Report by Keshev: The Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel
An Examination of Im Tirtzu's Public Relations Attach on the New Israel Fund
Translated from the Hebrew
February 3rd, 2009
'Im Tirtzu', an organization that bills itself as a 'centrist extra parliamentary movement for the strengthening of Zionist values in Israel,' has embarked on a defamation campaign against the New Israel Fund (NIF). Based on an 'investigative report' carried out by Im Tirtzu and publicized in Israel's daily newspaper Maariv as well as other media; the NIF and the organizations it supports are accused of being behind the Goldstone report and 'causing grave damage to the national interests of the State of Israel.'
Without the NIF, Im Tirtzu claims, there would be no Goldstone report. According to the Im Tirtzu report, 92% of the Goldstone report's allegations criticizing the IDF came from 16 Israeli NGOs that receive support from the NIF. Yet even a cursory review of the Goldstone report quickly shows that Im Tirtzu ignores the other 58% of Israeli sources in the report that come from sources other than NIF supported organizations; such as government ministers, IDF generals, government institutions and the Israeli media, including Maariv.
Im Tirtzu's analysis divides the Israeli NGOs quoted in the report into three groups; those who are either in favor of the report, neutral, or against it. Im Tirtzu claims that while 42% of Israeli NGOs found in the Goldstone report are NIF affiliated, those organizations provided material for 92% of the report. Im Tirtzu's analysis however completely disregards the other 450 Israeli sources cited in the Goldstone report who are not Israeli NGOs. The Goldstone report is based upon numerous Israeli sources, many of them being government ministers and top IDF officers quoted in the Israeli media, but Im Tirtzu focuses exclusively on the Israeli NGO sector.
One of Goldstone's main accusations is that the IDF's response to rocket fire from Gaza was disproportionate. Goldstone uses numerous official Israeli sources to substantiate this claim, typically, in passage 1195 on page 254 the report quotes IDF Northern Commander Gadi Eizenkot. According to Eizenkot "What happened in Beirut's Dahieh neighborhood in 2006 will happen to every [Gaza] village from where missiles are fired. We will employ disproportionate force and we will cause immense destruction and immense damage. From our point of view, these villages are not civilian villages, rather military bases. I am not speaking about a recommendation, this is a plan that has received approval." This quotation appeared in the Israeli web portal Ynet and is reference #580 in the Goldstone report.
Goldstone, in passage 1204, also quotes Israeli Minister Eli Yishai in support of his claim that Israel's response was disproportionate. According to Yishai "it is possible to lay waste to Gaza in order that they should understand not to mess with us. This is an opportunity to destroy thousands of houses of terrorists, who will think 100 times before firing missiles." This quote is reference #588 in the Goldstone report, appearing on the Israeli web portal Walla. In reference #589 Yishai is quoted as saying that "even if they fire into the sea or empty territory we will need to hit their infrastructure, and destroy 100 homes, then it will stop."
NGOs and individuals who came out against the Goldstone report are also quoted within the report. Passage 1197 (reference 585) quotes (Reserve) Colonel Gabriel Siboni from The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University as writing "With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy's actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand a long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher."
Another central claim made by Goldstone concerns the refusal of Israel to seriously investigate its own breaches of international law. In support of this contention (Reserve) Colonel Ilan Katz, former deputy Military Advocate General is quoted in Maariv (reference #1159) as saying that IDF investigative process is insufficient.
The Keshev report says that according to the rationale employed in the Im Tirtzu report, Eizenkot, Minister Yishai, Colonel Siboni and the INSS, Maariv newspaper and Colonel Katz should all be held responsible for the publication of the Goldstone report. Using Im Tirzu's logic, these other sources, including government ministers, IDF generals, media outlets and NGOs have, "caused great harm to the State and the ability of its military to defend itself during war." Thus they should be lumped together with the NIF affiliated organizations as 'extreme left wing – anti Zionists,' for the Goldstone report is based on them as well.
Were Im Tirtzu to have related to the quotes above it would become clear that information provided by NIF supported organizations only clarified and strengthened what was already said by IDF officers and government ministers.
Furthermore, all information provided by NIF supported organizations such as B'Tselem is already in the public sphere, and was made available to the government legal advisor and to the military advocate general before publication in the Goldstone report.
The glowing report by Ben Caspit in Maariv about the Im Tirtzu campaign against the NIF does not even try to probe beneath the surface about Im Tirtzu and the people and money behind it. Ronen Shoval, Im Tirtzu's chairperson, is described as a father of two who works in hi-tech, is secular, and imbued with motivation with a promising political career in front of him. No mention is made that Shoval was the founder of the extreme right organization 'orange cell' that was active in Hebrew University; that he organized hunger strikes against the Gaza disengagement, and that he helped establish an illegal outpost in the territories. Similarly, no mention is made of the fact that Erez Tidmor, spokesman for Im Tirtzu, currently lives in the illegal outpost of 'Sde Boaz'.
The founders of Im Tirtzu previously referred to themselves as being part of the political right, but since the Second Lebanon War have reinvented themselves as being a centrist movement that aims to 'strengthen Zionist values in Israel.' The Maariv report utterly failed to report to their readers the full background of Im Tirtzu and its leaders, and instead presenting them as a neutral body with an objective report on the NIF. The Im Tirtzu campaign against the NIF as being a 'fifth column' and the personal harassment of NIF President Naomi Chazan is symptomatic of the vicious attacks waged upon those who dare criticize the state of the IDF.