebrew, denounced the students as “inciters” and “right-wing extremists” and launched a shameless campaign of vilification and defamation against them.
 
The Knesset announced it would hold hearings into Im Tirtzu’s findings. Within days, public statements endorsing the student report and denouncing the New Israel Fund were being published, notably one by a group of Israeli army generals.
 
            Meanwhile, Im Tirtzu students escalated their criticism of the current president of the New Israel Fund, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan. They mischievously issued a poster/advertisement with a cartoon showing Chazan with a rhino horn coming out of her forehead.
 
            It was all a play on words: “new fund” in Hebrew is exactly the same expression as “new horn.” So the poster shows Chazan wearing her “new fund” as a rhino horn on her forehead. The cartoon also played on the Israeli slang expression l’hitkarnef, literally “to become a rhinoceros,” a popular term referring to “selling out.”
 
          Chazan and her leftist legions were not amused. She and NIF decided to bully the students by threatening to sue. They also instituted a lawsuit against the Jerusalem Post for running the Im Tirtzu ad. The Jerusalem Post responded by sacking Chazan, who had been a Post columnist. A “progressive” group of Jews in Australia, hearing about Chazan’s behavior, decided to withdraw an offer to host her for a speaking tour.
 
           Leftist groups, led by the anti-Israel Human Rights Watch, repeated their familiar take on democracy: Israelis denouncing and demonizing Israel build peace and progress, but people denouncing leftists threaten democracy itself.
 
           A few dozen far-left academics, joined by some others, placed large ads in newspapers denouncing Im Tirtzu and endorsing the agenda of the New Israel Fund. Leftist professors filled the chat lists with messages insisting Im Tirtzu was a clear and present danger to democracy and freedom of speech in Israel.
 
           Several tenured leftists insisted that Im Tirtzu’s exercise of freedom of speech would lead directly to political murder, repeating the old calumny about how right-wingers exercising their freedom of speech caused the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Others, led by Haaretz writers, argued that the rhino horn in the Chazan cartoon was anti-Semitic.
 

          That so many of Israel’s leftists have stooped to such nonsense shows only one thing: They are in a high state of panic over the appearance of possibly the most important authentically Zionist grassroots movement in Israel in decades.

 

 

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-the-left-hates-im-tirtzu/2010/02/17/

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