The Hebrew University will award two academic credits to students who volunteer for service in the rightwing movement Im Tirtzu, despite the fact that the university’s bylaws state that political or party-affiliated organizations will not be recognized for the purpose of awarding points for social engagement, Shira Kadari-Ovadia reported Thursday in Haaretz.
And you thought Hebrew U was a party school…
Im Tirtzu was established in 2006, with a mission to renew “Zionist discourse, Zionist thinking and Zionist ideology to ensure the future of the Jewish nation and the State of Israel.” It is dedicated to combating a “campaign of de-legitimization against the State of Israel and to [provide] responses to Post-Zionist and Anti-Zionist phenomena.”
The university told Haaretz that Im Tirtzu had no partisan or political affiliation, and that the approval for granting its student volunteers the points was given after the group declared it was offering social activities for the needy, elderly and disadvantaged in Jerusalem, including Arabs.
That’s interesting. We’ve relied on information from Im Trirtzu for years now and we find the group and its CEO, Matan Peleg, to be honest in their reporting, give or take a few extra demonstrators in this or that rally. So we were wondering about this social service aspect of the NGO.
In response to an inquiry from Haaretz, the group stated: “We urge all students who wish to continue to realize the vision of Zionism and promote its values to join the organization’s activities. This is good news for every student and student who scores.”
So we asked our friends in Im Tirtzu to describe the group’s social activities and they wrote back:
“Im Tirtzu engages in a wide array of volunteer activities, including visiting sick children in hospitals; collecting and distributing food for families in need; assisting the elderly with household chores; helping Israeli minorities who are seeking to integrate into Israeli society; working with farmers living in the Gaza periphery; and collecting food and clothing for IDF soldiers on guard duty.”
Told you they were honest.
The list of organizations in which Hebrew U students can volunteer and receive academic points includes about 140 groups.
According to Wikipedia, Im Tirtzu operates fifteen branches at universities and colleges throughout Israel and runs the largest Zionist academic extra-curricular program in the Jewish State. On the left, Im Tirtzu was accused of using fascist methods, others, such as The Jewish Press Online, see it as an important Zionist group with a refreshing, feisty agenda.
Student cell representatives from Meretz and the Labor Party criticized the school’s allowing Im Tirtzu volunteers to earn academic points, and threatened that “If the university decides not to change its decision to award the points, we will demand recognition of all the political cells across campus as social engagement that earns credit.”
The same leftwing groups sent the university a letter saying: “A mistake seems to have occurred in the university’s judgment as to the political identity of the Im Tirtzu movement. This is a distinctly rightwing political organization whose goal is generally to de-legitimize entities and people whose positions are different from their own.”
Hebrew University responded, saying: “All the organizations and associations which have been selected are approved by the laws of the State of Israel. These organizations were selected after testing that there is no connection between the organization and a political party. We have selected organizations with varying approaches – liberal and conservative, secular and religious, multicultural, etc.”
“There is no reason to prevent students from volunteering in Im Tirtzu, just as there is no reason to deny credit to other non-profit organizations.”