While its campaign of intimidation against supposed left-wing Israeli artists seems to have backfired, Im Tirtzu’s role in Israel’s current political climate cannot be overstated.
The political climate in Israel has become so draconian and repressive lately that it was slightly surprising how quickly everyone rushed to denounce Im Tirtzu’s latest campaign against mainstream artists and celebrities who sit or have sat on the boards of human rights organizations. Leaders across the political spectrum condemned the campaign, including Netanyahu, who has previously sung Im Tirtzu’s praises on camera. Following the backlash, the group told the Israeli press they had made a mistake and gone too far, with director Matan Peleg going as far as suspending himself.
Some Israeli commentators have written about how the campaign was actually a gift to those on the Left, since it forced many centrist, mainstream artists to draw a clear political line in the sand between Im Tirtzu’s hyper-nationalism and their own values. It ostensibly forces them to step out of their comfort zones and choose sides.
But a look at the reactions by several of the artists who were targeted by Im Tirtzu reveals just how paralyzed and monopolized the Israeli mainstream discourse is; how it uses the very same language as the Right to try and defend itself.
For example, veteran actress Gila Almagor was invited to speak on Channel 2′s Friday night prime time news broadcast about the recent incitement against her. A horrible incendiary article was printed in an Israeli media outlet that literally called for her to prepare a will, since she should expect to be shot in the back three times in the near future (the article was later taken down). Almagor said that she believes the incitement comes from the leaders, before adding “I always represent this country honorably, I never take my criticism outside the country.”
The idea that it is somehow disloyal to criticize Israel outside the country is an old and very popular trope. It was not created by the Right, but by Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, to cover up for massacres against Palestinians that took place upon the state’s establishment. It has been made even more rigid and popular in recent years by the Right, in the form of the bill targeting NGOs that receive funding from foreign governments, as well as the witch hunt against anti-occupation groups such as Breaking the...Read More