Head of the movement that once threatened to sue Wikipedia for describing it as ‘right-wing,’ takes a senior position in one of Israel’s most right-wing parties.
Ronen Shoval, co-founder of the Im Tirtzu movement, has joined Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party to serve as the CEO of its international branch.
Shoval, who retired in January as the chairman of Im Tirtzu, will also be Liberman’s candidate in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections. In an interview with NRG-Maariv earlier this month, Shoval said his aim was to “rejuvenate” the party and the global Zionist institutions. He also criticized the relatively neutral term “diaspora,” which he said has come to replace the more negative concept of “exile.”
Although the combination of Im Tirtzu’s ideas, goals, donors and tactics place the movement firmly on the right of every imaginable spectrum, the movement has for years operated under the slogan of “bringing Zionism back to the center,” an ethos on which it built itself. The assumption propagated by Im Tirtzu was that the ideology which, by all accounts, defines every single realm of Israeli life and politics had been ejected from the mainstream by some sort of omnipotent cabal of postmodernist academics (on a personal note, I’d love a bit of what they’ve been having). In his retirement interview in January, Shoval took pride in “giving birth to sacred cows rather than slaughtering them.”
As a result, despite spending much of its time agitating against left-wing movements and NGOs (especially the New Israel Fund) and even authoring right-wing legislation, the movement fought tooth and nail against anyone describing it as right-wing, including lawsuit threats against the Hebrew edition of Wikipedia (where readers-editors repeatedly squeezed the offending adjective into articles on the movement). This tactic culminated in a libel suit against the operators of a Facebook group that described the Im Tirtzu as “fascists.” The trial ended with the court accepting the objective truth plea of the respondents, upholding the opinions of the expert witnesses summoned by the defense, and all but officially proclaiming Im Tirtzu to be, indeed, fascist.
Shoval’s joining with Lieberman doesn’t make the movement he left behind any more or less partisan than it...Read More