Im Tirtzu has grown into a political force with clout

From humble beginnings to front-page headlines, Im Tirtzu members have willed their own dream.

Ronen Shoval (photo credit: Im Tirtzu)
Ronen Shoval
(photo credit: Im Tirtzu)
“If you will it, it is no dream,” reads the famed-quotation from Theodor Herzl’s The Old New Land, which serves as the name-source for Im Tirtzu – The Second Zionist Revolution, the student organization behind this week’s letter to Ben- Gurion University President Rivka Carmi, threatening to drive away donors if the institution doesn’t rectify the “anti-Zionist bias in the Politics and Government Department.”
But Im Tirtzu – which is Hebrew for “if you will it” – is something of a willed dream itself, beginning only four years ago during the Second Lebanon War, when group members threw their support behind IDF reservists who were demanding better conditions, and sponsored campus rallies to that effect from the nation’s North to its South.
Since then, the organization has grown into a movement known for its ability to draw strong support from university students – especially when it comes to hot-button issues dealing with IDF soldiers, left-wing NGOs and suspected anti- Zionist sentiment among the country’s academics.
Within the span of a week in June 2009, the organization made headlines in a number of the newspapers, first regarding an incident in which a member of a campus left-wing organization flashed Im Tirtzu members with a Nazi salute at the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus branch, followed by Im Tirtzu’s protest against a speech by Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch, at the University of Haifa, which sparked a vocal debate over freedom of speech on campus and ended up in a hearing at the Knesset Education Committee a week later.
The organization has since sponsored dozens of demonstrations, both on and off campus.
After the August 2009 publication of a story in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, alleging that the IDF had systematically harvested organs from Palestinians in the West Bank, Im Tirtzu led a protest and boycott of the Swedish home products chain IKEA.
But Im Tirtzu gained far more attention in February of this year, when it released the “Im Tirtzu Report,” which accused the New Israel Fund of direct responsibility for the highly critical nature of the UN’s Goldstone Report on the IDF’s January 2009 Cast Lead Offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In that report, Im Tirtzu also laid blame on the New Israel Fund for accepting funding from a slew of foreign bodies with a “clear anti-Israel bias,” and accused the NIF of working with organizations that delegitimize the Jewish state.
The report sparked backlashes against both the New Israel Fund and Im Tirtzu, which NIF supporters labeled a “fascist organization” and accused of “quashing freedom of speech in Israel.”
The report also raised questions over the funding of NGOs in Israel, making waves again, all the way to the Knesset, where a series of hearings over the matter have taken place since and a bill that would require quarterly reporting of foreign funding is making its make through the legislative process.
But since the report’s release in February, Im Tirtzu has been relatively quiet, even as it has begun zeroing in on the issue of anti-Zionist professors over recent months.
This week’s letter to the Ben-Gurion University president represents yet another initiative by the organization, which has grown from a handful of students to a political force with significant clout.