Right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu sent letters to more than 100 people who donate to the leftwing New Israel Fund asking them to demand the NIF break ties with “organizations that defame us IDF soldiers... [and with] organizations which protect terrorists.”
The letters, signed by 20 combat officers in the reserves, are a continuation of Im Tirtzu’s campaign supporting legislation that would label organizations that receive funding from foreign governments as foreign agents.
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg said they are sending letters to every NIF donor they hear of, asking them to demand the NIF stop supporting certain organizations.
The letters state that those who receive them intended to donate to Israeli organizations and associations “to support Zionism and support organizations working for human rights and against anti-democratic activities... towards creating a better, saner, more democratic and more moral Israel.”
“However, the funds you donate [to the NIF] are not being used to serve the purpose for which you donated them,” the letter continues. “There is one thing we ask, and as active-duty and reserve soldiers in the IDF, we feel it is our right to ask."
“Please demand that the NIF cease and desist from supporting organizations that defame us IDF soldiers, in Israel and around the world. These include organizations such as Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Yesh Din, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and Machsom Watch. Please demand that the New Israel Fund cease and desist from supporting organizations which protect terrorists who have attacked and stabbed Israelis, even in the current wave of terror which has been plaguing Israel for over a year. These organizations, which are supported by the New Israel Fund, include: B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, Ta’ayush, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-IL), and Rabbis for Human Rights,” the letter reads.
The organizations, the reservists wrote, work to delegitimize Israel and defame its soldiers as war criminals, including by promoting lawsuits against them abroad.
“Their actions, the things they say and write against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in the foreign press, feed anti-Israel and anti-Zionist campaigns, and even terror organizations such as Hamas quote from things Breaking the Silence say during Hamas actions against the State of Israel on the international stage,” they said.
The letter recounts that last week, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon banned Breaking the Silence from IDF bases and Education Minister Naftali Bennett barred it from schools.
“The question is whether you, dear donor, knew of this activity. Does it reflect your values and do you agree that this is the use for the money which you donate to these organizations?” the reservists asked. “Dear lover of Israel – don’t let these foreign agent organizations, funded by foreign governments, tear away at Israeli democracy. Don’t let them tamper with the State of Israel.”
Peleg said the letter is “not shaming the donors, we just want them to know to whom they are giving their money, that they are not helping a Zionist organization like they think we are.”
The NIF is tricking donors by calling itself a Zionist fund, Peleg said. However, the NIF does not describe itself as Zionist on its website, rather as “dedicated to the vision of the State of Israel as the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people and as a democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities,” nor is Zionism part of its funding guidelines.
“Our fight is to defend democracy in Israel and no less,” Peleg continued. “It cannot be that foreign governments and Palestinian funds can use Israeli organizations to change [Israel] from the inside.”
The NIF responded that its “donors know very well who and what Im Tirtzu is, the organization designated as having fascist attributes by an Israel judge, and whose most recent attack on four human rights leaders lies, provokes and endangers their safety. Im Tirtzu’s credibility, given their history of incitement and their shadowy funding, is null and void in the US.
“More important,” the NIF added, “our supporters understand that in a democracy, upholding human rights and listening to unpopular voices telling the truth about their own experiences enforcing an unjust occupation is both difficult and absolutely necessary.
We are sure that our donors will continue to support the New Israel Fund, and we in turn are sure that we will always uphold human rights and democracy in Israel.
“We are sorry that IDF soldiers are being used cynically by Im Tirtzu and its allied politicians, and we urge Israelis to look past these manipulations and debate the real damage done by the occupation to Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Im Tirtzu’s letter came after a controversial video it produced, which named specific senior officials at some of the aforementioned NGOs as foreign agents because their organizations receive foreign government funding, and saying that they help Palestinian terrorists get away with their crimes.
Politicians on the Right and Left distanced themselves from Im Tirtzu’s tactics, including MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), who proposed the bill that the “foreign agents” campaign is meant to support.
Kisch’s proposal seeks to identify organizations that are funded by a “foreign political entity” and label them as moles – or “implants” in the literal translation – of the country that funds them. The legislation would prohibit government ministries or the IDF from cooperating with them in any way, unless the justice minister orders an exception.
The bill’s explanatory section says it would “grant officials and the general public the tools to deal with [the organizations] gnawing away at democracy and promoting delegitimization within the State of Israel, funded by foreign political entities.”
Im Tirtzu has long aimed harsh criticism at left-wing Israeli activists. In 2010, it accused the New Israel Fund of bearing responsibility for the UN’s Goldstone Report, which criticized Israel’s conduct of Operation Cast Lead, the 2008- 2009 war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. An advertisement Im Tirtzu published in Israeli newspapers depicted former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, NIF president at the time, with a horn, a play on the Hebrew word keren, which means both “fund” and “horn.”
The “foreign agents” campaign and the Naomi Chazan horn campaign were both the brainchildren of Moshe Klughaft, a close adviser of Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett who ran Bayit Yehudi’s last two election campaigns.
On Sunday, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid plans to hold a press conference with combat reservists who oppose Breaking the Silence.Gil Hoffman and Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.