The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement (BDS) activists in Israel has become a dangerous and serious problem, Matan Peleg, CEO of rightwing grassroots organization Im Tirtzu, recently told The Jerusalem Post.
Speaking on the backdrop of the opening of the new academic year, Peleg spoke about the challenges facing Israeli democracy and academia, as well as the group’s agenda and planned activities for the coming year.
“The heart of Im Tirtzu’s activities is fighting against BDS from within,” Peleg said.
He explained that for BDS organizations to be effective, they need to convince the world that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist, “and we will crumble from within. Inside Israel they have a simpler job: They just need to cause doubt, to cause a lack of security in Israeli society and the foundations on which it’s built – a Jewish democratic state.”
Peleg said that at the beginning of the century there was an increase in the number of foreign-funded organizations operating in Israel.
“These are organizations that are causing delegitimization from within – claiming that Israel commits war crimes in Gaza, that there is apartheid in Judea and Samaria, that the Golan is occupied,” he explained.
“These are organizations that are foreign funded, that are promoting the notion that there is something not right in every part of the State of Israel,” he added.
However, Peleg said this is not even the heart of the problem.
“This isn’t just propaganda, it also penetrates. These same organizations petition the Supreme Court daily, against IDF soldiers, for example – this is an attempt to change the policy of Israel from within, funded by foreign governments,” he said. “This is anti-democratic.”
He explained that foreign governments that don’t agree with Israel’s policies will fund Israeli NGOs to present their agenda in court and in Israeli academia. Peleg said his organization’s main goal is to “expose this connection.”
“We are against foreign governments funding NGOs – even to right-wing NGOs – we are against the entire principle,” he said. “When you look at the big picture, Im Tirtzu connects the dots and exposes the connection between all the organizations and exposes who funds them.”
Peleg added that this problem has also “infiltrated” Israeli academia.
“Some of the activists of these NGOs are professors in our universities, these NGOs fund scholarships and provide internships for students, and this is how they educate students of their own political agenda,” he said.
Im Tirtzu’s head said that when he speaks about “politicization in academia, it’s not a catchphrase – it is a real and tangible problem.”
“The involvement and penetration of political organizations into Israeli academics, many of which are funded by foreign governments, has become a very serious problem.”
He cited a number of programs at the leading universities, which he claimed are promoting political agendas in academia. This, Peleg explains, is “one of the main criticisms” of his organization.
Im Tirtzu has in the past two years grown significantly, both in the number of its activists – who include some 6,000 students spread across 15 campuses – as well as in its influence and reach.
“We have activists who are across a spectrum of political parties,” Peleg said. “They all have one thing in common: a love for a Jewish and democratic state and the understanding that the BDS within is a serious and dangerous problem.”
In the new academic year, Peleg said his organization plans to make an even greater impact – expanding its activities on campus as well as helping to promote new legislation and mobilizing the Israeli public to its cause.
“This coming year our first objective is to take out many political organizations from academic programs,” he said.
Peleg called on the Education Ministry and the Council for Higher Education to establish a committee to examine all academic programs and “remove” the political organizations operating within.
Im Tirtzu will also, for the first time, hold tours for students to visit Hebron in an effort to teach them about the historical and biblical ties to the land as well as to counter claims of IDF brutality.
“Not enough Israelis have been to Hebron. Israelis should come and see for themselves.
It is not going to be political, but rather historic tours and we want to show people the truth behind Breaking the Silence’s claims,” he said.
The organization will also expand its program for Zionist thought, an extracurricular lecture series bringing prominent Zionists to lecture on university campuses.
“Im Tirtzu has branches, activists, we go to the people and harness the Israeli public to address these issues, by protests, and writing reports – and also through the policy makers,” Peleg said.
“We provide policy makers with information,” he explained. “We want MKs to know who is standing in front of them. When you hear of a human rights organization it may seem legitimate on the surface, but in reality it is being funded by foreign governments and is working against the state.”
This year, the organization aims to work together with policy makers to counter National Service funding to foreign-funded organizations, Peleg added.
“Im Tirtzu has received massive criticism over the years, more than any other organization dealing with these issues.
Why? Because we are the most effective,” Peleg said. “We are not only satisfied with research, but we move the Israeli people to act as an authentic force, because they see the importance in the struggle for a Zionist Israel.”