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Right-wing group seeks to dismantle Israeli NGO dedicated to Palestinian return

Just weeks after it was deemed to have ‘fascist characteristics,’ nationalist group Im Tirtzu tries to shut down Zochrot for allegedly ‘rejecting the existence of the State of Israel.’

Im Tirzu activists demonstrate against supporters of army refusers, Tel Hashomer army base, near Tel Aviv. (photo: Activestills)

Right-wing group Im Tirtzu is attempting to shut down Zochrot, a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to raising awareness of the Nakba in Israeli society, and working toward the return of Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled by Israeli forces in 1948.

According to the Israeli news site Kipa [Hebrew], Im Tirtzu leader Ronen Shoval sent a letter to the head of Israel’s NGO registry, claiming that Zochrot’s activity contradicts section 49 of the law regulating budgets of non-profit organizations. According to the law, a district court may dismantle a non-profit organization if “the organization or its activities aim to reject the existence of the State of Israel or its democratic character.”

 > Read more: Following right-wing attacks, museum seeks to cancel ‘Right of Return Conference’

According to Zochrot’s website, the group’s aim is to “promote Israeli Jewish society’s acknowledgement of and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba and the reconceptualization of Return as the imperative redress of the Nakba and a chance for a better life for all the country’s inhabitants.” The organization’s stated purpose is to “create the conditions for the Return of Palestinian Refugees and a shared life in this country.”

In his letter, Shoval states that Zochrot’s support for Palestinian return is “unequivocal.” According to Shoval:

Zochrot acts…to dismantle the State of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state. They seek to eliminate its Jewish character through putting the Palestinian claim for return into action and the flooding of Israel with millions of Arabs, and they will destroy its democratic character, simply because the Muslim political tradition is not democratic. A majority Arab rule in Israel means the elimination of democracy. Under Arab rule, we will see the same kind of human rights and democracy as in Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

This isn’t Im Tirtzu’s first confrontation with Zochrot; just last month the group attempted to shut down the annual Zochrot conference, to be held at the Eretz Yisrael Museum in north Tel Aviv, on the former site of the Palestinian village Al-Sheikh Muwannis.

Zochrot’s Director Liat Rosenberg responded to Im Tirtzu’s latest attack:

Despite Im Tirzu’s attempts to erase the issue of Palestinian refugees from the daily agenda, it will remain part of the public discussion, as will Zochrot’s conference on September 29-30 in the Eretz Yisrael Museum in Tel Aviv on the responsibility of the Israeli public to undo the wrongs of the Nakba and to implement the return of the refugees. The real danger we should be worried about is from anti-democratic groups, which have recently been deemed to have fascist characteristics, and who try to undermine the democratic nature of society through bullying tactics.

Related:
Jerusalem Court: Okay to call Im Tirtzu a ‘fascist group’
State council seeks to shut down ‘leftist’ department at BGU
Following right-wing attacks, museum seeks to cancel ‘Right of Return Conference’
Right-wing group publishes Nakba denial booklet

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Vadim

      Several things that should be noted -
      1. I have no problem with raising historical issues. Knowledge is always good and we should be mature enough to handle our past. So should the other side. How many Arab groups are dedicated to raising awareness to the Holocaust? To the expulsion of Jews from the Arab countries? To that fact that we too have a right to be here?

      2. The return of refugees really means the destruction of Israel. We can of course hope for a pluralistic, democratic and tolerant country with unicorns. But the unicorns are really the smallest issue here.

      3. I hate the “Im Tirzu is fascist” festival. The judge said two things – (a) Resemblance exists because Im Tirzu emphasizes nationality (b) Certain things said by one of the witnesses and Ron Shuval support the existence of something in common with certain basic principles of fascism.

      (a) is clearly silly – by that logic, everything nationalistic has something in common with fascism. (b) does not say anything – which principles or characteristics? Why is there a common ground? Doesn’t it need some proof or reasoning? Besides, the things were said in the context of the suit, not in general terms.

      I hope they are more truthful when it comes to history.

      4. It’s a bit amusing that a group that advocates a radical change in Israel, something which the vast majority of the population totally objects to and which is probably funded by foreign states speak of anti-democratic groups and undermining the democratic nature of society.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        There is no “fact” that “we too have the right to be here.”

        Some people hold such an opinion, others deny it.

        Reply to Comment
      • Zelda Zadorah

        re Vadim,

        you seem to be a level headed guy, who knows
        something about Israel’s dark early history in their new land.
        I do not belong to this or the “other” side and it is refreshing to read comments from people who understand complex issues.

        I can however understand why the Palestinians get so much
        support from the BDS movement. There must come a moment where both sides must be made to sit down and make a start for meaningful negotiations “in good faith”. By that I mean
        without any political posturing or declaring new settlements to be built on Palestinian land etc.

        I had the feeling during
        previous peace talks, that if Israel wanted to blame the Palestinian
        side for a collapse of the negotiations, all they had to do, was to announce new settlements on Palestinian land. I call that negotiating in bad faith.

        Then there is a seemingly endless cycle of violence and retaliations which seems go on forever. If this cannot be stopped, neither side wants to loose face and end that cycle.

        I am sure there are many more issues need to be resolved however the humanitarian issues seem to be the most pressing.
        There can be no doubt that Israel has a right to exist, but they must recognize their early violent history towards Arab land owners in Israel’s new land, and they
        need to find a way to acknowledge al-Nakba really happened and compensate
        the forcefully exiled Palestinians. If these steps are not realized I doubt there will ever be peace in Israel and the surrounding countries

        Reply to Comment
    2. The Trespasser

      Zochrot acts…to dismantle the State of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state. They seek to eliminate its Jewish character through putting the Palestinian claim for return into action and the flooding of Israel with millions of Arabs, and they will destroy its democratic character, simply because the Muslim political tradition is not democratic. A majority Arab rule in Israel means the elimination of democracy. Under Arab rule, we will see the same kind of human rights and democracy as in Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
      This isn’t Im Tirtzu’s first confrontation with Zochrot; just last month the group attempted to shut down the annual Zochrot conference, to be held at the Eretz Yisrael Museum in north Tel Aviv, on the former site of the Palestinian village Al-Sheikh Muwannis.

      Liat Rosenberg never rejected that “Zochrot acts…to dismantle the State of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state.” and that “They seek to eliminate its Jewish character through putting the Palestinian claim for return into action and the flooding of Israel with millions of Arabs,”

      Actually, she approves. “… responsibility of the Israeli public to undo the wrongs of the Nakba and to implement the return of the refugees.”

      The ultimate “wrong of Nakba” is, creation of Israel, obviously. Palestinians never agreed that Israel would be created anywhere on this land.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Average American

      Here is a topic in which I can only observe. I have no knowledge or history or right to make bold statements about it. I do have observations and questions though. It has been said, including declared by the U.N., that Zionism has characteristics of fascism. Ultra-nationalist, xenophobic, keep the race pure, obedience to the State, military action against “threats” glorifies the State. How do you feel about that?

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >Ultra-nationalist

        Bullshit

        >xenophobic

        Bullshit

        >keep the race pure

        Bullshit. Anyone can become a Jew.

        >obedience to the State

        Bullshit

        >military action against “threats”

        What a disrespect towards people from Hamas, Hizbullah and similar organizations.

        >glorifies the State.

        Bullshit.

        Where from did you get all that nonsense?

        Reply to Comment
        • Gearoid

          Funny, you didn’t actually refute anything.

          Ultra-nationalism? Look at you rightists that come here to troll. Look at the abuse of archaeology by nationalists. Look at the imagery used by the state. Israel IS ultra-nationalist.

          Xenophobic? What you mean the racism against “infiltrators” and Israeli Arabs isn’t enough for you? How about the conspiracies about “Eurotrash” as rightists often call them? How is none of that xenophobic?

          Anyone can become a Jew? Not according to the state. All those conversion issues…

          Obedience to the state certainly. MKs continue to try and pass fascist legislation designed to harm “Leftists” for promoting opinions they dislike, and usually they use “undermining the state” as their reason. Not to mention the whole loyalty oath issue.

          Hamas and Hezbollah have never been a major threat to the state of Israel. Period.

          Why don’t you show a little bit of intellectual courage instead of hiding in the sand like a coward?

          Reply to Comment
          • JG

            He just have to look in the mirror and read all the racist hate spill he produced here for months to see a “Ultra-nationalist, xenophobic, keep the race pure, obedience to the State, military action against “threats” glorifies the State” guy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            People that don’t agree with you are not automatically trolls.

            Regarding Xenophobia –

            Thai, Arabs, Chinese, people from the Philippines, from the Czech Republic and god knows where else have worked here for years and there were no issues. Now there are issues. Must be some dormant racism, can’t be related to the new guys, could it?

            To call a state that people from all around the world (from Ethiopia to Europe to the former Soviet Union to Arab states to the Americas) call their home xenophobic is a bit silly, don’t you think?

            Yes – anyone can become a Jew. It’s not simple and requires an effort. Try to become a Druze or Arab and let me know how it goes.

            Putting a “Period” after a sentence doesn’t make it true. I don’t know what you consider a major threat, but I don’t find hundreds of rockets and mortars falling on my home a nice thing. Call me silly, but I also don’t like people exploding in buses. Maybe because I’m a rightist troll.

            I’ve heard that some say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But the comments of “Average American” is pure crap and you know it. Disagree and argue as much as you want, but have the integrity to admit that his comments are nothing but unoriginal lies taken from Jewwatch.com or similar sites.

            Reply to Comment
          • Nikki

            I was going to respond but since you beat me to the point….well written. I couldn’t agree more. Just one more thing to add in terms of xenophobia even if we were to remove Arabs from the equation all one has to do is look at the unspoken caste system in Israel as evidence of it’s xenophobic nature.

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            “Why don’t you show a little bit of intellectual courage instead of hiding in the sand like a coward?”

            Huh!!!! Intellectual courage? Physician, heal thyself!!!

            Here is an example of your intellectual courage:

            “Hamas and Hezbollah have never been a major threat to the state of Israel. Period.”

            Try exploding on a bus that Hamas causes to explode and try getting underneath the rockets that Hamas and Hezbollah regularly lob at us and then say with a straight face that they are no threat.

            Your hypocrisy and stupidity, Gearoid, is mind boggling. Period.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gearoid

            Gods I forget how poor the education seems to be among you Occupation apologists.

            Terrorism by its very nature CANNOT be a fundamental threat to the existence of a state. Period. This is basic political theory. Hamas and Hezbollah have no hope of destroying Israel. They can only hope to exact enough of a price that they receive concessions or some sort of benefit, at best. At worst, they can only hope to hold off Israeli attacks until the Israeli government decides the cost isn’t worth the point (see, bombings of Gaza).

            Do a little reading.

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            ” Hamas and Hezbollah have no hope of destroying Israel.”

            No? But they CAN destroy Israelis. I am sure that isn’t a problem for the likes of you. I have read enough of your tripe to come to THAT conclusion. That is why I asked you how YOU personally would feel about it if YOU would be the victim.

            But alas, predictably, you chose not to answer my question. Then again you may be intellectually challenged, that is why you didn’t answer it?

            Reply to Comment
          • jax

            Zochrot’s goal is to make Israel and honest country and redeem it within the human community through restorative justice. With over 50 laws that discriminate against non-Jewish citizens while holding 5 million people under military occupation and blockade hardly qualifies Israel to call itself a democracy. By routinely ignoring international law, Israel has made itself a pariah state. Only confession and reparations can redeem it, which is what Zochrot pursues. They deserve the highest honors in the land.

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            Let me pre-empt You, before you jump in with a predictable lame excuse for what you said about Hezbollah and Hamas and qualify your stupid comment by saying that you were talking about “a major threat” rather than an ordinary threat.

            Tell me what would be the difference to you if your mother would be murdered by a group who pose a major threat while your daughter would be murdered by another group who pose an ordinary threat. Wouldn’t both still be dead at the end? And would you still make excuses for the group that in your simplistic mind would be just an ordinary threat?

            Intellectual honesty you were talking about? Coming from the likes of you it is just an oxymoron.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Tzutzik

      Xenophobia generates xenophobia.

      You want xenophobia? Here is an example of leftist xenophobia amongst leftist posters in + 972:

      Aristeides said:
      “There is no “fact” that “we too have the right to be here.”

      Some people hold such an opinion, others deny it.”

      In fact he and many others here deny the Jews right to be here. But we ARE here. So how do you want us to react? You want us to kiss their feet and say meekly that we will just sisappear? Fat chance! Some of us react to such provocation with what may be described as xenophobia. You want us to get over it? Well then, you better get over it first!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Let us assume that “democratic” here means persistence of the Knesset. The question is not whether a fully implemented Return would destroy the Knesset, but whether an opinion advocating such Return would destroy the Knesset, for the opinion in itself does not advocate the destruction of the Knesset. The answer is no. Similarly, advocating a boycott does not necessarily imply either the destruction of Israel or democracy. One may construct scenarios whereby these ideas, if implemented via the Knesset, so democratically, would destroy the Knesset, so democracy. But if the Knesset is sovereign, it may destroy itself. (I do not believe the Knesset has this kind of sovereignty, but that is not important for the present argument). If the Knesset is the people, then there is no danger of its self destruction. The NGO expression of Return therefore cannot effectively aim toward the destruction of Israel or its democracy.

      But why not pick a scenario where the Knesset is duped into allowing Return, so that the NGO must now be banned to prevent this unlikely event? The best answer is that the NGO speech may introduce alternative ideas. Zochrot’s website itself almost does this in saying (ante) it seeks to “promote Israeli Jewish society’s acknowledgement of and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba and the reconceptualization of Return as the imperative redress of the Nakba and a chance for a better life for all the country’s inhabitants.” This formulation, though silence, enables one to restrict Nakba redress to Arab Israeli citizens (consider the early 1950′s High Court order to allow repopulation of a destroyed village as example). I am not saying that is what this NGO wants to do. But an extreme idea can produce alternatives capturing something of the first’s underlying motivation without same total consequence. There is always chance that a presently extreme idea may win the day over sufficient contested time. That is what competition risks.

      Which leads to US Justice Holmes’ dissent in the free speech case Abrams [250 U.S. 616 (1919)]:

      “our Constitution…is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”

      What, then, of the banning of Kahane? I think it a mistake as a matter of speech, but not material support of violence, if true. What that case did is provide support for the hard right’s present attempt to ban its own enemies. The principle of banning is ideologically neutral.

      In the present case, the NGO does not rise at all to either the destruction of Israel or democracy, not even through a single seat in the Knesset. Its dismantling would be the dismantling of thought for its own sake. This, with Holmes, I think a serious mistake.

      Reply to Comment
    6. XYZ

      I think Im Tirtzu is wrong to try to ban organizations like Zochrot. Zochrot and the “right of return” are the best thing we of the political Right have going for us. They are living proof that there is no possibility of de jure (as opposed to de facto) peace with the Palestinians. The Palestinians are NOT struggling to annul the results of 1967 (6 Day War), but of 1948 (the very existence of the State of Israel). Ha’aretz’s columning and peace camp supporter Alexander Yakobson wrote that the Israelie Left is deluding themselves if they think the struggle is only over territory and a Palestinian state. Israelis are finally waking up to the true nature of the conflict after decades of having the Left selling the illusion that we are merely fighting over territory and where to draw the boundary. I don’t fear Zochrot, the large majority of Israelis are Zionists and reject their message. The more Zochort keeps yelling, the more Israelis will wake up to the true situation.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Richard

      Every version of Palestinian nationalism is worse, in every relevant respect, than Im Tirtzu’s Zionism. The realization of Zochrot’s goal of bringing millions of Palestinians to Israel, would not, despite its packaging as some kind of redress of the 1948 partition, create a society any less nationalistic than an Israel populated 100% by card-carrying Im Tirtzu members. Framing this as a confrontation between a nationalist group and an anti-nationalist group is not accurate.

      Reply to Comment
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