The arrest last week of two men paid to hang posters for an Im Tirtzu
PR campaign against the New Israel Fund infringes on freedom of
expression, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said in a press
release on Sunday.
ACRI attorney Lila Margalit wrote Israel
Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen to voice the group’s complaint, and to
ask him to ensure that arrests like Thursday’s did not take place again.
is funded in part by the New Israel Fund (NIF). According to its Web
site, ACRI “deals with the entire spectrum of human rights and civil
liberties issues in Israel and the Occupied Territories.”
group Im Tirtzu (If you will it) – The Second Zionist Revolution,
announced on Sunday that it was behind the posters in Tel Aviv and
Jerusalem of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former prime minister Ehud
Olmert with the word “wanted” written across the bottom.
to Im Tirtzu, the posters and a report being released this week titled
“The New Israel Fund and Lawsuits Against Israeli Leaders” are part of
a new campaign against the NIF called “Subversives, we’re sick of you!”
“wanted” posters reference the possibility that Olmert and Barak, as
well as other Israeli leaders, could face war-crimes charges abroad
following last winter’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza
Strip. Im Tirtzu says such charges would be based largely on testimony
and evidence collected by organizations funded by the NIF.
executive director Hagai El-Ad told The Jerusalem
Post on Sunday that Im Tirtzu’s public campaigns against the
NIF were not relevant to the ACRI’s defense of its freedom of
“We at ACRI are steadfast in our commitment to freedom of speech for everyone, regardless of their political position,” he said.
clear that the ads that Im Tirtzu put out are part of a legitimate
expression of freedom of speech and the police had no right to arrest
them,” El-Ad said. “We think this is another alarming incident in which
the police have shown a basic misunderstanding of the proper defense of
the freedom of speech.”
El-Ad referred to ACRI as “the flagship
organization of the NIF, with a deep and lasting cooperation with them
for many years in the past and for many years to come as well.
values of ACRI and the New Israel Fund deal with democracy, which
include freedom of speech for everyone, including those who criticize
the work of the NIF,” El-Ad added.
Im Tirtzu spokesman Erez
Tadmor said it was commendable of ACRI to support his group’s freedom
of expression with regard to the new campaign, which is meant “to show
again to the public how organizations supported by the NIF are working
in a serious, open way to bring war crimes charges against IDF officers
abroad. The public must know that the NIF is involved in radical
campaigns against the state and the army.”
Tadmor added, “Issues
that affect our freedom of expression affect theirs as well. I think
it’s nice on their part that they did this. I have nothing else to say.”
February, Im Tirtzu released a report that accused the NIF of being
directly responsible for the lion’s share of findings critical of
Israel contained in the UN’s Goldstone Report.
Ahead of the
release of that report, Im Tirtzu sparked outrage in Israel and abroad
by running a full-page ad in Israeli newspapers, including the
Post, that showed a caricature of New Israel Fund
head and former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan with a rhinoceros horn sporting
the letters “NIF” tied to her forehead.
The word “keren” means both fund and horn in Hebrew.
At the time, many critics said the caricature resembled past anti-Semitic portrayals of Jews and could constitute libel.
On Sunday, Im Tirtzu took out another large ad for Remembrance Day, which also appeared in the Post.
“We remember – they persecute,” the ad declared. “Fact: The New Israel Fund betrayed IDF officers to international courts!”
NIF communications director Naomi Paiss said that the “ACRI’s job is to
support freedom of speech, so they did the right thing. In regards to
the Im Tirtzu report, it’s been completely debunked.”
Paiss denied that the NIF supports placing Israeli officials on trial in foreign courts.
truth is that this issue of universal jurisdiction is so remote from
the NIF and the work we do that we never even formulated a policy on
it,” she said.
“Israel has a free press and an independent
judiciary and has a track record of independent commissions of inquiry
examining official wrongdoing. It’s our job to strengthen these issues.
We firmly oppose any attempt to try Israeli leaders in foreign courts,”