A pre-publication breakdown of Im Tirzu’s latest ‘report’

Im Tirtzu is about to publish a new ‘report.’ It’s already on the Internet, but they haven’t yet started publicizing it, so get ready to read about it here for the first time.

Let’s start with the only new and refreshing aspect of this report. This is the first time that anyone has issued a report in the format of a children’s book. I want to congratulate Im Tirtzu for this stylistic breakthrough, and to congratulate them on their new graphic artist. However, other than this stylistic innovation, the report is regrettably a pack of lies and mostly a recycling of old material. It contains no new claims, nothing that hasn’t already been said in the last three years. Could it be that Im Tirtzu is suffering from arteriosclerosis? Let’s hope so.

OK, now let’s do a break-down.

On page two of the report, painted in colours that are highly suitable for Im Tirtzu – red and black – it says that, “this tract gives details of the activities by senior people and organizations supported by the [New Israel] Fund against the policies of Israel and against the IDF.” As we will see shortly, as is customary with Im Tirtzu, there are no claims regarding the “activities” of senior people in the New Israel Fund (NIF) itself. Moreover, since it is clearly apparent that the authors of the report are graduates of Commissar Gideon Sa’ar’s civics class, they need to be reminded of a fact that seems to have eluded them: in a free country, citizens may act against the policies of the government and the army. For countries where citizens are forbidden to act against the policies of the army and its political arm, we have other, less sympathetic, names. Protesting against the government and against its military wing (and the IDF, as Im Tirtzu has forgotten, is not some fourth estate, some separate entity, but is solely a branch of the government which has been given a monopoly over the use of force) is a basic right in a free society. When Im Tirtzu comes out against the exercise of this right, it is actually making the claim that Israel is a military dictatorship (more on this later).

It would be appropriate to mention at this point that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very conversant as to how to operate against government policy. When the second Rabin government was working in the U.S. on the stationing of an American force on the Golan Heights, as part of a possible peace plan with Syria, Netanyahu rushed to Capitol Hill in order to disrupt a plan by the elected government. Netanyahu also made egregious use of his parliamentary immunity to expose the “Shtauber Document” – the Israeli plan setting out the concessions that Israel was prepared to make. An ordinary citizen who played a trick like that would have been made to disappear and prosecuted for high treason after months in a court proceeding held in camera. The document was a “wet dream” for Syrian intelligence. And it’s precisely for this purpose that members of the Knesset have immunity: so that they can expose confidential information that embarrasses their government, if it promotes policies to which their constituents are opposed. It is clear that there are Israeli government policies (and IDF policies – Shtauber was a brigadier general who prepared the document for the chief of staff) that it is legitimate to oppose.

Now let’s move on to the document itself. On page six, the first page in the section, “IDF’s indictment on war crimes,” we have a slide of Naomi Hazan, the then president of the NIF, who, it transpired, was the signatory of a petition against the IDF’s ongoing killing in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, a petition which said, “we seek to bring an immediate halt to the assault by the Israeli army in Gaza, which has already caused hundreds of deaths. This carnage can only inflame the strife.” This may be a sentiment with which Im Tirtzu disagrees, but I don’t understand where this gives us a charge of war crimes. And by the way, Im Tirtzu reignites the flames when it translates the original word “slaughter” in the petition to “carnage,” when a more acceptable translation would have been “killing” or  “destruction”; but when considering the other distortions in the report, this is small-time.

Immediately thereafter, on page seven, Im Tirtzu repeats the calumny against “Yesh Din” (full disclosure – I write a paid blog for them), writing that Yesh Din – ostensibly – “is planning to attribute the term ‘war crimes’ to IDF’s activity.” I have already referred to this here extensively. Let me briefly point out three things: first of all, you need to be living in a fantasy world to think that the IDF is not committing war crimes – war crimes are an outcome of every war. Second, the Yesh Din report talks about the absence of legislation for war crimes in the IDF, and not “ascribing war crimes to IDF’s activities”; and thirdly, our recommendations were penned almost word for word by the Turkel Commission, for which we are reluctantly bound to thank Ben-Dror Yemini.

Further down, on page eight, Im Tirtzu introduces its sources, one of which is unexpected. It transpires that Omar Barghouti, one of the leaders of the BDS movement, accuses Israel of war crimes. How is this related to the New Israel Fund? It isn’t. They call it guilt by association.

And more. On page ten, there is a quote from Adv. Michael Sfard (full disclosure: he is the legal advisor to Yesh Din and a friend). The quote says: “war crimes are international crimes …. international law is binding on all countries in the world to investigate and to prosecute them if there is enough evidence …. if it isn’t Israel, then England, if not the Supreme Court then the House of Lords.” According to Im Tirtzu, “this can be understood as bringing charges against IDF officers overseas.”

First of all, it isn’t clear what’s wrong with that. I guess that even Im Tirtzu would admit that if a crime has been committed, then the criminal should get his just desert. But moreover, this is a distortion of what Sfard said. Anyone who bothers to look at the original text will be surprised to discover that the subtitle to the article is “a proper investigation of war crimes in Israel could save claims overseas,” and the article concludes with the following words: “for as long as the Military Advocate General and judges in Israel do not understand that the proper moral course to take and the right thing to do from a patriotic perspective is to conduct a proper investigation of the events which could give rise to the suspicion that war crimes have been committed, and to fully implement the law against those responsible, then IDF officers will be more and more compelled to spend their leave at the Zavitan River and in Eilat.” Surely no one could seriously argue with this section!? But Im Tirtzu does want to argue and they want to start a chorus of “he said war crime!”

Let’s continue. On page 11 Yishai Menuhin says very similar things: “from here we call on the soldiers of the IDF – do not take part in war crimes! and anyone who does take part will answer for it in court. If not in Israel then overseas.” Again, what’s the problem? Is it that Im Tirtzu wants to make the opposite call to IDF soldiers – “do take part in war crimes?”

On page 12 makes note of the fact that the director-general of Adalah, Hassan Jabareen, sent an opinion to a Spanish court in which he submitted a claim against a series of senior members of the IDF. And …..? What does that tell us? It’s not clear. Im Tirtzu refers to another of its reports that quotes the opinion, but again it’s not clear what’s wrong with the opinion apart from the fact that it was submitted to a court outside Israel. It seems that this is some sort of crime. But it later transpires that approaching an Israeli court is also a sort of crime. And again, on page 12, we see that senior BDS activists consider that Israel is committing war crimes. How is this connected to the New Israel Fund? There is no connection.

On page 14, in the section called “The call for a boycott and international sanctions,” Im Tirtzu quotes veteran left-wing activist Gideon Spiro as saying, “and the European community will impose on Israel an end to the apartheid regime, without war. A strict boycott will be enough.” As usual, Im Tirtzu leaves out the inconvenient parts: if someone reads Spiro in the original, they will discover that he wrote “I hope that the Golan will be returned to Syria without a war, and that the occupation will be ended without a war.” Then comes the text which Im Tirtzu quoted. In short, Spiro wants a non-violent end to a segregated regime. What’s wrong with that?

Im Tirtzu doesn’t bother to explain. It is clear, from their point of view, that the very wish to impose an embargo on Israel or on the settlements is, as far as they are concerned, a crime. What’s funny here is the attribution: Spiro is described as “a past member of the auditing committee of “Physicians for Human Rights.” Really?! People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!

Erez Tadmor is one of the founders of Im Tirtzu. Tadmor is a felon who was convicted of stealing weapons from the IDF – allegedly to protect his settlement in the event of attack. If that’s the case, it isn’t clear why he also stole explosive materials. According to Im Tirtzu’s logic with regard to Spiro, all of the organization’s members are felons and supporters of crime because their founder is a convicted felon.

On the next page, Im Tirtzu returns to the charge against Israel Social TV. I have dealt with this here.

On page 16 “Breaking the Silence” is charged with “reinforcing the basis for the campaigns for boycott, withdrawal of investments and sanctions” through “repeated accusations of  ‘war crimes’ and ‘violations of international law’” – charges which Im Tirtzu has never tried to deny, because it cannot do so. This is probably the strangest charge in the report. Breaking the Silence isn’t in favor of boycotting Israel, but actually noting the fact that Israel is committing war crimes is already supporting a boycott. Unbelievable!

The next section deals with “legal activity against the State of Israel.” The first example of such activity, on page 18, was an appeal for habeas corpus against the government, to oblige it to say where and for what it was holding the Gaza flotilla detainees.

This is the point where your jaw drops. According to Im Tirtzu, the fact that someone is trying to stop the government of Israel from concealing detainees, and to ensure that these detainees get legal representation, is “a legal action against the Israeli government,” i.e. the “proper” way to think of the State of Israel is that of a military dictatorship which vanishes detainees, and the very act of trying to extend basic rights to these people is a “legal action against the State.”

Further down, on page 19, another “legal action against the State of Israel” is introduced: an appeal against the destruction of a terrorist’s house, i.e. a demand to punish only the perpetrator of a crime and not his family, is said to be an action against the State of Israel, which puts Im Tirtzu in the position of claiming that collective punishment measures be taken as the normative route and any deviation from that norm is itself a crime.

On page 20 Im Tirtzu introduces the fact that several human rights organizations have appealed against the ban on Shawan Jabarin leaving the West Bank, based on confidential evidence against him which has never been reviewed by legal processes, as another “legal action” against the Israeli military dictatorship – which is reserving its right to deny Jabarin a basic human right without trial and without him being able to defend himself against charges being brought against him by the secret police.

On the same page, the report reaches a new low: Im Tirtzu scribbles something about the Russell Tribunal and after that makes it clear that “the Russell Tribunal for Palestine is not connected to the New [Israel] Fund.” So what’s the connection? Nothing. Perhaps some mud will stick!

In the section “Creating international pressure on Israel,” Im Tirtzu claims (page 22) that daily Maariv published an item stating that “more than 90 percent of the derogatory information given to the Goldstone Committee …… originated from 16 organizations that are supported by the New Israel Fund.” Apart from the fact that Im Tirtzu has never rebutted this information, in this instance it is carrying out an exercise in fraud: the item published in Maariv was its report, by its “useful idiot” Ben Caspit (recently denounced by Ronen Shuval as an anti-Zionist). The “idiot” did what was required of him, now he can go. I hope Caspit is satisfied.

In the section on “Cancelling the Jewish State’s right to exist,” Im Tirtzu tells the customary lie regarding the statement by Hedva Radonavitz. On the next page, 27, Im Tirtzu quotes Avraham Burg: “the next political formula replacing two states for two peoples will be a civil formula. Each person between the Jordan and the sea will have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that between the Jordan and the sea there will be one country only – not ours and not theirs, but rather one that is shared.” Just a minute. Does Im Tirtzu disagree with Burg’s basic concept? Do they think that there are two populations between the Jordan and the sea of which one does not have the same right to equality, justice and freedom? Because if that’s the case, they are giving support to the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. And that means that they are adopting the central claim of the “de-legitimization movement” and of the BDS and I would therefore expect them to fade away in a cloud of logic. Not that they are capable of doing that.

And finally, on page 28, Im Tirtzu claims that 67 percent of those who signed the Haifa Declaration in 2007, were “[NIF] employees or senior members of its organizations.” There is insufficient proof of that and I do not think that there is any reason why we should believe it without proof. Im Tirtzu’s wording here is interesting: it writes that the Haifa Declaration “was intended to change the character of the State of Israel from Jewish to democratic.” It transpires from this that the State of Israel is not democratic and that Im Tirtzu is alarmed by the prospect of it becoming so. Anyone who recalls that until Adi Elkin pointed that out, Im Tirtzu’s original declaration of intent referred to Israel as the “Jewish State,” and that’s all, should not be surprised.

So that’s what Im Tirtzu is capable of today: an accumulation of puzzling lies that are easily refuted (this post took me two hours), none of which is less than three years old. Relentlessly regurgitating past days of glory when “useful idiots” like Ben Caspit used to raise the organization’s profile. Isn’t it a shame that the money is wasted? Wouldn’t it be possible to transfer the money to someone who could actually make some proper use of it?

The New Israel Fund for example.