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Jerusalem Court: Okay to call Im Tirtzu a 'fascist group'

A verdict by the Jerusalem District Court finds that recognizing ‘certain lines of resemblance’ to fascism in the ideology or activities of the right-wing movement can be seen as ‘truthful.’ The verdict is a major blow to Im Tirtzu’s efforts to portray itself as a mainstream, grassroots movement.

The extreme-right group Im Tirtzu lost a court case against a group of leftist activists who opened a Facebook page called “Im Tirtzu – A Fascist Movement.” Judge Raphael Ya’akobi of the Jerusalem District Court determined that some of Im Tirtzu’s attributes bear certain similarities to fascism – thus allowing the activists to use both a freedom of speech defense, as well as “spoken truth” defense.

Ya’akobi ruled against Im Tirtzu in all claims of the lawsuit, except for a post on the group’s page which drew similarities between Im Tirzu and Nazi ideology.

Im Tirtzu has become known over the past several years for their attacks on left-wing academics and organizations. Following the Goldstone Report on 2008-09’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Im Tirtzu accused the New Israel Fund of aiding, through the various organizations it supports, the UN fact finding mission. A personal campaign against the head of the NIF, Naomi Chazan, bore anti-Semitic features [disclaimer: +972 Magazine is on the New Israel Fund’s donor-advised list].

Later, Im Tirtzu members campaigned against academics who taught courses about the Palestinian narrative of 1948, and led the campaign to shut down the political science department in Ben Gurion University, which was considered too “lefty.” Last year, the department was put under a long review process by the Israeli universities’ budgeting committee. Im Tirtzu was also behind the attempt to scare the Eretz Yisrael Museum from hosting the annual ‘Return Conference,’ an event put on by the non-profit Zochrot, which works to promote awareness of the Nakba in Israeli society.

Im Tirtzu’s leadership enjoys strong ties within the Likud party. Interior Minter Gideon Sa’ar (Likud Yisrael Beiteinu), a favorite of the group, spoke at their annual conference.

Ad by Im Tirzu blaming the head of NIF Naomi Hazan in the creation of the Goldstone report

Three-and-a-half years ago, Im Tirtzu filed lawsuit against the creators of the Facebook page “Im Tirtzu – a Fascist Movement,” demanding NIS 2.6 million ($720,000 US) in compensation and the removal of the page. During the procedures, the defendants had Professor Zeev Sternhell, a world expert on fascism, testify on the resemblance between Im Tirtzu’s activities and those of the European extreme right in the first half of the twentieth century. Sternhell himself was a victim of a pipe-bomb attack by Jewish terrorist Ya’akov “Jack” Teitel.

Furthermore, Ya’akobi ruled that in all cases but one, the name of the Facebook page and the specific posts that were brought before him fall under the right to free opinion. Thus, a slanderous motive cannot be attributed to them.

Here is a link to the full verdict [Hebrew].

Although the court could have stopped there, Ya’akobi also accepted the defense of “a truthful publication,” that the critique of Im Tirtzu as part of the political debate was in the public’s interest. In other words, the court is not stating the Im Tirtzu is a fascist movement (or that it isn’t, for that matter), but that because there exist “certain lines of resemblance” to fascism, calling them as such cannot be considered slanderous.

This is a major blow to Im Tirtzu’s attempts to position themselves as a mainstream grassroots movement. In the past, group members threatened a lawsuit against Wikipedia Israel for calling it “a right-wing movement” on its entry.

Im Tirtzu has been sponsored by John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. According to the movement’s report, in recent years most of the support to Im Tirtzu comes from the Central Fund of Israel, which sponsors various religious, right-wing and settler causes.

The Jerusalem court did not call for compensation regarding the single claim in which it ruled in favor of Im Tirtzu, since the case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

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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    1. Very pleasing. And obvious to a rabid free speech American. I wonder what case was sustained by the judge.

      The courts have to defend democratic discourse; the Knesset implicitly cannot, as it is at present a political institution focusing on the curtailment of participation. Perhaps the courts will find their backbone in Israeli Jewish discourse; the question will then be how far that generalizes. In any case, a clear gambit favoring the neutral rule of law over political ideology. Not time to give up on the law and courts.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Dave Boxthorn

      Big deal. We live in an internet world. Everyone calls everyone a fascist (when they’re not calling them a Nazi)

      Reply to Comment
    3. Aaron Gross

      Good news. Speech laws in Israel are too restrictive. Speaking as someone who regularly gets labeled a fascist on this site, I think that such political labels are so vague, there should be lots of leeway granted in their use.

      By the way, Noam, there’s a typo in your article: you wrote “bare” instead of “bear.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. XYZ

      And if someone were to call people at 972 “self-hating Jews who are supporters of terrorism”, that would be freedom of speech, too, even if it weren’t true, right?

      Reply to Comment
      • You seem to be trying to accuse 972 of hypocrisy, XYZ, and you’re exactly 180 degrees off the mark – 972 not doesn’t sue people who call its writers self-hating Jews who support terrorism, it often as not posts those accusations on the website! Don’t you see the difference?

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          What I am pointing out is that viewing this court decision as some kind of triumph in that calling Im Tirtzu “fascists” is not any sort of official confirmation of the accusation. I recall reading that Golda Meir once called Ben-Gurion a fascist after he broke away from the MAPAI, too, but that didn’t make it true. I think Im Tirtzu made a mistake in even bringing this to trial and I hope they will not let this deter them from their work.

          Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        The fact that 972 allows extreme right-wing views (such as yourself) to be aired in its talkback sections is proof enough that 972 is head-and-shoulders above Im Tirzu and its narrow, undemocratic view of the world.

        You should thank 972 for allowing you to badmouth it on its own page!

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          When you are stuck in the far left, even the most centric views suddenly become extreme-right…

          Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            Germany was also pretty centric in the 1930’s.

            Reply to Comment
    5. As to spelling.

      You write: “some of Im Tirzu’s attributes bare certain similarities to fascism”.

      Well, ahem, if you’d written “bear certain similarities to fascism” you’d mean (as I dare say you did in fact mean) “embody”, “carry”, “possess” such similarities.

      But spelling it “bare” is delicious, meaning (I suppose) “display nakedly”.

      Whether or not this was a “typo” or a “spell-o”, I found it delicious.

      Reply to Comment
      • Piotr Berman

        I was explaining to my Saudi friend is that every summer students celebrate the Right to Bare Arms, and since it cannot be abridged, it is not just T-shirts but also shorts, and back exposing one-pieces and so on.

        As far as what was determined by the Court, I guess it is that Im Tirzu are morons who try to bully opponents using frivolous suits.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Tamar

      Re: “Following right-wing attacks, museum seeks to cancel ‘Right of Return Conference’”

      What is the status on the Museum as the conference venue? Has it cancelled its contract? Please update on developments since publishing the article on August 27.

      Reply to Comment
    7. rsgengland

      I find the labeling of Im Tirzu as an “extreme right wing” organization laughable.
      Who are you comparing it to?
      What statements have they made to deserve that label?
      What actions have they done to deserve that label?
      The left wing activists you mention: what differentiates them from Im Tirzu.
      Left and Right wing ideology tends to lead to severe intolerance and worse, whenever it achieves power.
      The only exception to the rule of “left and right wing” ideology is Western Europe since 1945, where all politics [despite labels] is centrist.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Richard

      re: every comment above – by American standards of free speech, Im Tirtzu never had a good case because it tried to challenge a statement of opinion, not fact. Obviously, since +972 writes about Im Tirtzu from the perspective of an ideological adversary, not as an objective observer (e.g. quoting the judge’s opinion here in the style of a legal brief, as if +972 itself were citing the judgment in its own case against Im Tirtzu), +972 is going to milk this decision and write a piece that stretches the judge’s ruling as far as possible in the direction of taking +972’s own substantive position on Im Tirtzu. This piece is the result of that effort. Big surprise. Im Tirtzu is foolhardy and +972 is biased. No duh.

      Reply to Comment
    9. jjj


      +972mag can be considered a site supporting terrorism and Palestinian propaganda with blood libels against Israel.

      Going down this alley of “Im Tirzu” surely doesn’t prove any of +972 points, only sharpens the hatered spewing out of the author. But who cares about conversation anymore, right…

      Reply to Comment
    10. sh

      The Im Tirzu ad pictured on this page, which was sprawled across all Israel’s highways and byways 2 or 3 years ago, shows that the epithet against which Im Tirzu complained was not that wide of the mark. Naming and shaming is a two-edged sword.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Im Tirzu asked for 2.6 million NIS–a clear attempt to shut the defendant down, a clear attempt to silence. Analogies with 972 fail completely. Im Tirzu attempted to use Israeli civil law to the same end as the Boycott Law, and failed. The judge recognized a political free speech component, almost override, in libel law. This is the import of the present post. The zero sum attitude to acceptable thought, which 972 fights constantly, is the focus, no single opinion as such.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Piotr Berman

      I find it puzzling the Im Tirzu feels offended by “fascist” label, and totally flabbergasted that they felt offended by “right-wing”. Don’t they use “left-wing” as an insult?

      OTOH, Hazan on the poster seems to have Semitic features like many contributors and commenters here. Horn was an iconographic attribute of Moses http://www.museumstorecompany.com/Moses-by-Michelangelo-Church-of-Saint-Peter-San-Pietro-in-Vincoli-Rome-1515-A-D-p5806.html?gclid=CI-ayp-Cx7kCFRTxOgod23kAlw

      But to give Hazan credit for the hard work of Goldstone commission? This is truly far fetched.

      Reply to Comment