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(photo credit: Eyal Eshkol/ Im Tirzu)
A video examining the Im Tirtzu organization recently appeared on the home page of The Jerusalem Post Web site, with the provocative title, "Is Im Tirtzu about National Pride or Fascism?" In the video, a Hebrew University student is filmed stating, "They say it [Im Tirtzu's ideology] is national pride; we think it's fascism."
The charge that Im Tirtzu, an extra-parliamentary group dedicated to strengthening the spirit of Zionism within Israel, is a fascist organization is not new. It has been hurled time and time again by elements opposed to Im Tirtzu's success. Instead of grappling with the issues Im Tirtzu presents, these people prefer to limit their responses to a simplistic accusations.
While I can accept that people will disagree with some of Im Tirtzu's actions, I cannot accept people who delegitimize the organization on the basis of myths rather than facts. In that spirit, I want to examine what they call "fascism."
DURING OPERATION Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, some students gathered at the university to protest the IDF operation. Their slogans included phrases such as "Hamas, Hamas, keep bombing Sderot" and "With might and blood, we'll redeem you, O Palestine." Im Tirtzu organized a counterprotest in support of the soldiers fighting to protect residents of the South. This led some to describe Im Tirtzu's actions as fascist. Counter-demonstrating against a protest that uses such virulent slogans is not fascist but Zionist.
Similarly, when Im Tirtzu, in the context of the recent student council elections, danced with Israeli flags around Hebrew University as they sang traditional, uplifting songs like "Am Yisrael Chai," some students thought it accurate to compare this to a Nazi parade and hailed the dancers with a Hitler salute.
FOLLOWING IM TIRTZU's significant gains in the elections, it demanded the establishment of a committee monitoring the editorial policy of the student newspaper to ensure that all points of views were represented equally. Once again, we were accused of fascism. This charge was hinted at in the aforementioned video. Yet the editorial committee is to be made up of members of every party that ran in the elections, and is meant to replace the reality in which editorial policy was left to the sole discretion of the editor-in-chief.
The previous editor-in-chief had often promoted positions extremely critical of Israel, felt by many to border on anti-Zionisim. The previous editor also recently admitted to using the newspaper to promote his views, claiming that no editor can be completely objective. Im Tirtzu requested that two pages be dedicated each week to opinion pieces, and that those pieces be divided equally between left- and right-wing positions. Ensuring that a plurality of views is represented in a student newspaper is not fascist; in fact, it promotes Israel as a truly democratic, Zionist state.
YES, WE do support IDF soldiers. Yes, we do work tirelessly toward the release of Gilad Schalit. Yes, we do proudly identify with the flag of the State of Israel. Yes, we do ask that activities organized by Hebrew University's student council end with the singing of "Hatikva." No, these policies do not make us fascists. These policies make us Zionist.
I have often tried to understand why Im Tirzu is accused of fascism. Im Tirtzu has many times asked those who characterize it as such to give just one example in which it has acted in a fascist manner. Of course, none has ever been supplied. Instead, the charge is simply repeated over and over again.
At the end of the day, in equating Im Tirtzu with fascism, our accusers are really equating Zionism with fascism. It should be obvious now why they would feel threatened by an organization aiming to reinvigorate the spirit of Zionism within Israel.
The preamble to the constitution of Hebrew University begins: "Whereas in pursuance of the Zionist aspiration of the Jewish people, the Hebrew University was established in Jerusalem in 1925..." Im Tirtzu has been working tirelessly over the past few years to ensure that this aspiration not be forgotten. It has been working tirelessly to ensure that Hebrew University, which has served as such a powerful symbol of Zionism, should not become a symbol of post-Zionism and anti-Zionism. It has been working tirelessly to bring that Zionist aspiration to new heights by making the Israeli population - on university campuses and beyond - once again believe in its ideals and values.
After 2,000 years of dreaming, the Jewish nation finally answered the call of one of its leaders who said: "If you will it (im tirtzu), it is not a dream." One hundred years after this sentence was uttered by Theodor Herzl in Altneuland, we can see with our eyes how these words have inspired the Jewish people to accomplish what wasn't thought impossible. We at Im Tirtzu believe that if we only dare to keep willing, we can transform the dream that is the State of Israel into an even more just, more modern, more democratic and more Jewish place.
The writer is the overseas communications coordinator of Im Tirtzu and is currently completing his law degree at Hebrew University. [email protected]