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(photo credit: Courtesy)
While I know you’re not one to be intimidated easily, or frightened into silence by a personal attack paid for by dubious organizations and publicized in newspapers and on-line, I was personally insulted when I saw the crude caricature of you: a rhinoceros horn tied around your head, someone’s tired play on words with keren as “horn” and keren as “fund,” or the suggestion that you and the New Israel Fund intend to drive a “horn” through Israel. It was dehumanizing, cruel and, in my opinion, something they would not have done to a man. It is too bad they didn’t think of the third meaning of keren, as ray of light – as in ki keren or panav – rays of light shone from Moses’s face, not horns after all.
That the caricature stirs up dangerous associations is not an original observation to make – I know I’m not the first. That a Jewish organization claiming to represent “the second Zionist revolution” runs such an ad – that is more interesting. It certainly says something about the character of Im Tirtzu, an organization which we all know by now is funded by the Christians United for Israel lobby and its frequently controversial, frequently anti-Semitic Evangelical preacher John Hagee.
Though it seems I can’t criticize it overmuch for its association with John Hagee, since the CUFI has recently disassociated itself from Im Tirtzu’s inappropriate campaign.Opinion: Who's demonizing who?
WHICH BRINGS me to my next point. What does Im Tirtzu do with the money it receives? It spends it on prime time ad space: full-page ads in the newspapers and seemingly permanent banner ads on the Internet. So much money is being invested in this hate campaign, which, unfortunately, has been characterized by an especially vicious personal attack on you. Think of all the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in an attempt to desecrate your name.
Then think of how it could have spent the money otherwise. Im Tirtzu’s money is not being used to help people directly – none of it is being channeled toward Israeli organizations that help Israelis as, in contrast, so many of NIF’s recipient organizations do.
You, Naomi, are a patriot. You do not need a lesson in patriotism or Zionism or how-to-be-a-good-Israeli from the bullies at Im Tirtzu. Your father was an Israeli ambassador to the US, your mother was an MK and you yourself were an MK for several terms. And you have also been my model of strength. You are one tough sabra. One good example: You left the cozy world of academia for the desert of politics.
When I think about you, I often think first about your last name, Chazan, or cantor. As chairwoman of the New Israel Fund, you are a chazan for our time, telling us what we need to hear – though we may not always want to – and professing values we need to uphold.
You and your work with NIF make me proud to be an Israeli. We are both intimately aware of the growing number of incidents of intimidation and harassment of human and civil rights leaders in Israel. In such an atmosphere, where voices of dissent or those which stray too far from popular opinion are silenced, it is our responsibility more than ever to keep singing.
And since I believe in openness and debate as necessary parts of a democracy, I do not seek to limit anyone’s free speech but rather, to create a discussion. We can have open discourse: We don’t need to silence our opponents by cutting off their voices – or their funds.
I’d like to propose an alternative to Im Tirtzu – Im Nirtze
. If we wish to stop the hunting and hounding of liberal and pluralistic forces in Israel, we can do so – if we will it.
And we will with you, Naomi, my friend. We are with you.The writer served in the Jerusalem
City Council for 14 years. She was a founding member of Women of the
Wall and continues to be an advocate for freedom of religion and
women’s rights. In 2002, she became the Executive Director of the
Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the legal and advocacy arm of
the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.