Head of 'Im Tirtzu' blasts court's statement NGO’s views have aspects in common with fascism.

Ronen Shoval defends 2010 caricature of former New Israel Fund head Naomi Chazan with horns.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 1, 2013 02:44
4 minute read.
Im Tirtzu chief Ronen Shoval

Im Tirtzu chief Ronen Shoval 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Since its founding in 2006, the NGO Im Tirtzu has never been far from controversy or the headlines.

Recently, Im Tirtzu head Ronen Shoval requested to discuss his views with The Jerusalem Post on the latest controversy the NGO is involved in.

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On September 8, Jerusalem District Court Judge Refael Yacobi gave a mixed ruling in a defamation case that Im Tirtzu filed against a group of people who had posted a Facebook page associating Im Tirtzu with fascism.

Yacobi dismissed most of Im Tirtzu’s NIS 2.6 million in damages, including its case against two of the defendants, and held one of the defendants liable for damages, but the overall public perception of the case came from the court’s statement that Im Tirtzu’s views have “aspects in common with fascism.”

Shoval told the Post that the ruling and Yacobi’s reference to Im Tirtzu should “set off an alarm” and remind the public of certain “redlines for public debate.”

He added that “this case should stop these extremes,” referring to the Facebook page that called Im Tirtzu fascist, and “society should know what the Supreme Court thinks” about the case.

Shoval stated that Yacobi’s characterization of Im Tirtzu and its worldview had been beyond his limited authority of focusing on whether to grant damages to Im Tirtzu, and that it is the “job of the Knesset” or of “the voter to decide” which worldviews are appropriate and which are not.



Pressed to square an advertisement that Im Tirtzu ran in 2010 of then New Israel Fund (NIF) head and former Knesset deputy speaker Naomi Chazan with horns and accusing the NIF of at least indirectly funding the Goldstone Report on the 2008-2009 war in Gaza, in light of his message of “redlines” in the public debate, Shoval said that it was a wordplay on the Hebrew “keren” – which means both “horn” and “fund,” referring to the NIF – but which had translated poorly in English.

Asked further if the caricature of Chazan was in bad taste and if he had regrets, Shoval demurred, saying, “Many people do this in Haaretz, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times – it was not demonic, it was a simple wordplay.”

He added that the “real question” is “how 16 NGOs” could assist the Goldstone Report.

Next, Shoval said that though many supporters were despairing from getting the ruling reversed by appealing to the Supreme Court, believing that one “can’t get justice in the Supreme Court, “we don’t accept this. We accept or want to believe that the Supreme Court will show that this was a big deviation from the public’s expectations” and that it will “protect our good name, and more importantly the good name of Zionism.”

Shoval heavily emphasized this last point, saying that Im Tirtzu’s core beliefs were to strengthen “the majority Zionist nation of Israel” and to oppose the “elite, post-Zionists in academia, media, law and culture” whom he accused of “demoralizing the nation” and making it “feel bad about its identity.”

He accused the sectors he listed off of trying to make Israel into a “state of all of its citizens” (code for deemphasizing the state’s Jewish character) as opposed to a “Jewish and democratic state.”

Though Im Tirtzu claims to be a centrist group, other than claiming his group defended traditional Zionism, Shoval was hard pressed to explain what specifically made the group centrist.

Questioned on whether Im Tirtzu’s position on its website (which might surprise some) that implies support for a potential partial withdrawal from the West Bank made it centrist, Shoval said that he stood by the positions on the website, but that this position was not a crucial one and that Im Tirtzu still opposed “indefensible borders.”

Asked to give a current concrete example of post-Zionism, Shoval slammed a conference run by the NGO Zochrot and co-sponsored and hosted by the Land of Israel Museum in Tel Aviv on Sunday and Monday for addressing practical aspects of “the return of Palestinian refugees” from a “transitional justice” perspective.

Growing animated, Shoval said that the idea of having a conference about “how to do the Palestinian right of return” was an idea that could “destroy Israel,” since he said Israel “can’t be Jewish if Arabs come here – it will be democracy like they have in Syria.”

Asked about Israeli-Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, Shoval said her participation in the May 2010 flotilla to break the blockade on Gaza “crossed the limits of democracy” and said that he thinks “there is no place for her in the Knesset,” though the High Court of Justice upheld her candidacy and eventual election against attempts to disqualify her by the Central Elections Commission.

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