Channel 10 “Hamakor” on Im Tirtzu's efforts in combating post/anti-Zionist perspectives in Israeli academe
By Martin Sherman
Last week the Channel 10 program “Hamakor” ran an investigative report on the pro-Zionist student organization Im Tirtzu , focusing mainly on its efforts in combating the overwhelming dominance of post/anti-Zionist perspectives in Israeli academe.
Overall, Im Tirtzu had good reason to be pleased with the coverage it received, which, although not uniformly complimentary, was distinctly more positive than negative.
Although the report was critical of some aspects of the Im Tirtzu’s operations, it did corroborate the basic validity of much of the organization’s contentions. No less important, it also expressed considerable criticism for Im Tirtzu’s adversaries in the academic establishment, who were repeatedly portrayed as insensitive, arrogant and unresponsive to legitimate complaints it has raised.
Despite (unspecified) reservations as to the methodology of certain studies the organization has conducted, “Hamakor” unequivocally substantiated some of its findings regarding heavy ideological bias in the composition of faculty at Ben-Gurion University's department of politics and government. With regard to additional research results indicating pervasive nationwide bias in the country’s political science departments, the program consulted an independent expert who assessed the study, concluding – despite alleged flaws in the research methodology – that they could not be dismissed as “irrelevant.”
In general, Im Tirtzu came across as an effective – albeit at times somewhat abrasive – action-oriented entity that has developed considerable access to the political system at both parliamentary and governmental levels and has acquired the ear and goodwill of the most senior echelons in the country.
Although it was probably not intended as a compliment, the organization has little reason to regret the fact that it was portrayed as mixture of genuine idealism and manipulative cynicism. Indeed it came across as having both the ability and will to operate on the ideological level, tapping into genuine student enthusiasm; and on the practical level with sufficient street-smart savvy to engage successfully in the rough and tumble of day-to-day politics on campus and in the Knesset. In all likelihood this characterization probably served it well, presenting it to the public as an entity that should not be dismissed as overly naïve and detached from the exigencies of real-politik necessary for sustained operational efficacy in the field.
The severest criticism of the organization focused on the issue of its financing. Here a clear – but less-than-convincing, indeed somewhat misleading – attempt was made to insinuate that it was guilty of double standards especially with regard to the nature of its donors.
Im Tirtzu’s recent endeavors have focused on exposing the sources of finance of left-leaning Israeli human rights organizations that pursue, harass and instigate legal proceedings against IDF officers. Without going into the intricacies of Im Tirtzu’s study on the topic, suffice it to say that the Channel 10 program acknowledged that these organizations were in fact funded by European sources via a Ramallah-based NGO. However, somewhat incongruously, the report glossed over/omitted to point out the fact that (a) the relevant NGO is indeed largely financed by hostile Islamic sources; (b) it is very active in promoting Arab/Palestinian efforts to de-legitimize Israel on the public diplomacy front; and (c) the European funds channeled though it are from official organs of foreign governments and not private individuals or entities.
It then went on to draw an contrived parallel with Im Tirtzu’s funding, by pointing out that the organization received contributions transferred via a fund that had also channeled money to allegedly unsavory ultra-chauvinistic elements of the Israeli right wing. Im Tirtzu was chided as well for funds it received from Pastor John Hagee, largely because of his perhaps injudicious – but by no means uncommon – theodicean suggestion regarding Hitler and the “divine design” behind his actions. While disapproval of this proposition is understandable, Hagee, a staunch supporter of Israel, is not the only one to have articulated it. Indeed it seems that it has not infrequently been invoked by others in an endeavor to reconcile the existence of a benevolent God with the prevalence of malevolent deeds. (Interestingly, a Google search for “theodicy + hitler” provides almost 350,000 hits, of which 95% make no mention at all of Hagee.)
Clearly some might find some of the sources of Im Tirtzu funding, or the vehicles for its conveyance, objectionable. But, from an Israeli point of view, the attempt to draw any degree of equivalence between:
(a) contributions from non-governmental pro-Israeli contributors (however misguided or distasteful their ideological opponents might consider them); and
(b) donations from official organs of foreign governments for the purpose of undermining policies of an elected government via overtly anti-Zionist Islamic-funded entities,
is about as valid as equating man-eating tigers with Persian kittens simply because both are carnivorous feline quadrupeds that originate in Asia.
After the program ended, the snide concluding remarks from the two Channel 10 anchors, Raviv Drucker and Ofer Shelach, who tried to dismiss Im Tirtzu’s endeavors as “typical Israeli self-pitying whining” served only to underscore the arrogant ignorance and smug bias of the nation’s mainstream media.
However, the very fact that the program was produced and broadcast is testimony to the considerable impact the movement has made in the few short years of its existence – and the growing public awareness of blatant political bias and distorted staffing policies that permeate Israeli universities.