How did Im Tirtzu-The Second Zionist Revolution, which was created less
than four years ago as a small student organization to voice support
for IDF reservists, go from organizing campus demonstrations during the
Second Lebanon War to compiling a major report that has reverberated
into a major scandal?
One of the reasons, The Jerusalem Post learned this week, was that
the document the group released last month, now known as the “Im Tirtzu
Report,” which listed the New Israel Fund as a main financier of more
than a dozen Israeli NGOs – including: The Association for Civil Rights
in Israel; Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel;
Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights; Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of
Movement; HaMoked-Center for the Defense of the Individual; Physicians
for Human Rights-Israel; the Public Committee Against Torture in
Israel; and Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights – that provided
testimony used in the UN’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead, was
the result of efforts modeled after military intelligence operations
that trace and pinpoint money trails leading to terrorist organizations.
Im Tirtzu head Ronen Shoval, told the Post
this week that the detailed report, which has continued to make waves
both in civil society and government circles, was “modeled after the
way intelligence agencies look into the financing of terror groups.”
“We invested great efforts to understand the funding strategy and
ideology behind the NIF, and what we found out is just the tip of the
iceberg,” Shoval said, although he declined to elaborate.
While some questions regarding Im Tirtzu’s inspiration and practical
use of intelligence tactics remain unanswered, Shoval did say that he
and his group had “always known that the [NGOs that reported to the
Goldstone Commission] were getting support from the same place, but
after the Goldstone Report was released, we saw that they had crossed a
“The Goldstone Report was our smoking gun,” he said. “It showed that
these groups were not engaging in constructive criticism, but
destructive criticism, and working to harm the state.
“We also knew that the testimonies they gave were highly flawed and
often without attributions,” he said. “So it was important for us to
research these groups and expose who they’re connected to.
“All we had to do was follow the money,” he continued. “If we were to
have gone after these individual groups one at a time, it wouldn’t have
been nearly as efficient. Instead, we decided to go after the source –
the NIF – because that’s where the money trail kept leading to.”
While the report resulted in increased support for Im Tirtzu – in
addition to the massive publicity it produced, Shoval said hundreds of
people had joined Im Tirtzu in the weeks since the report’s release –
it also became a strong rallying point for the group’s opponents,
including the very NGOs the report targeted.
Dozens of newspaper articles and blog postings accusing Im Tirtzu of
“McCarthyism” and even “fascism” surfaced in the wake of the report.
Additionally, an advertisement that was published throughout the Hebrew
and Israeli English-language dailies, featuring a caricature of NIF
chairwoman and former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan with a horn strapped onto
her forehead, drew condemnations comparing it to Der Stürmer
– drawing a parallel between Im Tirtzu’s efforts and the Nazi weekly used to dehumanize Jews between 1923 and 1945.
Shoval was unapologetic regarding the ad, dismissing the criticisms as “nonsense.”
“Was the ad successful?” Shoval asked. “I know it was, and therefore it
didn’t go too far. Sometimes you have to put the truth right in
“It’s interesting that in the name of free speech, [critics of the ad
and report] tried to shut us up,” Shoval continued. “But as far as the
ad campaign was concerned, we had to figure out how to come out against
a group that no one even knew existed. No one knew who the NIF was, but
everyone knows Chazan.
“I don’t have anything personal against her,” Shoval said. “But I’d be
happy if her group stopped financing these organizations.”
Shoval also rejected the notion that Im Tirtzu had received government support for the report’s creation.
“A lot of groups, including government bodies, support it,” he said of
Im Tirtzu’s report. “But it’s not as if we were receiving instructions
from above to carry this thing out. Government officials have responded
with interest to our findings, simply because they agree that these
groups and their actions present a strategic threat.
“For us, we look at this information as an ethical issue, not a legal
one,” he added, stressing that he had received thousands of e-mails
thanking him for the report.
“People have written me saying things like, ‘Finally, you said what
we’ve all wanted to say for so long,’ and, ‘It’s about time someone did
this’. I think people have just had enough of what these groups are
And what it is that these NGOs are doing, Shoval clarified, is
undermining the state, and disseminating anti-Zionist tropes into
“Basically, anti-Israel groups, including many in Europe, have found
Israelis who are willing to do their dirty work,” he said. “In that
vein, this is not a right-wing or left-wing issue. It’s about being a
Zionist and supporting Israel as a Jewish state – that’s it.”
And such is the essence of Im Tirtzu, Shoval said. What began as an
effort to support IDF soldiers – especially during anti-war protests –
on university campuses during the Second Lebanon War, has seen Im
Tirtzu come into its own as a forceful movement with thousands of
members, and the attention – if not backing – of the government.
“We’re trying to bring back faith in the way of the early Zionists,”
Shoval said. “And we’ve been successful because we’re portraying our
cause as cool and trendy. We want people to understand what it means to
be a Zionist today – why they should stay in Israel, why they should go
to the reserves.
“And so,” he continued, “Im Tirtzu began as a way to get back to the
basics and present alternatives to all of the anti-Zionist sentiments
that are out there.”
Shoval said his group was nowhere near slowing down. As for its success
in growing from a small, student-based campus organization into a
movement with front-page headlines and Knesset members citing its work,
Shoval said luck or being in the right place at the right time had
little to do with it.
“From the start, we’ve had very intelligent people on-board, planning out how to make this thing work,” he said.
“We always saw the university campuses as a means to an end, and part
of a 10 year plan that would bring us from a student group to an
influential force in Israeli society.”