Im Tirzu logo 390.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Jerusalem District Court will soon be deliberating on an interesting libel
suit; the Im Tirzu movement is suing a group of talkbackers who claimed that Im
Tirzu’s campaigns against the New Israel Fund and various human rights
organizations in Israel smack of fascism.
The defendants claim that what
they said is the truth, and have presented the court with several expert
depositions that attempt to show that the ideology of Im Tirzu, as publicly
manifested by its founder, Ronen Shuval, contains fascist elements, especially
in terms of how it views the nation and the role of the individual within it,
its contempt for “decadent” Western liberal values and its obsessive search for
It should be noted that until Benito Mussolini became
Hitler’s ally there were right-wingers in the pre-State Yishuv, such as Abba
Ahi-Meir, who openly sympathized with Italian Fascism. It should also be pointed
out that in the current public discourse in Israel it is not only the
left-wingers who accuse certain right-wingers of fascist inclinations, but also
vice versa. For example, Moshe Feiglin and his Jewish Leadership Movement in the
Likud refer to the removal (or expulsion) of the settlers from Gush Katif as a
fascist act, and those who participated in the act as fascists.
the issue of who is or is not a fascist, and when calling someone a fascist is
libelous, there is another question of definition that is intricately connected
with the doctrines and activities of bodies such as Im Tirzu and the Jewish
Both Im Tirzu and the Jewish Leadership Movement, as
well as many other bodies in the political Right, are in the midst of an attempt
to redefine the term “Zionist” in the public consciousness.
has even manifested itself partially in a teaching kit on Gush Katif recently
issued by the Ministry of Education to all the schools in the national education
According to this new definition, to be considered a Zionist you
must believe that the whole of Eretz Yisrael belongs exclusively to the Jewish
People, support Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
and object to the removal of any Jewish settlements in these
True Zionists, so it is implied, should refrain from any
public criticism of the State of Israel and its agencies, and are expected to
believe that the Jewish faith, heritage and culture are superior to all others,
including the Western cultural heritage, which emphasizes such universal values
as equality and human rights.
Certainly all those who hold the
above-mentioned beliefs are Zionists, but so is anyone who believes that the
Jewish People has the right to a state, like all other Peoples, and that this
state cannot be anywhere else but in Zion – the historical homeland of the
However, he (or she) does not stop being a Zionist even if
he also believes that our rights in the Land of Israel are not exclusive, and
that the Arabs of Palestine have inherent rights here as well.
One can be
a Zionist and a liberal as well, and believe in equality, human rights and other
universal democratic values. One is still a Zionist if one believes that whether
or not we are a chosen people, due to our historical experience we should set
higher moral standards for ourselves than those we expect from others. That
means that it is perfectly OK (and not an act of treason) to seek to ensure that
the IDF – one of the most moral military forces in the world – avoids performing
acts that fall within the definition of “war crimes.” It also means that one can
criticize the humiliating treatment of Israeli Arabs at security checks at
Ben-Gurion Airport and still be a Zionist who supports Israel’s legitimate right
to defend itself against enemies.
Incidentally, in the early years of the
state the Mapai leadership had us believe that kibbutzniks and members of the
Histadrut were somehow superior Zionists, and that others were at best
second-rate Zionists. That was as objectionable as the claims of Im Tirzu, the
Jewish Leadership Movement and the Ministry of Education are today.
Jerusalem District Court will have to determine whether those who accuse Im
Tirzu of Fascist inclinations are guilty of libel. It has not been called upon
to determine whether Im Tirzu, and others, are guilty of libel when they claim
that those of us who do not accept their ideological premises are not Zionists,
or are even anti-Zionists. Refusal to accept the legitimacy of those who
disagree with you is not necessarily a manifestation of fascism. However, it is
a manifestation of intolerance, and a denial of the pluralistic nature of our
democratic state.The writer teaches at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley
College and was a Knesset employee for many years.