+972 Magazine » Yossi Gurvitz http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 30 Jun 2016 16:17:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 A pre-publication breakdown of Im Tirzu’s latest ‘report’ http://972mag.com/a-pre-publication-breakdown-of-im-tirzus-latest-report/91161/ http://972mag.com/a-pre-publication-breakdown-of-im-tirzus-latest-report/91161/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 15:14:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=91161 Im Tirtzu is about to publish a new ‘report.’ It’s already on the Internet, but they haven’t yet started publicizing it, so get ready to read about it here for the first time.

Let’s start with the only new and refreshing aspect of this report. This is the first time that anyone has issued a report in the format of a children’s book. I want to congratulate Im Tirtzu for this stylistic breakthrough, and to congratulate them on their new graphic artist. However, other than this stylistic innovation, the report is regrettably a pack of lies and mostly a recycling of old material. It contains no new claims, nothing that hasn’t already been said in the last three years. Could it be that Im Tirtzu is suffering from arteriosclerosis? Let’s hope so.

OK, now let’s do a break-down.

On page two of the report, painted in colours that are highly suitable for Im Tirtzu – red and black – it says that, “this tract gives details of the activities by senior people and organizations supported by the [New Israel] Fund against the policies of Israel and against the IDF.” As we will see shortly, as is customary with Im Tirtzu, there are no claims regarding the “activities” of senior people in the New Israel Fund (NIF) itself. Moreover, since it is clearly apparent that the authors of the report are graduates of Commissar Gideon Sa’ar’s civics class, they need to be reminded of a fact that seems to have eluded them: in a free country, citizens may act against the policies of the government and the army. For countries where citizens are forbidden to act against the policies of the army and its political arm, we have other, less sympathetic, names. Protesting against the government and against its military wing (and the IDF, as Im Tirtzu has forgotten, is not some fourth estate, some separate entity, but is solely a branch of the government which has been given a monopoly over the use of force) is a basic right in a free society. When Im Tirtzu comes out against the exercise of this right, it is actually making the claim that Israel is a military dictatorship (more on this later).

It would be appropriate to mention at this point that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very conversant as to how to operate against government policy. When the second Rabin government was working in the U.S. on the stationing of an American force on the Golan Heights, as part of a possible peace plan with Syria, Netanyahu rushed to Capitol Hill in order to disrupt a plan by the elected government. Netanyahu also made egregious use of his parliamentary immunity to expose the “Shtauber Document” – the Israeli plan setting out the concessions that Israel was prepared to make. An ordinary citizen who played a trick like that would have been made to disappear and prosecuted for high treason after months in a court proceeding held in camera. The document was a “wet dream” for Syrian intelligence. And it’s precisely for this purpose that members of the Knesset have immunity: so that they can expose confidential information that embarrasses their government, if it promotes policies to which their constituents are opposed. It is clear that there are Israeli government policies (and IDF policies – Shtauber was a brigadier general who prepared the document for the chief of staff) that it is legitimate to oppose.

Now let’s move on to the document itself. On page six, the first page in the section, “IDF’s indictment on war crimes,” we have a slide of Naomi Hazan, the then president of the NIF, who, it transpired, was the signatory of a petition against the IDF’s ongoing killing in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, a petition which said, “we seek to bring an immediate halt to the assault by the Israeli army in Gaza, which has already caused hundreds of deaths. This carnage can only inflame the strife.” This may be a sentiment with which Im Tirtzu disagrees, but I don’t understand where this gives us a charge of war crimes. And by the way, Im Tirtzu reignites the flames when it translates the original word “slaughter” in the petition to “carnage,” when a more acceptable translation would have been “killing” or  “destruction”; but when considering the other distortions in the report, this is small-time.

Immediately thereafter, on page seven, Im Tirtzu repeats the calumny against “Yesh Din” (full disclosure – I write a paid blog for them), writing that Yesh Din – ostensibly – “is planning to attribute the term ‘war crimes’ to IDF’s activity.” I have already referred to this here extensively. Let me briefly point out three things: first of all, you need to be living in a fantasy world to think that the IDF is not committing war crimes – war crimes are an outcome of every war. Second, the Yesh Din report talks about the absence of legislation for war crimes in the IDF, and not “ascribing war crimes to IDF’s activities”; and thirdly, our recommendations were penned almost word for word by the Turkel Commission, for which we are reluctantly bound to thank Ben-Dror Yemini.

Further down, on page eight, Im Tirtzu introduces its sources, one of which is unexpected. It transpires that Omar Barghouti, one of the leaders of the BDS movement, accuses Israel of war crimes. How is this related to the New Israel Fund? It isn’t. They call it guilt by association.

And more. On page ten, there is a quote from Adv. Michael Sfard (full disclosure: he is the legal advisor to Yesh Din and a friend). The quote says: “war crimes are international crimes …. international law is binding on all countries in the world to investigate and to prosecute them if there is enough evidence …. if it isn’t Israel, then England, if not the Supreme Court then the House of Lords.” According to Im Tirtzu, “this can be understood as bringing charges against IDF officers overseas.”

First of all, it isn’t clear what’s wrong with that. I guess that even Im Tirtzu would admit that if a crime has been committed, then the criminal should get his just desert. But moreover, this is a distortion of what Sfard said. Anyone who bothers to look at the original text will be surprised to discover that the subtitle to the article is “a proper investigation of war crimes in Israel could save claims overseas,” and the article concludes with the following words: “for as long as the Military Advocate General and judges in Israel do not understand that the proper moral course to take and the right thing to do from a patriotic perspective is to conduct a proper investigation of the events which could give rise to the suspicion that war crimes have been committed, and to fully implement the law against those responsible, then IDF officers will be more and more compelled to spend their leave at the Zavitan River and in Eilat.” Surely no one could seriously argue with this section!? But Im Tirtzu does want to argue and they want to start a chorus of “he said war crime!”

Let’s continue. On page 11 Yishai Menuhin says very similar things: “from here we call on the soldiers of the IDF – do not take part in war crimes! and anyone who does take part will answer for it in court. If not in Israel then overseas.” Again, what’s the problem? Is it that Im Tirtzu wants to make the opposite call to IDF soldiers – “do take part in war crimes?”

On page 12 makes note of the fact that the director-general of Adalah, Hassan Jabareen, sent an opinion to a Spanish court in which he submitted a claim against a series of senior members of the IDF. And …..? What does that tell us? It’s not clear. Im Tirtzu refers to another of its reports that quotes the opinion, but again it’s not clear what’s wrong with the opinion apart from the fact that it was submitted to a court outside Israel. It seems that this is some sort of crime. But it later transpires that approaching an Israeli court is also a sort of crime. And again, on page 12, we see that senior BDS activists consider that Israel is committing war crimes. How is this connected to the New Israel Fund? There is no connection.

On page 14, in the section called “The call for a boycott and international sanctions,” Im Tirtzu quotes veteran left-wing activist Gideon Spiro as saying, “and the European community will impose on Israel an end to the apartheid regime, without war. A strict boycott will be enough.” As usual, Im Tirtzu leaves out the inconvenient parts: if someone reads Spiro in the original, they will discover that he wrote “I hope that the Golan will be returned to Syria without a war, and that the occupation will be ended without a war.” Then comes the text which Im Tirtzu quoted. In short, Spiro wants a non-violent end to a segregated regime. What’s wrong with that?

Im Tirtzu doesn’t bother to explain. It is clear, from their point of view, that the very wish to impose an embargo on Israel or on the settlements is, as far as they are concerned, a crime. What’s funny here is the attribution: Spiro is described as “a past member of the auditing committee of “Physicians for Human Rights.” Really?! People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!

Erez Tadmor is one of the founders of Im Tirtzu. Tadmor is a felon who was convicted of stealing weapons from the IDF – allegedly to protect his settlement in the event of attack. If that’s the case, it isn’t clear why he also stole explosive materials. According to Im Tirtzu’s logic with regard to Spiro, all of the organization’s members are felons and supporters of crime because their founder is a convicted felon.

On the next page, Im Tirtzu returns to the charge against Israel Social TV. I have dealt with this here.

On page 16 “Breaking the Silence” is charged with “reinforcing the basis for the campaigns for boycott, withdrawal of investments and sanctions” through “repeated accusations of  ‘war crimes’ and ‘violations of international law’” – charges which Im Tirtzu has never tried to deny, because it cannot do so. This is probably the strangest charge in the report. Breaking the Silence isn’t in favor of boycotting Israel, but actually noting the fact that Israel is committing war crimes is already supporting a boycott. Unbelievable!

The next section deals with “legal activity against the State of Israel.” The first example of such activity, on page 18, was an appeal for habeas corpus against the government, to oblige it to say where and for what it was holding the Gaza flotilla detainees.

This is the point where your jaw drops. According to Im Tirtzu, the fact that someone is trying to stop the government of Israel from concealing detainees, and to ensure that these detainees get legal representation, is “a legal action against the Israeli government,” i.e. the “proper” way to think of the State of Israel is that of a military dictatorship which vanishes detainees, and the very act of trying to extend basic rights to these people is a “legal action against the State.”

Further down, on page 19, another “legal action against the State of Israel” is introduced: an appeal against the destruction of a terrorist’s house, i.e. a demand to punish only the perpetrator of a crime and not his family, is said to be an action against the State of Israel, which puts Im Tirtzu in the position of claiming that collective punishment measures be taken as the normative route and any deviation from that norm is itself a crime.

On page 20 Im Tirtzu introduces the fact that several human rights organizations have appealed against the ban on Shawan Jabarin leaving the West Bank, based on confidential evidence against him which has never been reviewed by legal processes, as another “legal action” against the Israeli military dictatorship – which is reserving its right to deny Jabarin a basic human right without trial and without him being able to defend himself against charges being brought against him by the secret police.

On the same page, the report reaches a new low: Im Tirtzu scribbles something about the Russell Tribunal and after that makes it clear that “the Russell Tribunal for Palestine is not connected to the New [Israel] Fund.” So what’s the connection? Nothing. Perhaps some mud will stick!

In the section “Creating international pressure on Israel,” Im Tirtzu claims (page 22) that daily Maariv published an item stating that “more than 90 percent of the derogatory information given to the Goldstone Committee …… originated from 16 organizations that are supported by the New Israel Fund.” Apart from the fact that Im Tirtzu has never rebutted this information, in this instance it is carrying out an exercise in fraud: the item published in Maariv was its report, by its “useful idiot” Ben Caspit (recently denounced by Ronen Shuval as an anti-Zionist). The “idiot” did what was required of him, now he can go. I hope Caspit is satisfied.

In the section on “Cancelling the Jewish State’s right to exist,” Im Tirtzu tells the customary lie regarding the statement by Hedva Radonavitz. On the next page, 27, Im Tirtzu quotes Avraham Burg: “the next political formula replacing two states for two peoples will be a civil formula. Each person between the Jordan and the sea will have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that between the Jordan and the sea there will be one country only – not ours and not theirs, but rather one that is shared.” Just a minute. Does Im Tirtzu disagree with Burg’s basic concept? Do they think that there are two populations between the Jordan and the sea of which one does not have the same right to equality, justice and freedom? Because if that’s the case, they are giving support to the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. And that means that they are adopting the central claim of the “de-legitimization movement” and of the BDS and I would therefore expect them to fade away in a cloud of logic. Not that they are capable of doing that.

And finally, on page 28, Im Tirtzu claims that 67 percent of those who signed the Haifa Declaration in 2007, were “[NIF] employees or senior members of its organizations.” There is insufficient proof of that and I do not think that there is any reason why we should believe it without proof. Im Tirtzu’s wording here is interesting: it writes that the Haifa Declaration “was intended to change the character of the State of Israel from Jewish to democratic.” It transpires from this that the State of Israel is not democratic and that Im Tirtzu is alarmed by the prospect of it becoming so. Anyone who recalls that until Adi Elkin pointed that out, Im Tirtzu’s original declaration of intent referred to Israel as the “Jewish State,” and that’s all, should not be surprised.

So that’s what Im Tirtzu is capable of today: an accumulation of puzzling lies that are easily refuted (this post took me two hours), none of which is less than three years old. Relentlessly regurgitating past days of glory when “useful idiots” like Ben Caspit used to raise the organization’s profile. Isn’t it a shame that the money is wasted? Wouldn’t it be possible to transfer the money to someone who could actually make some proper use of it?

The New Israel Fund for example.

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What is NGO Monitor’s connection to the Israeli government? http://972mag.com/what-is-ngo-monitors-connection-to-the-israeli-government/90239/ http://972mag.com/what-is-ngo-monitors-connection-to-the-israeli-government/90239/#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 15:20:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=90239 The spearhead of the battle against Israeli human rights organizations, NGO Monitor, is run by a man who, at least for a period of time since its founding, was closely affiliated with the Prime Minister’s Office. On another front, the government is now targeting human rights NGOs’ tax status.

By Yossi Gurvitz and Noam Rotem

Hello, I have the honor of representing NGO Monitor, and I think that I will be the first speaker to talk from a point of view that is neither governmental nor quasi-governmental, but rather from, what is called: civil society.
– Gerald Steinberg speaking at the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, July 9, 2013.

Over the years, we have been following utterances, insinuations and rumors that Benjamin Netanyahu is so troubled by human rights organizations that he dedicates a significant portion of his time and energy to fighting them. That struggle has been documented on this blog and on another blog, 0139, in detail. This week, working on a tip, we found Gerald Steinberg’s resume from 2004, two years after he established NGO Monitor. In it, under “additional activities,” Steinberg testifies that he served as a “consultant [to the] Government of Israel,” and as a member of the “Steering Committee, Forum on Antisemitism, Office of the Prime Minister, Government of Israel.” On his Hebrew-language profile on the NGO Monitor website, Steinberg describes himself as a “consultant to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” (His English profile is missing that information.) In a profile attached to a 2006 op-ed, he is described as a consultant to the National Security Council, which is a part of the Prime Minister’s Office.

In other words, Gerald Steinberg claims that he works — or at least has worked — for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, and that is long after he founded NGO Monitor. Why is that important? It is necessary to explain, first of all, what Steinberg and his organizations are trying to accomplish. We’ll start by defining an NGO: a non-governmental organization, which carries out work that governments have difficulty performing, or don’t want to perform. Such organizations are called “civil society organizations” in Israel, or sometimes, human rights organizations, according to their respective functions. They do the work the government cannot do, precisely because one of their central roles is to levy criticism against, or to reveal crimes committed by the government.

Naturally, governments have ambiguous relationships with such organizations. In Israel, it is unambiguous: in recent years the Jewish Right in Israel has launched a political war aimed at curbing civil society and human rights organizations’ ability to operate. They provide too much information about how the Israeli government actually operates, whether it’s exposing the apartheid regime that exists in the occupied territories, or about how the Israeli government is redistributing wealth in a way that the uppermost thousandth gets more at the expense of the rest of society. A series of laws are in the pipeline in the Knesset, the goals of which are to silence human rights and civil society organizations.

The target of the campaign, which NGO Monitor spearheads, was the New Israel Fund, which funds many such organizations. Netanyahu — who has said that Israel’s main enemies are The New York Times and Haaretz — would have loved to attack the NIF, but he knows that a direct attack against it and against civil society and human rights NGOs, either by him or by the government, wouldn’t carry much credibility, and would drag the government into a dirty fight, one that would make the government of Israel look too similar to the Putin government, and would further crack the already too-thin facade of a “democratic state.”

So instead of a direct attack, there was an indirect attack. It was carried out by a number of organizations that put on the masks of non-governmental organizations. But they weren’t. NGO Monitor, we saw, is run by a man who – at least in the organization’s early years – was a government employee or closely affiliated with the Prime Minister’s Office. The campaign’s central attack dog was “Im Tirzu,” but it relied too much on reports written by NGO Monitor. Im Tirzu is connected to Netanyahu: his point man, Yoav Horowitz — who today serves as Netanyahu’s go-to man at Israel’s Second Broadcast Authority — transferred NIS 74,180 to Im Tirzu in 2008 (Hebrew). Im Tirzu’s founding chairman, Ronen Shoval, said recently that he was offered a job as the bureau chief of the Prime Minister’s Office. Im Tirzu is the successor organization of the “reservists’ struggle” that came into existence following the Second Lebanon War, but that we know today was secretly run by Netanyahu’s bureau when he was the opposition leader.

A third organization, which portrays itself as a non-governmental organization but serves the government of Israel, is Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center. Shurat HaDin primarily serves as an attack dog overseas, especially against supporters of the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement. (Recently they have been trying to sue an Australian professor, Jake Lynch, who refused to hire an Israeli, on the grounds that he violated Australia’s hate crimes law.) As I’ve pointed out in the past, relying on WikiLeaks cables, Shurat HaDin was actually directed by the Israeli intelligence and government. By the way, Shurat HaDin defines itself as a “Jewish human rights organization.”

Taking those facts and statements into account, such organizations might be defined as GONGOs (government operated non-governmental organizations), which is to say, government operated organizations that present themselves as non-governmental and independent. Going back to Steinberg’s testimony at the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, he almost reveals the method himself:

It took the government ministries a few years to understand that this is an existential war [being waged] against the State of Israel. It is de-legitimization in every regard, from the Bedouin, and what JNF-KKL supposedly does, they’re messaging and language of morality, war crimes, apartheid, all of those issues together. And that requires a response like in war, and unfortunately, I think that still hasn’t been understood in many places [...]

It took many years to understand that this is an entire industry and that [we] counter attack. I think that [launching] counter attacks against the leading organizations isn’t easy for the government framework. With all due respect, and I respect the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office, the Jewish Agency and other organizations — it needs to come from civil society. It’s NGO against NGO. If it’s Human Rights Watch, and if it’s Amnesty International, if it’s in the media, so there need to be organizations that address the media. It could be that there’s a place for cooperation, the exchange of information, and to build [joint] strategies between governmental and non-governmental bodies, but to ask a government to solve these problems, I think that isn’t realistic.”

So the Israeli government used dummy organizations. So much so that the founder of one organization boasts about her connections with Israeli intelligence, another worked with the Prime Minister’s Office, and a third organization received funds directly from a confidant of the prime minister.

It’s important to emphasize that the principal work of these dummy organizations is dealings with the Israeli public or Jews overseas. That is the modus operandi of hasbara organizations. Netanyahu wants to close ranks at home, by flooding the public discourse with fraudulent information in order to discredit civil society organizations, which appears to come from independent, unconnected organizations that are incidentally connected to him or to the government. In other words, those government-affiliated organizations — and let’s remember that Netanyahu and the government are the story here; Steinberg is a pawn — have adopted the exact same tactic they accuse civil society organizations of using: sock puppetry. Meaning, they say they are serving one agenda at the same time that, using various names, they are serving an entirely different aim — and they pollute the public discourse in a way that official government statements could never achieve. NGO Monitor, by the way, has a long history of polluting the public discourse by planting lies using sock puppetry. (Hebrew)

This is one front of Netanyahu’s war against a free Israeli society. On a second front, he is siccing government forces on civil society organizations. On NGO Monitor’s Hebrew-language donations page, it says that “donations to NGO Monitor are tax deductible in Israel.” We haven’t found the specific tax document, but we’ll believe them. In the past few weeks, the Israeli Tax Authority is trying to revoke the tax exempt status of a veteran human rights organization (which happens to be a shared, age-old goal of NGO Monitor), Physicians for Human Rights. Additionally, the Tax Authority sent a letter to human rights organization B’Tselem, informing it that it will not receive such status:

In the matter at hand, it appears that the organization’s declared, principal purpose is of a clearly political nature, and as such, touches on and deals with matters of public debate and/or politics.

In other words, criticism of the Israeli government and its actions is “of a clearly political nature” — but an organization whose purpose is to attack B’Tselem and similar organizations (“NGO against NGO”) – that is somehow not political. Meaning, political actions whose goal is to attack those who oppose the government, in the eyes of the Tax Authority, is not political. Using the Tax Authority against political opponents of the government is a well-known tool; among others, it was made famous by Richard Nixon.

The Netanyahu government’s attack against a free society in Israel is coming from two directions: the first is encouraging “concerned organizations” to attack civil society organizations; the second, is using the power of the authorities in order to suppress legitimate political activity. Benjamin Netanyahu is waging a war against Israeli society, using both deception and the power of government. The time has come for the Knesset — whose function is to oversee and supervise the government — to wake up. And the first thing it needs to do is to appoint an investigatory commission to look into the connections between the Israeli government and NGO Monitor, Im Tirzu and Shurat HaDin. If it created a committee to investigate police violence against settlers at Amona, then this is certainly a worthy subject.

NGO Monitor did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication. If one is received, it will be published here.

Following the publication of a version of this article in Hebrew, Meretz chairwoman and MK Zehava Galon submitted a parliamentary inquiry to the Prime Minister’s Office. She posed the following questions:

1. Has the Prime Minister’s Office directly or indirectly funded “NGO Monitor” or “Im Tirzu?”

2. If so, for what purposes were funds transferred? What were the sums transferred and in what years? Was a tender issued?

3. Is Mr. Gerald Steinberg employed by a government ministry or office as a private individual, as part of an organization or as another legal entity, or alternatively, was he employed in the past by a government office?

4. If so, in what capacity and during which years?

MK Galon also demanded that Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yanon clarify whether Steinberg perjured himself in front of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, and if so — what legal remedies exist.

Any developments will be updated here, if there are any.

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His finest hours: On Sharon’s murderous legacy http://972mag.com/his-finest-hours-on-sharons-murderous-legacy/85596/ http://972mag.com/his-finest-hours-on-sharons-murderous-legacy/85596/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 11:21:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=85596 From the Qibya massacre, to Sabra and Shatila and the dirty tricks, lies and deceptions that made the West Bank settlements what they are today, Ariel Sharon has caused unimaginable damage to Israel, its army, morality, and political life.

(Translated by Sol Salbe)

President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon laugh together during their joint press conference in the Rose Garden Tuesday, July 29, 2003. (Paul Morse/White House Photo)

On Saturday night, as soon as  Ariel Sharon’s death became known, our hyperactive education minister, Shai Piron, rushed to announce that teachers would devote part of the following day’s lesson to Sharon’s legacy. These classes would be based on prepared outlines which were supposed to be distributed in the morning. You can get a really good idea of what the minister really thinks of his teachers and how desperate he is for publicity from this announcement. How long would it take a teacher to properly prepare such a lesson? How long would it take teachers to study the material not included in the presentation?

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich rushed to instruct police to open an investigation into the publication and posting of announcements expressing joy at the death of Sharon. “This is despicable,” fired up the minister, “and I have no intention of letting the matter rest. I strongly disapprove of such criminal behavior and I have requested that the police command address the matter quickly and professionally.” Oy!  The public security minister does not know his job. It is not the role of the police to enforce conformity of thought, but rather to investigate actual violations of the law. Expressing joy over the death of a person is not breaking the law, even if it annoys a lot of desensitized oafs.

So here are a few words about Sharon’s contribution.

This is Ariel Sharon as we must remember him: a killer from his youth. He served as the commander of Unit 101, which carried out a series of war crimes, as its members began to admit years later. One of the most well-known was the “reprisal operation” on the West Bank village of Qibya. (Its official name was Operation Shoshana, named after Shoshana Kanias whose murder alongside that of her children was the reason given for the operation.) The operation command, written by Sharon in advance of the raid, stated that its goal was to “attack and conquer the village of Qibya, and the achievement of maximal killing and damage to property.” His order was carried out in full, and 69 Palestinian civilians were murdered in their homes. Sharon and his men would later contend that they did not notice the inhabitants when they blew up their homes. This argument is, well, somewhat inconsistent with the order’s wording — something that Sharon would only admit decades later.

Inhabitants of Qibya coming back in their village after its attack by israeli forces, October 1953.

In the beginning of 1955, one of his Sharon’s subordinates, Meir Har-Zion, alongside three other members of Unit 101, went on a private revenge attack in Jordan. Har-Zion murdered members of a Bedouin tribe who were suspected of murdering his sister. Sharon knew about the revenge attack and according to some testimonies, even gave Har-Zion the weapons that he ended up using. Neither Har-Zion nor Sharon were ever tried for the killing.

Around the same time, Sharon sent some paratroopers to rough up Uri Avnery, editor of the oppositional newspaper Haolam Hazeh, which had raised the ire of the Ben-Gurion’s corrupt regime. It isn’t clear whether the latter was aware or unaware of Sharon’s plans, or merely gave a wink and a nod for the attack.

Three years after Qibya, Sharon led the Paratroopers Brigade into an unnecessary battle at the Mitla Pass in the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Peninsula. He never received authorization to attack the narrow pass, so he persuaded the high command to allow him to send a “reconnaissance patrol” to the area. Instead, he sent a whole battalion. The result was a battle in which 38 paratroopers died in vain. The IDF’s well oiled machine rushed to bullshit the public, convincing everyone that it was a heroic battle, which indeed it was, omitting the fact that it was the most unnecessary of that war’s battles.

Away from main focus of the fighting, one of Sharon’s subordinates, Arieh Biro, a company commander in Battalion 890, murdered dozens Egyptian POWs. Later on, he regretted not having bothered to remove the ropes that bound the hands of the prisoners after the murder, which enabled the Egyptians to deduce that they were murdered upon capture. Biro continued his army career and reached the rank of brigadier-general. No one bothered to find out what Sharon knew of the massacre.

On the eve of the Six Day War, when the government showed signs of standing up to the army brass’ pressure to go to war, Sharon proposed that the General Staff carry out a military coup. His impression was that such a coup would be welcomed with a sigh of relief by the government. The proposal was taken off the agenda without any discussion, but Sharon was not tried and executed for treason, as required by law.

The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War were Sharon’s finest hours, when he was revealed to be a brilliant tactician. Nevertheless, both the government and the General Staff soon discovered, in Ben-Gurion’s inimitable words, that he had not been weaned off telling untruths. The military victories catapulted Sharon into the political arena. No one talks about his deliberate neglect of the Bar Lev line out of personal contempt for static defense during his time as GOC Southern Command.

As agriculture minister, and even more so as defense minister, Sharon became the father of the West Bank settlements as we know them today. He holds the copyright for many of the dirty tricks, lies and deceptions that accompany all Jewish construction beyond the Green Line. He shoved settlements here and there like headless nails, knowing with certainty that the inability to extract them is the very obstacle which would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. These headless nails, which guarantee eternal conflict, are Sharon’s most indelible legacy.

In 1982, Sharon, with extensive support from the IDF, misled the Israeli government and embarked on a much larger campaign in Lebanon than that envisaged by his colleagues. The goal of the campaign — expelling the PLO from Lebanon and dealing a deadly blow to Palestinian national aspirations — was presented to the public as a quick-fix operation of short duration, with the express purpose of removing the Palestinian Katyusha rockets from the border region. Somehow, the public was duped into forgetting the fact that a ceasefire between Israel and the PLO had been kept for 13 months, and was only violated when Israel attacked PLO bases located in Palestinian refugee camps, from the air.

The war became the most divisive event in Israel’s history until that point. The lies being put out by the IDF, Sharon and the government were so farfetched that they were exposed as ridiculous within a short time. The media, of course, jumped to attention. The best example was the conquest of Beaufort castles: since Sharon informed Begin that Israel took no casualties during that operation – it is not clear if he was mistaken or lied per his usual habit – and Begin repeated it to reporters, no newspaper dared challenge the prime minister’s word. Anyone who wanted to know what happened needed to read the death notices.

As far as large segments of the Israeli public were concerned, the war reached its nadir with the massacre in Sabra and Shatila. The notion that it was a massacre committed by Christians against Muslims has been very well inculcated in the minds of the Israeli public. Technically it is true – but in the process of accepting that interpretation, some critical facts were made to vanish, including: the IDF armed those who carried out the massacre; the IDF surrounded west Beirut; the perpetrators made their way into west Beirut at the invitation and with the assistance of the IDF; IDF artillery fired flares which facilitated the massacre and later on the helped the Phalangists conceal the bodies.

The massacre shocked the Israeli public. Then came that mythological demonstration of 400,000 people, and eventually the government was forced to establish the Kahan Commission of Inquiry. It concluded that IDF officers knew about the massacre in real time and failed to act decisively to stop it. The commission recommended that Sharon be held responsible and resign his post. Sharon declined, and the government considered rejecting the commission’s recommendations. A demonstration calling on Sharon to resign was held in Jerusalem. A lynch mob attacked it with unprecedented violence. Toward the end of the demonstration, small-time crook and right-wing activist Yona Avrushmi, tossed a grenade into the gathering. One demonstrator, Emile Grunzweig, was killed, while seven others were injured. When the wounded were taken to the hospital, the mob attacked them inside the emergency room.

The impact of Grunzweig’s murder forced the government to remove Sharon from office. He spent the next two decades in the party’s backwater, continuously plotting his next move. Following Netanyahu’s resignation as head of the Likud in 1999, Sharon quickly took over the helm of the party. He became prime minister soon after the start of the Second Intifada – of which he, through his provocative tour of the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, was one of the catalysts.

The years 2001-2004 were years of major bloodletting. More Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks under Sharon’s watch than at any other time. Sharon fought a cruel battle of attrition. His goal was to crush the Palestinian Authority and grind the Oslo Accords into dust. On his orders, every Hamas terrorist attack was followed by an IDF attack on the PA’s facilities and personnel. The blood of Israelis was flowing like water on top of the alter of Sharon’s not-so-quiet population  transfer. His other goal: a body blow to the Palestinian middle class, forcing them to flee.

It was still too early to say whether this strategy has achieved its goal. The amount of blood, Jewish and Palestinian, that Sharon was willing to shed to subdue the Palestinian Authority was phenomenal. But in the middle of it all, Sharon found himself with an unexpected problem: his corrupt deeds over the years were coming home to roost. The State Prosecutor’s Office was trying to find out how the hell Sharon’s son, Gilad, received three million dollars from building contractor Dudi Appel to surf the Internet. Appel was later convicted of bribery.

Hard pressed by the investigations and the erosion of Israel’s international status, and concerned about the increasing popularity of the Geneva Initiative, Sharon hit the road running with his Gaza Disengagement Plan. The goal was a faux withdrawal in order to prove that a withdrawal was impossible. Sharon refused to negotiate with the Palestinians on the issue, even after Arafat died and was replaced by Mahmoud Abbas. He insisted on a unilateral move, and subsequently, a Hamas victory. It was not a bug in the system: it was the central feature.

On that path, Sharon needed to confront the settlers. They, who used to admire Sharon, soon discovered what life was like when a lying, crushing bulldozer turned around over them. Sharon ignored his defeat in the Likud Central Committee. He managed to push the Disengagement Bill through the Knesset – and in the process forced Netanyahu to vote for it four times, after the latter was defeated on the night of the “banana coup” (a failed attempt to remove Sharon) – and simply went on with the implementation. When Chief of Staff Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon told the media that the withdrawal would aid terrorism by “providing it with a tailwind,” Sharon did not blink, and Ya’alon became one of the few chiefs of staff whose term was not extended into a fourth year.

But fools love power, believe in it and nurture it to grow: following the Disengagement, war criminal Ariel Sharon became Israel’s hero. He was the media’s idol. It rewarded him with one title after another. He was somewhat less admired in the Likud, but then he split the party up, forming Kadima — an ideologically challenged skeleton of a party, tailor made to Sharon’s measurements.

That was Sharon’s last maneuver. Shortly thereafter, following opinion polls showing that Kadima was slated to win about 50 seats in the Knesset, he suffered his first stroke. As usual, his courtiers lied and said everything was fine. A month later, Sharon suffered a second stroke .

And now he has finally died after long years of unimaginable damage to Israel, its army, morality and political life -after long decades of shedding innocent blood. To a large extent, Israel’s media hurried to sweep away much of what is written here. It would annoy readers. They may stop reading. It’s not good for circulation.

Such is the stuff beautiful legends are made of.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dies at 85
Ariel Sharon and my political education

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Israelis could take a page from Abraham Lincoln http://972mag.com/israelis-could-take-a-page-from-abraham-lincoln/83955/ http://972mag.com/israelis-could-take-a-page-from-abraham-lincoln/83955/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 15:24:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=83955 Forty years ago there existed a large group of Israelis that didn’t want to occupy the Palestinian territories – a group which at one time was the majority; this majority has since turned into thin air. Lessons from the 19th century American South.

(Translated from Hebrew by Jordan Michaeli)

Abraham Lincoln (Photo: Mathew Brady)

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe, a young and prim author from Connecticut, published one of the most influential books of the 19th century, if not history: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which talks about the fate of slaves in the United States South.

The book, which didn’t age very well over the years (it is barely readable for a modern crowd and is heavily packed with Christian preaching) was a dagger in the heart of slavery. It was written so masterfully: there is one scene, that no one who has read the book will ever forget, in which the slave Eliza escapes from her traders on the fragile ice of the Ohio River, her young son in her arms. Eliza was willing to risk her and her boy’s lives to prevent him from being sold and sent to the South.

“There,” told Stowe to the good people of the North, “that’s what you support when you look the other way: tearing children from their parents’ arms and selling them to strangers.” She wrote to a generation well-versed in the Bible, a crowd that immediately knew what she was referring to: “Do not hand him [a slave] over to his master” (Deuteronomy 23:17), and the dreadful verse: “Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day; and there shall be nought in the power of thy hand” (Deuteronomy 28:32). Stowe found the crack in the shining armor of lies protecting the unjust and struck with all her might.

She was admired in the North. The book became an unprecedented bestseller – only the Bible sold more copies in the 19th century – and is regarded as one of the direct causes for the Civil War, as it led to a radicalization in the South. People who until then hid behind numerous excuses, including “it’s not as bad as it sounds” to “it will lead to a civil war,” had a hard time avoiding the truth any longer. When Stowe eventually met President Lincoln in the midst of war, the latter remarked: “So this is the little woman who brought on this great war.” I, by the way, suspect that Lincoln stole one of his best lines from Stowe’s scenes – towards the end of the decade he told the Southerners that they know slavery is injustice; they allow their children to play with the children of slaves but not with those of slave traders. For Stowe as well, the slave trader is the lowest of the low and even slave owners are disgusted by him.

It’s customary to speak about the appreciation the book received and its influence in the North as well as Britain. We can speculate on the extent to which the phenomenal success of the book prevented the British government from acknowledging the southern states, out of fear from the expected public uproar that would follow. But that is the well known story. The real story is how the South reacted.

The Southern public reacted with total shock. Suddenly an institution with negligible salience for most Southerners (most of them didn’t own slaves, the Civil War was conducted by the elite) stained the entire South with the most despicable crimes. The very active Southern press was filled with appalled articles, arguing that such things almost never happen, and if they do take place, then they are specific cases caused by barbaric and uneducated plantation owners, and one should not judge an entire culture according to a few minor events. And besides, the slaves want to be slaves, slavery civilizes them, and in any case they are in much better condition than that of the average slave in the North. In short, the South cried out: “Why don’t they show the whole story?” and next to the tuba which roared that the slaves are happy and doing just fine, a piccolo was also heard, saying we must show them who the master is here or else they will rise in the dead of the night and slaughter us all.

And those were only the polite people. The ones who write for newspapers and publish books. Other simply burned copies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and ran those who dared to sell the book out of town. One psycho even sent Stowe an ear of a slave in the mail. Others bitterly wrote that the book is proof that the North hates them and won’t hesitate to spread stories about them.

In short, almost nobody in the South dared looking at the mirror that Stowe put before them.

Sound familiar?


The above use of “why don’t they show the whole story?” was, of course, intentional. Israel in 2013 is like the American South in 1852: a xenophobic mob that cannot see its own, real image.

We have been occupying another nation for 45 years and the more time passes, the more hardened our hearts become. Two generations before Stowe, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.” One generation later, in his last days, he was one of the toughest of slave owners, convinced that the release of slaves will bring a fiery and bloody end to the South. Forty years ago there existed a large group of Israelis that didn’t want to occupy the Palestinian territories – a group which at one time was the majority.

This majority has turned into thin air. One reason is the savage war that our occupied population conducted. Another is that we simply got used to it. Most people living today in Israel, including the author of these words were born after 1967 (and I assume I’m older than most readers of this post). Most of us were born into a reality in which the occupation is a given, static state. They grew up with an understanding that one day they will have to spend part of their lives occupying another nation or support the occupation, strategically or militarily. Years of rigorously blurring the Green Line, with the active help of the Education Ministry, gave birth to a generation that knows nothing. A generation that doesn’t separate between the occupied territories and Israel and has a weaker understanding of the difference between Palestinian residents of Israel and residents of the occupied territories. And since this generation was brought up Jewish, and not Israeli, it does not understand the whole citizenship thing either.

Most Israelis don’t benefit directly from the occupation. The vast majority does not reside in the occupied territories or enjoy the exploitation of occupied land. Considering the very low number of combat soldiers relative to the army’s size, and the decrease in military service in general, it is okay to assume that most Israelis haven’t served in the occupied territories. Nonetheless, like in the American South, they find themselves protecting settlers and settlements, the occupation and occupiers, because the occupation has become their own black mark. It’s become like a family member.

So we don’t mention how the occupation violates 15 out of 30 principals of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So we ignore how our occupation forces regularly kill children. We don’t ask “how did we reach a point where we are shooting at children?”; we ask, “why don’t they show the whole story and what he did just before we shot him?” We search, with rage and puffy veins, for an excuse that allows us to say that the child simply made us kill him. In the process we legitimize every horror and corruption of our legal system – one that can’t find an prosecutor for the case of a dead child even 14 months after he was shot. We know, or in any case we have absolutely no excuse not to know, that children are abducted every night from their houses by armed, masked men, taking them into interrogation rooms without an adult present to protect them while they undergo abuse and torture. We also know, given that we don’t lie to ourselves, that this practice did not start yesterday. Things have always been this way.

We know that a whole nation lives without the basic right to protest, and that as far as our gunmen are concerned, the arrival of a person to a demonstration is a reason good enough to shoot at him or her. We know, given that we don’t lie to ourselves, that our gunmen exercise excessive violence towards those demonstrators, violence they will not direct towards Israeli citizens. We know that those gunmen lie to investigators, they cover for each other and bring criminal behavior home with them after the end of their service. We know. And whoever says he doesn’t know – chooses not to know.

Our armed men shoot at Palestinian youth when they break bread together, shoot at them when they stand in a field, claiming in retrospect they were assaulted with an axe, which a day later turns into a bottle, and then into a syringe. We shoot at them when they try to take cover in our cemeteries and say they were about to stab someone, a claim that turns within a day to “he picked up something from the ground and it could have been a knife so I shot him.” We know that the occupation forces will release those murderous armed men with the excuse that “they felt that their lives were endangered.”

Stowe said that her criticism was directed above all toward the legal system, and especially toward the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. She wrote her book six years prior to the Dred Scott decision, but already then it was clear who the legal system was serving. We know that the occupation turns our legal system into an accomplice to an unjust system (sometimes by force, other times by consent). We know that the investigators and legal experts will take their time with the investigation. We know that the judges themselves will look the other way, write a few hypocritical words expressing dissatisfaction from being forced into something so repulsive, but only rarely will they rule against an “an illegality that pierces the eye and outrages the heart,” since their eyes are blind and their hearts have been sealed a long time ago, sealed on the day when the cry of a family about to lose its home due to the actions of one its sons was pushed aside by explanations about the reasoning of the commander’s decision.

The South used to threaten the North that if it wasn’t allowed  to do as it pleases – that if it wasn’t allowed to expand slavery to the free states or if it were told that slavery is immoral – it would have no choice but to leave the Union or embark on a civil war. Such threats were voiced in intervals of five years starting in 1830. Israelis, too, are regularly threatened with a civil war. The South used to say, with a considerable amount of justice, that its men held an exceptionally large number of positions in the armed forces and therefore it may decide what those men should do. When crisis came, the Union found itself in a civil war with states populated by less than a third of its citizens, but who enjoyed the services of half of the army’s officers. The military service of slave owners was conditioned. The moment the country stopped fulfilling its stated purpose, they would turn their weapons and use the training they received from the government against the very same government.

Two years ago, an armed Israeli Defense Forces soldier – a member of the Kfir unit – killed Mustafa Tamimi during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. He shot Tamimi with a smoke grenade, aimed directly at him from five meters away, through the open door of a moving military vehicle. Tamimi was killed while demonstrating in his village, on his land, against the occupation. A clear act of a free man who refuses to be enslaved. A few weeks ago the Military Advocate General closed the case. The MAG swallowed the soldier’s tale according to which he merely shot at the ground from a moving vehicle and didn’t seen Tamimi at all, and oops, the grenade ricocheted from the ground and hit Tamimi directly in his face.

Even if this is true, and I think you have to be a clinical idiot or an evil person to accept this argument (the MAG is welcome to choose) then the soldier is not guilty of murder, but of manslaughter. Only that the MAG ruled the firing took place “according to the relevant rules and procedures and did not involve any illegality.” This is how acts of killing are covered today: they say that shooting from a moving vehicle, supposedly toward the ground “took place according to the procedures.” It doesn’t matter there is no such procedure.

And most Israelis continued sleeping. As far as they are concerned, the killing of a young Palestinian who dared to resist the occupation is nothing they should lose sleep over. They have become used to seeing this reality as a world order, only that such an order has a price. Always.

Slavery in the South was overthrown with blood and fire. It seems fit to quote Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

We better stop before we get there.

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The Israeli government’s official ‘lawfare’ contractor http://972mag.com/the-israeli-governments-official-lawfare-contractor/80659/ http://972mag.com/the-israeli-governments-official-lawfare-contractor/80659/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 20:34:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=80659 The Israeli ‘hasbara’ group that once sued Jimmy Carter and Twitter, represents Israeli soldiers accused of excessive force and war crimes and files lawsuits at the behest of the Israeli government, calls itself a ‘human rights organization.’

(Translated from Hebrew by Jordan Michaeli)

Illustrative photo of a judge signing a document. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

You know Israel’s policy – since no one believes a word it says (and rightfully so) – that the country must operate through third parties supposedly unconnected to it? This has officially been Israeli state policy since 2010, but it seems it was established much earlier.

My Hebrew blog has dealt quite extensively with “Im Tirtzu,” and the fact that it is actually a GONGO (Government Operated Non-Governmental Organization), meaning, an organization pretending to be an independent organization while receiving instructions from the government, and the groups’ ties to the Prime Minister’s Office (Hebrew). Now, thanks to Chelsea Manning – and may we soon see her free – another hasbara organization, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, was exposed as a GONGO.

You may remember Shurat HaDin, which defines itself as a ‘lawfare’ organization and that threatened to sue Twitter for the fact that Hezbollah has a Twitter account, sued former president Jimmy Carter for ‘intentional misrepresentation” of Israel and tried to prevent the Gilad Schalit deal with a petition to the High Court of Justice, among other hasbara tricks.

The organization, which defines itself as a “Jewish human rights organization,” probably in line with [Hebron settler and MK] Orit Struk’s definition, was established in 2003 by Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. According to the American embassy documents leaked by Manning, Darshan-Leitner told American embassy personal in 2007, as was reported by them, that during its early years (of Shurat HaDin, Y.G.), the organization received instructions from the Israeli government regarding which cases to handle. “The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do,” claimed Darshan-Leitner (my emphasis). Darshan-Leitner had of course no problem with that. Among her contacts, she named “Uzi Beshaya” (should be Shaya, Y.G.) from the Mossad and Udi Levy from the National Security Council. Darshan-Leitner told embassy personnel that during one of her trials she requested to impose a lien on a Palestinian imports company. According to her the Mossad provided her with intelligence proving the company was funneling money to the Islamic Jihad movement. The Americans mentioned that similar information was handed over to American officials as well during a classified meeting.

Darshan-Leitner further claimed that today her organization decides independently which cases to handle, but it continues to receive evidence and witnesses from the Israeli intelligence. She bragged that as a result of her lawsuits, the National Westminster Bank runs checkups with the Mossad to find out whether its Islamic charity clients are “kosher.” Undoubtedly, the Mossad will be enthusiastic regarding how effortlessly Darshan-Leitner doles out such information.

Did Darshan-Leitner and her organization, Shurat HaDin, indeed stop receiving instructions from the Israeli government? In 2007, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit against the Bank of China, claiming the bank transfers funds to terror organizations. Shurat HaDin told Yediot Ahronot last July that the lawsuit was initiated following an Israeli government request. The Wultz family as well, in whose name Shurat HaDin is acting in court, said that they initiated legal steps after a request by the Israeli government. Recently, after Netanyahu’s visit to China, the Chinese exerted considerable pressure on Netanyahu, and the man that enters every crisis like a weightlifter and finishes like a crumbled candy bar, as Nahum Barnea once said, crumbled this time as well, and forbade Shurat HaDin’s expert witness, Uzi Shaya, from testifying in court. Uzi Shaya, as mentioned, is one of the men Darshan-Leitner named as her contacts within the Israeli government.

It is doubtful that there exists a more cynical organization than Shurat HaDin, one that explicitly talks about “lawfare,” namely the use of legal means to achieve fighting goals – an accusation often thrown at human rights organizations by hasbara hacks such as Ben-Dror Yemini. There’s no doubt Shurat Hadin is pioneering. It’s the first time we’ve encountered an organization receiving a considerable amount of its marching orders from the government and a considerable amount of its information from spooks, and yet dares to define itself as a “human rights organization.” As an example of its activities in the field, Shurat HaDin points to the assistance it provides soldiers brought to trial for using excessive force, its help for Israeli officers accused of war crimes and assistance to Palestinian collaborators. A “human rights organization,” they say?  A you’re-human-and-they’re-not-rights organization would be more accurate. An occupation rights organization.

Techwashing: Hasbara group strikes back after Hawking boycott
NGO Monitor steps up the absurdity of its attacks 

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NGO Monitor steps up the absurdity of its attacks http://972mag.com/ngo-monitor-steps-up-the-absurdity-of-its-attacks/80483/ http://972mag.com/ngo-monitor-steps-up-the-absurdity-of-its-attacks/80483/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 13:02:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=80483 A lie travels around the world while the truth looks for a Wi-Fi connection. Sometimes, it finds it.

This blog’s favorite fibber organization, NGO Monitor – you may remember them from such classic favorites as distributing Hasbara lies about the UN Human Rights Commission, using a Trojan horse inside Wikipedia, as well as just stupid negligence – pounced on the tunnel that was found this week near Ein Hashlosha. The organization quickly took to twitter, saying “So, #Hamas terror tunnel was built w/concrete from #Israel, sent b/c of UN & NGO pressure. Thanks @Gisha_Access“. Lies have the speed advantage: in a very short time, the libel – if I were to use NGO Monitor’s rhetoric I’d write ‘blood libel,’ was quoted in the Jewish Press as if it were a matter of fact. That is, after all, how libel is done.


And then, reality came knocking on the hasbara organization’s door. The tunnel, says the IDF, was started about a year and a half ago and finished about two months ago. It is entirely made out of concrete. The problem is that Israel did not transfer cement to the private sector in the Gaza Strip until September 17th, that is, less than a month ago. The cement used for building the tunnel didn’t come to Gaza from Israel. It came through the tunnels. But these are just facts and NGO Monitor isn’t about facts. They’re about distributing Hasbara lies.

Read more about NGO Monitor on +972

The facts, of course, point to a massive hole in the entire Israeli Gaza siege concept. Until recently Hamas had no trouble getting anything it wanted: cement, steel, explosives. Gaza residents got used to relying on the tunnel economy. The sector that got screwed by the Israeli siege was the third sector (non-profits). Third sector organizations can’t buy building supplies for a school they’re funding through the tunnels because these organizations naturally need receipts, and as it happens, the smugglers don’t provide any. The organizations had to make do with very few supplies, under heavy supervision by Israel’s security forces. Not to mention, considering the “terror tunnel” sat around for two months, doing nothing, one might wonder just how much of a “terror tunnel” it really was. If terrorism is all Hamas cares about, why did nothing happen? Could it be that the other side is somewhat rational and kept the tunnel to be used as a bargaining chip in some future altercation?

But I digress. The issue here is the policy of lies used by an organization that pretends it’s watching human rights NGOs, while making sure it keeps its own money trail to itself.  These lies aren’t limited to Gisha and the attempt to incriminate it in involvement in the Hamas tunnel.

Last Thursday, Yesh Din – full disclosure here: the undersigned provides Yesh Din with blog writing services for a fee, and has been known to hobnob with the organization’s staff members at meetings, and sometimes even at the local pub, and considers some organization staff members to be close friends – published a report about the absence of Israeli legislation against war crimes and the effect this absence has on the judgments issued by courts-martial. The report is available here.

Immediately after the report was published, NGO Monitor quickly issued a press release that contained a bald-faced lie: it argued that the report had been commissioned by the European Union and that the EU had simply contracted Yesh Din to write it. This is utter nonsense. Yes, the EU did fund some of the report, but as one can see on page 3 of the report, (document) – this is no secret.

However, the EU didn’t commission it. On the contrary, Yesh Din, like many other human rights NGOs, decided on a project and then went looking for funding. The EU agreed to provide such. The author of the report, Lior Yavne, pointed out to me that the EU’s involvement was confined to making sure that the money they provided was spent appropriately and as required. They did not know what the report would contain and certainly did not influence it. By the way, NGO Monitor claims that the EU provides two-thirds of Yesh Din’s funding. This is also untrue.  A look at Yesh Din’s donor list (document, and while we’re on the subject, I’d appreciate a similarly accurate and detailed list of NGO Monitor donors), reveals that in 2012, it received NIS 4,508,420 million. The EU’s share was 1.19 million, that is, a little more than a quarter. A quarter, a third, iceberg, Goldberg, what’s the difference, they’re all anti-Semites. Forget about the facts.

The most interesting fact is that NGO Monitor has nothing to say about the report itself. All it says is that it was “commissioned” by the EU, presuming that this libel is enough, that all it takes is to draw a line between a human rights NGO and the EU, because, in the alternate universe where NGO Monitor lurks, there’s no need to even say that the EU is a malevolent anti-Semitic organization whose purpose is to destroy Israel. It’s obvious. As far as NGO Monitor – and a large, ignorant, contingent of the Israeli public – are concerned, a connection to the EU is enough to make you a member of the communist party in the U.S. in the fifties. For NGO Monitor, this has become a method. They don’t criticize the reports any more. They just scream that someone Ben Dror Yemini (a right-wing Israeli journalist) doesn’t like gave money to the organization that wrote the report, and think that’s enough.

If they had bothered to read the report (and they didn’t, there wasn’t enough time between the publication and their response, believe me, I read it), they would have seen that its main conclusion, which is that “considering the practice of the Courts-Martial and the shortage of material offenses in Israeli domestic law, special offenses of war crimes should be incorporated through legislation into Israel’s legal system” – not too radical a text you’d have to agree -  is exactly the Turkel Commission’s Recommendation No. 1 (document, pages 366-369). The Turkel Commission found that there are gaps in Israeli legislation, noting, among other things that Israel should “ensure that there is legislation to transpose clearly into law and practice the absolute prohibition in international law of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment,” in order “to enable ‘effective penal sanction’ for those committing war crimes, as required by international law.”

Was the Turkel Commission also funded by the EU? Considering the fact that Gerald Steinberg’s Flying Circus – a man who, it should be noted here, had no compunction about sabotaging Yesh Din’s Wikipedia entry – actually said this morning that the IDF and the Government of Israel were responsible for the building of “terror tunnels,” maybe that day will also come.

The pathetic negligence of NGO Monitor and truth from Argentina
EU throws out NGO Monitor case, tells it to pick up the tab
Foreign influence, transparency problems of NGO Monitor 

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‘How speaking out about the occupation nearly landed me in jail’ http://972mag.com/how-speaking-out-about-the-occupation-nearly-landed-me-in-jail/73748/ http://972mag.com/how-speaking-out-about-the-occupation-nearly-landed-me-in-jail/73748/#comments Sun, 16 Jun 2013 14:02:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=73748 When even reporting an immoral act by a senior officer carries with it a serious price, it becomes clear that one cannot win against the army. Been there, done that. 

In July 1989, as a young, bored soldier in the IDF’s main draft base in Tel Ha’Shomer, I asked my colonel to be transferred to the Civil Administration in the Gaza Strip. We were on friendly terms and he quickly made the arrangements, walking through my first sham court martial. I was in charge of running a small garden toolshed, which was broken into while I was on vacation – many of the tools stolen. This was standard procedure; I myself broke into a rival’s shed a few days later and stole some of my stuff back. But not enough. My staff sergeant, who did not at all like me, made certain I’d stand trial for the missing hoes and shovels. The colonel made it all go away in two minutes, and the public property (admittedly, not much of it) simply vanished into air.

I had other reasons to leave Tel Ha’Shomer besides a vengeful NCO and a boring job. The First Intifada was in full bloom and I was itching to do something worthwhile. I have recently left my yeshiva under a cloud, was highly militant in my leftist views, and felt I needed to do something.

About that time, Yonathan Geffen – a two-bit pundit (who was actually a much better poet) – wrote a column, suggesting a leftist has three options facing the Intifada. The first was dropping out: feign insanity or religious conversion, and get out of the military. The second was dumbing down and closing your mind: obey your orders, initiate nothing, and try to repress everything you see. The third was actively changing the military by volunteering to serve in trouble spots and leading by example. There was a fourth option which Geffen didn’t mention and which tells you about conventional leftist discourse at the time: disobedience.

It didn’t occur to me, either, and so I asked for and receive a transfer to the Civil Administration unit in Deir El Balah, in the central region of the Gaza Strip. It didn’t take me long to notice violent and illegal behavior among my colleagues; it took them even less time to realize they have a leftist on their hands and basically shut me out of such knowledge the best they could.

What people who didn’t serve in a military unit don’t realize (and what the people who did and asked others why they didn’t complain understand all too well) is just how intensive this experience is and how much pressure is put on you. I tried my best. I complained to the colonel about an incident (I cannot recall the details, but it included unjustified violence) only to be ignored. Then, following the advice of the leader of my town’s the left-wing Ratz party leader Avi Oren (of blessed memory), I wrote a report to MK Dedi Tsuker, then of Ratz and the founder of B’Tselem (an Israeli NGO which documents human rights violations in the occupied territories), describing a particularly violent incident by my direct officer. A soldier reporting an incident to an MK is an act in accordance with the law.

The officer and his two goons summoned a Palestinian for some trivial offense – building something with a permit, if I recall correctly – and then proceeded to beat him senseless. The officer burst into my office, white-faced, told me the prisoner has passed out, and ordered me to summon a doctor. I did, and then, as per procedure, wrote out a report about it in the operational journal. This was my job, and this was a noteworthy incident. The officer returned to the office and glanced at the journal. “Did you report it to headquarters already?” he asked quietly. I told him no. He took out a knife and cut the page from the journal.

Now, most of those incidents would not have made it into the journal in the first place. I was unusual. Reporting the incident to B’Tselem was even more unusual. When the shit storm broke out in the pages of the late, lamented daily paper Hadashot, the Civil Administration went into crisis mode. We received phone calls from the chief of staff’s bureau, and the officers in Deir El Balah needed less than an hour to identify the leak.

My officer took me out for a ride. We were in the vehicle – him, me, a driver and one of his two goons. He ordered the driver to take us to the outskirts of the Dir El Balah refugee camp, one of the most notoriously violent camps around. He ordered the driver to halt the vehicle, and told me “get out.” I stared at him, and he began ranting that since I was so friendly with the Arabs, I might as well join them. This went on for several minutes, with no one else saying a word. I ended the rant by cocking my rifle and chambering a round, making clear my intentions without saying a word. He shut up, and told the driver to drive us back to base.

Would I have pulled the trigger? I don’t know.

The incident quickly made the round at the base – I guess the driver talked – and people came to shake my hand and congratulate me on my courage in facing down an officer. But afterwards, few of them would exchange words with me. I became a pariah. The officer was promoted several weeks later, out of the unit, though not before putting me on trial for some trumped-up charges (he failed after the unit’s executive officer saw through it).

This wasn’t the end of it. I was contacted by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID), and pressured into serving as an informant. I think I did an excellent job. Some people would boast about harming some Palestinian and would find themselves under investigation several weeks later. MPCID did a better job at protecting me, I must say, then Tsuker did: they basically collected reports from the victims before summoning the soldier, so as to cover me. I still came under suspicion, but as I pointed out, they didn’t take me into the field anymore, so I couldn’t have witnessed anything, could I?

Six months after the initial incident, I was put on trial, despite a promise from the Chief of the Civil Administration that I wouldn’t be, under the condition that I tell him precisely what happened, which I did. My new commanding officer protested that a promise had been made and broken, to no avail. A colonel came during the night to try me. I received a suspended sentence for reporting an incident to an MK, which – again – was my legal right. The officer who beat someone for a building offense until he lost consciousness and illegally destroyed the report? Promoted.

In the process, I became an accessory to the occupation. Yes, I ensured that some criminals were put on trial, and I tried to do my best to help people, but I also had to do my job, which included ordering bulldozers so that house demolitions could be carried out, and writing reports which made it possible for the occupation to function in that regard.

The Civil Administration isn’t a proper army. It is supposed to be the carrot, not the stick. People who served in combat units knew that reporting on their comrades meant reporting on people whom they will have to rely on in real combat zones, such as Lebanon. It simply wasn’t done.

This is what I would say to any of the hypocrites who ask the “silence breakers” why they didn’t go through the proper channels when they had the chance. And to any young person with a conscience, I would simply say: don’t repeat my mistakes – you can’t reform the army. At best you’d serve as a fig leaf, at worst you’d get seriously beat up for your troublemaking. Refuse to serve, or dodge your way out of the system, but simply don’t go there. You can’t win and, anyway, this isn’t your game. You can’t save others; save yourself, at least.

WATCH: Former female Israeli soldiers break their silence

Why soldiers don’t ‘break the silence’ to the IDF
The soldiers’ stories that Israel lacks the courage to hear

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Techwashing: Hasbara group strikes back after Hawking boycott http://972mag.com/techwashing-giving-the-gift-of-speech-as-long-as-it-doesnt-criticize-israel/70758/ http://972mag.com/techwashing-giving-the-gift-of-speech-as-long-as-it-doesnt-criticize-israel/70758/#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 14:13:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=70758 Israeli hasbara organizations have been calling Stephen Hawking a hypocrite for daring to boycott Israel while simultaneously using an Israeli-designed chip in his wheelchair. And this, in essence, is the emblematic Israeli response: shut your mouth when you criticize me.

(Translated by Sol Salbe)

One of the more repulsive concepts underlying Israeli hasbara (the Hebrew term for the public relations efforts geared at disseminating information about Israel) is “redemption through technology.” The concept states that since Israel is a technology leader, it is exempt from any criticism for the fact that it oppresses the Palestinians and other minorities. The same get-out-of-jail card should apply to the fact that it is an ethnocracy, which just happens to be best thing that has ever happened to anti-Semites since the 19th century. This is usually expressed as “ah, so you write some criticisms of Israel, you despicable lowlife? Are you aware that you are using Israeli technology?!” As if somehow this provides some sort of rebuttal to the criticism.

Even if we accept the assumption that Israeli technology is somehow indispensable to modern life – and I certainly do not buy this assumption – there is a conflation here between the activities of individual Israelis or Israeli companies and Israel’s political pursuits. An American female blogger, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, noted that this minor psychosis is really strange: when someone criticises the United States government, it does not occur to her to say “but we gave the world a whole range of Apple products!”

This psychosis has now reached its zenith, an example of which can be seen here: one the most repulsive hasbara organisations, Shurat HaDin, is calling physicist Stephen Hawking a hypocrite for daring to boycott Israel while simultaneously using an Intel chip which is at the core of the system with which the handicapped physicist engages with the world . This chip, claims the lawfare organization organization, was manufactured in Israel. Thus, the brutes of Shurat HaDin suggest that if Hawking wants to be an honest man, he ought to shut the fuck up. This, in essence, is the emblematic Israeli response: shut your mouth when you criticize me.

Intel is an international company with branches in Israel. It is far from certain whether the chip that Hawking uses was created or designed by Israelis. Moreover, I doubt that Intel is all that keen about this kind of attention by Shurat HaDin. In free countries, those in which one may call for a boycott of Israel, Shurat HaDin’s atavistic approach may certainly lead to a call for a boycott of Intel until it ceases its activities in Israel. Naturally, this doesn’t apply in Israel where anyone calling for a boycott runs the risk of hundreds of settlers prosecuting them and demanding up to NIS 30,000 ($8250) without having to prove actual damages.

A boycott of Intel could be a good idea: the Israeli taxpayer has been subsidizing the corporation for many years under the program of “socialism for the rich, swinish capitalism for the have nots.” So those taxpayers might indeed be delighted when Intel — one of the most predatory corporations around — goes on to exploit other country. But that’s a different story.

Stephen Hawking’s message to Israeli elites: The occupation has a price
A Zionist defense of Hawking

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Pretending away the Nakba only perpetuates the conflict http://972mag.com/suppressing-injustices-hold-onto-that/65949/ http://972mag.com/suppressing-injustices-hold-onto-that/65949/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 18:21:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=65949 When the Czechs prefer to keep silent and repress their history, it’s a problem, but it is not an imminent danger to the country. When Israelis prefer to pretend there was no ethnic cleaning here, it’s a wholly different question: the conflict won’t end unless Israel admits to the injustice it caused.

Palestinian refugees ‘making their way from Galilee in October-November 1948′ (Fred Csasznik, copyright expired)

A few weeks back I watched The Gatekeepers, a movie which interviews six of the chiefs of Shin Bet, from Avraham Shalom to Yuval Diskin. The movie is shocking and well worth your time. The most surprising character was Diskin, who obviously underwent a great change upon leaving the service: at the end of the movie he adamantly agrees with Yishayahu Leibowitch’s famous dictum that the occupation will turn Israel into a ”Shin Bet state.” And over the weekend we learned Diskin went through another metamorphosis: he recommended to the Turkel Committee that the Shin Bet start video-taping its interrogations, which the service has long resisted.

Diskin is merely the latest in a series of senior security officials who, as soon as they leave office, see the light and understand just how ruinous the office they headed was, and how they represented positions that were damaging to the country. The last great show in this genre was the bunch of senior commanders of the IDF’s Northern Command, who upon retirement were astonished to find out that the Security Zone in Lebanon was a huge mistake – often, after defending it in uniform as vital to security just a few weeks prior.

In that regard, the most interesting speaker is certainly Avraham Shalom, the oldest interviewee. Shalom thinks strategic errors were made, particularly by the politicians, but he himself regrets nothing. When asked about moral problems, he laughs. “Morality?” He asks, “Morality? Look for it first among the terrorists.” One assumes former chiefs, assuming they would even bother to be interviewed, would supply similar remarks. It’s very hard to see Issar Har’el, for instance, the closest thing we’ve got to J. Edgar Hoover, providing the camera with anything aside from a mocking, world-weary grin, saying in effect “you’ll never understand, so don’t even try.”

Superficially, Shalom, born in 1928, and Diskin, born in 1956, are separated by just one generation. Actually, they come from different worlds. Diskin grew up in Givatayim, possibly Tel Aviv’s most secure suburb. Shalom was born in Vienna. It was not a safe place for Jews even then, and in 1938 came the Anschluss, the annexation by Nazi Germany, which the Viennese used as an excuse for an orgy of violence against resident Jews. Shalom was lucky: his family understood early on where things were going, and fled to Palestine in 1939. They arrived penniless – this was Adolf Eichmann’s specialty, how he made his name – but they survived.

Not everyone was that lucky. Uri Ben-Ari, who would one day create the IDF’s doctrines of tank warfare, saw as an eight-year-old child in Berlin (he was still called Heinz Benner) how a gang of SA gunmen severely beat his father, after which they urinated on him. On Kristallnacht, the father and son saw the synagogue where he had recently celebrated his bar mizvah being set on fire. Several days later, Benner was kicked out of his school in a humiliating public spectacle: “Heinz Benner! You are a member of the Jewish race which committed heinous crimes against mankind and against the German people! The school vomits you from its ranks and you are hereby expelled! Go through our gate and be gone from our sight forever. Forward march! Heil Hitler!” Ben-Ari emigrated to Palestine, alone, in March 1939. His father was left behind.

In that regard, Ben-Ari was more typical than Shalom. The Palmach generation is often described as composed of native-born, but a significant number of them were European refugees, not natives. For a generation, the symbol of the Palmach sabra was Dan Ben-Amotz. He was actually born in the Ukraine under the name Moise Tehilimzuger. Like Ben-Ari, he too came to Palestine alone; his family, too, was murdered. The number of Jews then residing in Palestine who lost their family in Europe was staggering. To the rest of their trouble – the relative poverty and primitiveness of Palestine, at least when compared to central Europe; the conflict with the Arabs; the significant suffering inflicted on teenaged refugees by teenage sabras and often even by the grown-ups, who couldn’t comprehend what was happening “over there” – must be added survivor’s guilt. The refugees who made it to Palestine prior to 1941 believed they were pioneers, and that their family and friends would join them after a while; many of them saved money diligently to aid in this immigration. At the end of 1945, most of them would realize they were either the last survivors of their family or very nearly so. The fact that they not merely survived, but lived in relative comfort, must also have been a burden.

Ben-Ari and Shalom joined the Palmach in 1946, the year the organization began preparing itself for the coming independence war, which would come within 18 months. This was the same period in which Eastern Europe convulsed in a series of terrifying national struggles which followed the border changes the Soviet Union forced on the region following its victory over Nazi Germany. These struggles – a more apt title would be “ethnic cleansing” – were bloody, and included the murder of possibly millions of people: Ukrainians, Poles, and many Germans. The Czechs murdered, in a savage outburst of hatred only occupied people who felt their chains slip away can understand, some 20,000 Germans in the days immediately following liberation. Most of the victims were women, children and the elderly. The Czech don’t talk much about it nowadays, nor are they fond of speaking of the expulsion of some 1.5 million Germans, or the pillaging of their property. During a tour in Prague two months ago, the tour guide described what happened there as ‘genocide.’ Most of his people prefer to look the other way. The Poles made it clear to Jews who thought they could return home, with the pogrom in Kielce and by hundreds and thousands of terror killings on the roads and on trains, that they, too, are an ethnic minority whose historical role is over. Without understanding these events, it’s impossible to understand some of Alterman’s most haunting, poisoned lines in “The Child Avram”:

Before him stand, then, the Seventy Nations,
And say: We are upon you!
With seventy acts of laws and seventy axes,
We shall return you to this house!
We shall make you lie down in the ready bed,

And you slept in it as still as your father!

Orwell understood what was going on in 1946, in his Politics and the English Language, so reminiscent of Tacitus about the ways the Roman used language: “Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.” Orwell was speaking of the need of newspapers written in English to speak about what their governments agreed to, without making the readers understand what is it that they mean. In Eastern Europe, it was well understood. There, a “mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details” would simply not be enough; hence they spoke of the events as little as possible.

As far as its Jewish population is concerned, Palestine in 1947 was a branch of Eastern Europe, and it can be argued that its history in 1947-1948 simply cannot be understood without knowing what happened, two years earlier, in Europe. What took place there, echoed here, and when “normal” acts of hostility exploded, in November 1947, into war, tens of thousands of people who could not bring their families back, and who could not avenge themselves on the Germans – for other people already did that, yet another so-called proof of Jewish powerlessness – did on their new land what Eastern Europeans carried out on their side: they acted out an ethnic cleansing and looted the property of the other people. Afterwards they removed everything which might remind them of the people who lived here before them. And when the refugees tried to return, they shot at them. And that, not the expulsion during wartime but the refusal to let them back at peacetime, was the true birth of the refugee problem.

And then came the great silence. There are things of which you cannot speak, because you cannot live with the words. The generation of Ben-Ari and Shalom was famous for its silence. Even the well-known expulsion order, Ben-Gurion’s famous hand gesture when he was asked what to do with the captured population, was a wordless order.

“Hold on to that,” sang the Biluiym (for full English lyrics, click here),

“We tried very hard,
We covered all the ruins,
Changed the names of the streets,
We tried very hard,
We silenced the rumors…”

We silenced the rumors. Anyone who wanted to know, could. The ethnic cleansing of 1947-1948 was an ill-kept secret. But most of that generation did not want to know. And several years later massive waves of immigration changed the country irrecoverably. Many of those immigrants came from Eastern Europe, where people were experienced in entering a house whose occupants abandoned it in a hurry, leaving most of their property behind. A decade after 1948, and Ben-Ari and Shalom’s generation was already a minority. Most of the people did not know on whose lands they were sitting and liked it that way. A common legend arose, which said that the Palestinians left of their own will. A Czech history textbook, published recently, sums up the events of 1945-1946 with the words “and then the Sudeten Germans returned to their homeland.”

Shalom, as a representative of his generation, knew full well why he must not enter a debate about morality. It would open the gaping bottom under Israel’s feet, expose it as a country whose very existence relied on ethnic cleansing. It would open the question whether, given for instance Israel’s way of treating the Negev Bedouin – it now wants to expel thousands of them from the places to which it expelled them in 1948 – can we speak of the Nakba as a finite, finished event, or is it an ongoing process.

The East European ethnic cleansing had a certain advantage over the one carried out by Shalom and his generation: they were final. The German groups in Eastern Europe, which caused much of the instability following the First World War, ceased to exist. Eastern Europe, which until Stalin’s victory was a bubbling cauldron of minorities, some of them with delusions of grandeur, became homogenized. The process was murderous and agonized, caused the death of millions and brought untold suffering to many millions – only the war itself caused more suffering – but it is over. There are no active nationalist conflicts in Eastern Europe today.

The conflict in what used to be Mandatory Palestine never ended. To a certain extent, this was for two reasons: Israel was too weak to conquer the West Bank in 1948, and 1967 was not 1948. While a minor ethnic cleansing took place in 1967, Moshe Dayan knew it was too late to do in the West Bank what the IDF did in would-be-Israel in 1947.

When the Czechs prefer to keep silent and repress their history, it’s a problem, but it is not an imminent danger to the country, just to its national character; and a young and aware generation is trying to raise the issue. When Israelis prefer to pretend there was no ethnic cleaning here, it’s a wholly different question: the conflict won’t end unless Israel admits to the injustice it caused.

But it is so deep, so basic, that many Israelis would prefer to give up a solution so long as they don’t have to face the injustice and admit to it. We would be better off were Shalom’s generation to open its mouth at last; they would be believed. But he who grew accustomed to silence for so long, will not break it easily. Perhaps he is afraid of what he might say.

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The pathetic negligence of NGO Monitor and truth from Argentina: Two comments http://972mag.com/the-pathetic-negligence-of-ngo-monitor-and-truth-from-argentina-two-comments/65834/ http://972mag.com/the-pathetic-negligence-of-ngo-monitor-and-truth-from-argentina-two-comments/65834/#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2013 15:56:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=65834 NGO Monitor’s most recent report on foreign government funding of Israeli left-wing NGOs glaringly omits publicly available financial statements, making their data unreliable and full of distortions. The pathetic truth is that NGO Monitor’s ‘researchers’ couldn’t be bothered to leave their office, drag themselves to the Registrar of Non-Profits, pay the necessary NIS 65 (about $16) and get the CD containing all of the information.

NGO Monitor (ngo-monitor.org screenshot)

NGO Monitor is one of the most influential organizations in Israel. A group of irksome right wingers with too much money originating from foreign donors, NGO Monitor is in fact one of the main engines propelling Israel’s new Right. If one follows Ben-Dror Yemini’s texts, for example, one finds that he often relies on their reports without doing too much fact-checking. If one reads the reports published by “Im Tirzu” and then searches those by NGOM, one soon discovers that “Im Tirzu” reports are but a watered-down version of NGO Monitor’s reports, sans the difficult words. In short, it is a kind of “Hasbara” Perpetuum mobile.

Now, relying on their reports is really not a very smart idea. As exposed by Noam R last week, NGOM specializes in half-truths and Ad hominem attacks. Those who uncritically swallow their claims might even believe that “Resolution 19/7 was initiated by the abusive regimes of Cuba, Venezuela, Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation), and the Palestinian Authority”. NGOM dearly hopes that you don’t check the facts and find that states like Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and others – none of whom, last I checked, were members of the Arab League or the Organization for Islamic Cooperation – signed that mandate.

Never mind their distortions, that is to be expected. We are talking about a “Hasbara” organization after all. But the stupidity! The stupidity! For example, NGOM’s latest report claims that B’Tselem received NIS 4,144,203 from foreign governmental sources. The correct sum, NIS 6,714,025 is alas, much higher, as can be seen in the NGO’s quarterly reports. In effect, by its own logic, NGOM is an organization subverting Zionism by assisting extreme-left non-profits hide the funding they receive from anti-Israeli sources – even when these non-profits declare it openly!

How could such a staggering mistake happen? Well, NGOM didn’t bother to actually read B’Tselem’s information. They took their information from the website of Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, whose work is criminally incompetent even in comparison with the average Israeli public body. The registrar’s website only presents three quarterly reports by B’Tselem for some reason – even though B’Tselem submitted the second quarter’s report, it is missing from the registrar’s website. So, as far as NGOM is concerned – it does not exist. Furthermore, they managed to ignore two reports – for NIS 449,891 and NIS 61,433 – that do actually appear online.

This is not the only case. The registrar’s website only includes two quarterly reports submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in 2012, the sum of which was quoted by NGOM as ACRI’s 2012 income from foreign governmental sources – NIS 3,614,668. Same thing for Gisha: the sum appearing in NGOM’s report is the sum of the reported donations to Gisha for the first and fourth quarters, NIS 1,632,285. In the case of Ir Amim, there is only one quarterly report online and this is the figure quoted by NGOM, NIS 1,055,806. As for Rabbis for Human Rights, NGOM quotes the figure received by the organization for the first and second quarters – it seems that the registrar is rather idiosyncratic in its choice of quarters to update – which is NIS 982,049. There are probably further examples, but the game isn’t amusing enough to continue. (To see for yourself, visit the Registrar of Non-Profits website, enter the NGO’s name, and view the quarterly reports, or at least those that registrar bothered to upload.)

Now, if NGOM was serious about its job, someone there might have remembered that a year includes four quarters, not two or three, and to suspect that they may have found their holy grail: irregularities in the activities of human rights NGOs. But they don’t say that. They admit that all the organizations follow the law and have all the relevant paperwork. So what actually happened here? The pathetic truth is that NGOM’s “researchers” couldn’t be bothered to leave their office, drag themselves to the office of the Registrar of Non-Profits, pay the necessary NIS 65 (about $16) and get the CD containing all of the information.

This is what NGOM’s reports are worth to those who write them. Keep that in mind the next time they issue a report.

Truth springs eternal

The State of Israel overdid it two weeks ago, when it summoned the Argentinian ambassador for a reprimand. The reason behind it? Argentina had the audacity to include Iran in the investigation of the terror attack against the Buenos Aires Jewish Community building. They will set up a truth commission, with neither Argentinians nor Iranian citizens as representatives. Previous investigations attributed the attack to Hezbollah.

This week, Argentina kicked back, with gusto. Argentinian Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman summoned the Israeli ambassador, Dorit Shavit, for his own brand of diplomatic reprimand. The ambassador reported that the conversation was “harsh, tense and unpleasant.”

During the conversation, Timerman said things that Israeli representatives haven’t heard in a while. He told Shavit that Israel’s meddling with the investigation is interfering with his country’s internal matters and that it encourages anti-Semitism. He stressed that “Israel doesn’t speak on behalf of the Jewish people and does not represent it. Jews who wanted and want to live in Israel have immigrated there and have become Israeli citizens and those who live in Argentina are Argentinian citizens. The terror attack was against Argentina and Israel’s desire to be involved in the matter only gives ammunition to anti-Semites who accuse Jews of a dual loyalty.” Every word. And it is about time that more countries say this to Israeli representatives.

EU throws out NGO Monitor case, tells Gerald Steinberg to pick up the tab
Foreign influence, transparency problems of NGO Monitor 

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