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Incitement against Israel's human rights community

Extremist Israeli organisation Im Tirtzu published a video overnight targeting four employees of Israel's human rights community. Here are some comments from Israeli and Diaspora organisations:

Statement from the New Israel Fund:

We at the New Israel Fund, the largest private funder of the Israeli human rights community, are deeply concerned by the latest attacks on the organisations we support.  The verbal assaults on Breaking the Silence, an organisation of IDF combat soldiers reporting their experiences in enforcing the occupation in the territories, play on Israelis’ deepest fears and uncertainties about what is asked of their own children during their army service.  The new campaign by the extremist Im Tirtzu group, naming and inciting against four human rights leaders, is designed to further delegitimize the proper work of human rights organisations while endangering the personal safety of these leaders who are our friends and allies. Not for nothing did an Israeli judge deem Im Tirtzu to have “fascist attributes.”

What is behind the resurgent attacks? We at NIF know that our recent New York conference with Haaretz, attended by President Rubi Rivlin and congratulated by President Obama, enraged and alarmed the ultranationalist right in both Israel and the U.S. even in its planning stages. The spectacle of more than 1000 American progressives building bridges with Israel’s center-left leadership had to be attacked.

As important, the recent investigative reports by Ha’aretz and by Peace Now conclusively detailed the enormous amount of foreign and Israeli government funding, much of it opaque or surreptitious, going to Israel’s most hardline NGOs. The self-dealing and corruption, the lack of transparency and the tangled web of donors, staff, volunteer leadership and supposedly independent institutions in both Israel and abroad is all too obvious. As the settler Jewish Home party tries to hammer legislation constricting progressive NGOs through the Knesset, the new reports make a mockery of the right’s stated objective of transparency, not to mention its self-righteous disdain for foreign funding.

Finally, Israel’s hardliners are looking for scapegoats. They control Israel’s governing coalition and are still unable to provide Israelis with security or stop the deterioration of its international standing.   The EU’s decision to label settlement goods, the Obama Administration’s refusal to allow Congress to lump the settlements in with sovereign Israel for trade protection, the continued terrorist attacks -- all these contribute to an understanding by the settler right that it is beleaguered, that it is losing, and that it needs to give Israelis somebody else to blame.

In the long run Israelis will not sacrifice their Jewish and democratic homeland to extremists. At the same time, we know that these extremists will continue their desperate attacks on President Rivlin, human rights groups and NIF, as well as on the judiciary, on independent media, and on other democratic institutions. We will protect ourselves and our friends, we will continue our fight for Israeli democracy, and we will not – not one of us – be silenced.

Here is commentary from Yachad, the pro-Israel, pro-peace voice in the British Jewish community:

J Street published this post on their blog:

Political discourse is plunging to horrific new lows on our watch.

Let us be clear: J Street condemns incitement in all of its forms and over the past couple of months has repeatedly called on Palestinian leadership to refrain from incendiary statements that seek to fuel or justify violence.

Inciting and dangerous rhetoric emanating from the fringes of Israeli society, supported by some here in the United States, is posing a real and present danger not just to Jewish decency and Israeli democracy but potentially to the lives and safety of innocent people.

We’ve watched with increasing concern as these campaigns have extended to attack national figures such as Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and other mainstream politicians from the center of Israeli politics. Having just marked the 20th anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, we are all too aware that such incitement can have real consequences.

The time has come for communal and political leaders committed to democracy, freedom and a civil society to step forward, call this behavior out and do what must be done to stop it before we are forced to regret our silence.

The latest horrific example of this trend is a new video by the Israeli NGO Im Tirzu targeting by name and with photos specific leaders of Israeli human rights organizations. With imagery linking them to the recent wave of violence and labeling them traitors and foreign agents, this organization has crossed every conceivable line of decency and acceptance in the Jewish community.

There is a democratic and Jewish way to conduct the vital debate we need to have at this critical juncture for Israel, the US and the world. But the hateful way in which Im Tirzu pursues its agenda should have no place and no support from the Jewish community here or in Israel.It is time for American Jewry to make its voice heard loudly and clearly. Whether we personally agree with the work of Breaking the Silence or the other NGOs targeted or not, we hope there can be near unanimous consensus across the political spectrum that this behavior is outside the bounds of our community’s values and standards.

Israeli journalist Sarah Tuttle-Singer wrote this:

Haaretz writer Chemi Shalev:

"This video is just one symptom of a rapidly spreading and dangerous disease, a harbinger, if you will, of things to come ... For this is the ultimate purpose of Im Tirtzu and its proto-fascist allies in and out of government: to silence the opposition, to stifle dissent, to identify left wing ideologies with the nation’s enemies, to equate their criticism with a knife in the nation’s back, in the worst of time-tested, anti-democratic traditions"

Hagai El-Ad op-ed in Haaretz:

"I’m not afraid of Im Tirtzu. I’m afraid of the occupation, of indifference to injustice, sanctimoniousness and passing shock. I wish I could rely on one percent of the sympathetic attention I’m receiving now on just another ordinary day in the territories, with nobody getting killed and no headlines."

972 Magazine also has useful commentary on the video:

Here is some background on Im Tirtzu: