‘Goldstone Report was our smoking gun’

How did Im Tirtzu go from organizing campus demonstrations to compiling a major report that has reverberated into a major scandal?

im tirzu rebuttal 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
im tirzu rebuttal 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
How did Im Tirtzu-The Second Zionist Revolution, which was created lessthan four years ago as a small student organization to voice supportfor IDF reservists, go from organizing campus demonstrations during theSecond Lebanon War to compiling a major report that has reverberatedinto a major scandal?
One of the reasons, The Jerusalem Post learned this week, was thatthe document the group released last month, now known as the “Im TirtzuReport,” which listed the New Israel Fund as a main financier of morethan a dozen Israeli NGOs – including: The Association for Civil Rightsin Israel; Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel;Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights; Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom ofMovement; HaMoked-Center for the Defense of the Individual; Physiciansfor Human Rights-Israel; the Public Committee Against Torture inIsrael; and Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights – that providedtestimony used in the UN’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead, wasthe result of efforts modeled after military intelligence operationsthat trace and pinpoint money trails leading to terrorist organizations.
Im Tirtzu head Ronen Shoval, told the Postthis week that the detailed report, which has continued to make wavesboth in civil society and government circles, was “modeled after theway intelligence agencies look into the financing of terror groups.”
“We invested great efforts to understand the funding strategy andideology behind the NIF, and what we found out is just the tip of theiceberg,” Shoval said, although he declined to elaborate.
While some questions regarding Im Tirtzu’s inspiration and practicaluse of intelligence tactics remain unanswered, Shoval did say that heand his group had “always known that the [NGOs that reported to theGoldstone Commission] were getting support from the same place, butafter the Goldstone Report was released, we saw that they had crossed ared line.
“The Goldstone Report was our smoking gun,” he said. “It showed thatthese groups were not engaging in constructive criticism, butdestructive criticism, and working to harm the state.
“We also knew that the testimonies they gave were highly flawed andoften without attributions,” he said. “So it was important for us toresearch these groups and expose who they’re connected to.
“All we had to do was follow the money,” he continued. “If we were tohave gone after these individual groups one at a time, it wouldn’t havebeen 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 – inaddition to the massive publicity it produced, Shoval said hundreds ofpeople 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 Hebrewand Israeli English-language dailies, featuring a caricature of NIFchairwoman and former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan with a horn strapped ontoher 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 itdidn’t go too far. Sometimes you have to put the truth right inpeople’s faces.
“It’s interesting that in the name of free speech, [critics of the adand report] tried to shut us up,” Shoval continued. “But as far as thead campaign was concerned, we had to figure out how to come out againsta group that no one even knew existed. No one knew who the NIF was, buteveryone knows Chazan.
“I don’t have anything personal against her,” Shoval said. “But I’d behappy 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 ofIm Tirtzu’s report. “But it’s not as if we were receiving instructionsfrom above to carry this thing out. Government officials have respondedwith interest to our findings, simply because they agree that thesegroups and their actions present a strategic threat.
“For us, we look at this information as an ethical issue, not a legalone,” he added, stressing that he had received thousands of e-mailsthanking him for the report.
“People have written me saying things like, ‘Finally, you said whatwe’ve all wanted to say for so long,’ and, ‘It’s about time someone didthis’. I think people have just had enough of what these groups aredoing.”
And what it is that these NGOs are doing, Shoval clarified, isundermining the state, and disseminating anti-Zionist tropes intoIsraeli society.
“Basically, anti-Israel groups, including many in Europe, have foundIsraelis who are willing to do their dirty work,” he said. “In thatvein, this is not a right-wing or left-wing issue. It’s about being aZionist and supporting Israel as a Jewish state – that’s it.”
And such is the essence of Im Tirtzu, Shoval said. What began as aneffort to support IDF soldiers – especially during anti-war protests –on university campuses during the Second Lebanon War, has seen ImTirtzu come into its own as a forceful movement with thousands ofmembers, 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 ourcause as cool and trendy. We want people to understand what it means tobe a Zionist today – why they should stay in Israel, why they should goto the reserves.
“And so,” he continued, “Im Tirtzu began as a way to get back to thebasics and present alternatives to all of the anti-Zionist sentimentsthat are out there.”
Shoval said his group was nowhere near slowing down. As for its successin growing from a small, student-based campus organization into amovement with front-page headlines and Knesset members citing its work,Shoval said luck or being in the right place at the right time hadlittle 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 partof a 10 year plan that would bring us from a student group to aninfluential force in Israeli society.”