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The threat of hope and truth in elections devoid of both

Proponents of a strong democracy should welcome young citizens sounding their voices. But a prime minister who builds his campaign on fear mongering clearly feels threatened by anyone grouping together the words ‘hope,’ ‘truth’ and ‘politics.’

By Don Futterman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by Activestills.org)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by Activestills.org)

There is nothing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party finds so threatening as hope and truth. While the official campaigns of the two leading parties – the Zionist Camp and the Likud – stagger along with minimal substance, younger and vibrant progressive voices are starting to make themselves heard. The Likud recently attacked two of them, V15 and 61, and sought an injunction to shut them down until after the elections.

Likud not only accused the groups of breaking election campaign laws but resorted to their usual delegitimizaion toolbox – in this case attacking the organizations’ funding sources and hinting at a leftist cabal – which reveals that they are paying attention, and running at least a little bit scared.

V15- or” Victory in 2015” is a group of idealistic 20-somethings who are going online and door-to-door encouraging Israeli citizens not to despair over our demoralizing political culture, and to have enough hope to go out and vote on March 17. V15 claims it is not advocating that Israelis vote for any particular party, but are telling them to vote for change – which means a government not led by Netanyahu or Naftali Bennett.

The website 61 specializes in telling truth to power through biting, satirical, graphically designed montages, each skewering a particular government bluff or failure, mocking the politicians, but also bringing the background research to support its claims. 61 is the brainchild of Molad, a think tank and research institute led by a group of passionate 30-somethings, trying to bring reliable, evidence-based data and creative thinking to Israel’s political discourse and decision-making. (Full disclosure – I am the program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, which funds Molad.)

Along with attacking Molad ,61 and V-15, Likud officials also went after One Voice, a 12-year-old movement created to rally support for the two-state solution. Likud MKs Ofir Akunis, Miri Regev, Tzippy Hotovely, Yariv Levin, and Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, sought injunctions against each of these organizations, ostensibly for breaking election campaign laws by having links to or indirectly campaigning for the Zionist Camp or Meretz.

On the surface these would seem to be legitimate challenges, but what gave the game away was Attorney Shimron’s charge that these organizations “have ties with the New Israel Fund.” Bashing the New Israel Fund is the pet pastime of the Israeli right, which uses it as the “bogeyman,” part of its broader strategy of trying to de-legitimize the funding sources of progressive causes and critics of the occupation. Shimron was later forced to make a public apology for linking the groups to the NIF.

For the record, the New Israel Fund raises funds from thousands of North American, European and Australian Jews, to support causes like women’s rights, Jewish pluralism, peace and democracy, equal rights for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, environmentalism, and integration of Ethiopian and Russian-speaking immigrants.

“We want to know who’s behind [these organizations] and who’s funding them,” Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely declared last week. Hotovely could go to the organizations’ websites, visit the government’s Registrars of Non-Profit Organizations or Companies in the Public Interest, or give them a call, as I did, and ask. Instead, as is her way, Hotovely preferred to invent anti-Zionist conspiracies.

What really irks the Likud is that these folks dare to expose the government’s failures and demand better leaders.

The attorney general had the wisdom to allow Likud leaders their moment of posturing for the cameras before filing their complaints deep in the junk heap where they belong. He has promised to review their motion after the elections, at which point no one will care. Perhaps he did not want this particular Pandora’s Box opened on his watch.

If the question of undue influence by foreign donors or non-party players is to be seriously raised, first up should be casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson bankrolls a free daily newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, which serves as Netanyahu’s personal mouthpiece and cheerleader.

The attorney general would probably not be very eager to entertain motions by non-Likud parties by seeking an injunction to shut down Yisrael Hayom until after the elections, or to shutter the stable of NGOs and institutions the Right uses to promote its positions and vilify the progressive camp – Im Tirzu, NGO Monitor, the Institute for Zionist Studies, the Shalem Center, to name a few.

Proponents of a strong democracy should welcome young citizens sounding their voices in cyberspace and at the front door. But a prime minister who builds his campaign on fear mongering clearly feels threatened by anyone grouping together the words “hope,” “truth” and “politics.”

This makes it all the more urgent for Israeli voters to attend to the calls for change arising from our electorate.

Don Futterman is the program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American Foundation which supports Molad, the New Israel Fund, +972 Magazine and dozens of other NGOs working to strengthen civil society in Israel. He can be heard weekly on TLV-1’s The Promised Podcast

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    1. Bryan

      So ashamed are so many Israel supporters of the shoddy product that they have to sell that they so frequently have to resort to claims of antisemitism and bigoted hatred of the only Jewish state, but in truth many of these critics would be only too happy to see Israel living up to its claimed ideals, and articles like this affirming that there is indeed a young and idealistic minority in Israel committed to justice are enormously heart-warming.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jello

      Hahaha. V15 is funded by a billionaire close to Obama and apparently employs Obama’s former employees for strategic guidance. Molad is funded by the NIF and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, among others. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is also one of the major funders of 972mag. Actually, so is the NIF. So, lets see. This site is funded by the same people that fund Molad. The organizers of all these initiatives are the standard crew of Israeli anti-Israel activists, and the funding they receive comes almost exclusively from abroad and in the case of V15 from sources linked to an American president hostile to Israel. And to make their case they use the media outlets that they themselves sponsor.

      It isn’t just that “on the surface these would seem to be legitimate challenges”. It is that they are legitimate challenges to the explicit and confirmed funding of all of these initiatives by foreign donors with questionable motives when it comes to the future of Israel. There is in fact a leftist cabal sponsored by foreign money operating here in Israel. That much is pretty obvious by looking at the funding of any leftist organization operating in Israel, including this site. And the funniest part is that no one on the left is actually capable of denying it because they too know its true. So, they are forced to construct labored articles that rather than answering the charges cover up the crime by pointing out that the people that are being paid by foreign money to launch these initiatives are young. As if that is supposed to make a difference.

      The usual response is to point at Sheldon Adelson, but this is a inherently stupid defense. The same people that are being accused of foreign sponsorship on the left have for years been upset by the foreign influence of Sheldon Adelson in Israeli politics and his activities in Israel. In fact the claim that is made in Haaretz repeatedly is that Sheldon Adelson is a foreigner and doesn’t have Israel’s best interests at heart. This in reference to a person that through word and deed is clearly committed to Israel’s survival and thriving. The funders of Molad and 972mag on the other hand are somewhat ambiguous on whether they really want Israel to continue to exist, making the possible argument that they have Israel’s best interests at heart questionable at best. But in either case, if the foreign influence that Sheldon Adelson wields here is contemptible, then how can the foreign-sponsored campaigns on the Israeli left be any less so?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Average American

      Shouldn’t the Rothschild banks be included in list of funders? And whoever said “an American president hostile to Israel” oh my God we’re bending over backward (or forward) for Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jello

        Is that what you call selling Israel out to the Iranians?

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          “an American president hostile to Israel”

          Now we know that you are not honest, that you are not one with whom a discussion in good faith can be had.

          Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            Obama is hostile to Israel but constrained by the wide-ranging political support Israel has in the United States. There is nothing to discuss here as this is a fact.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Actually what is a fact is that Israelis or at least the rightward 80% of them come across as extraordinarily ungrateful people who begrudge the president who has done more for Israel’s genuine security than any president in history, and have eagerly lapped up a pack of racism-tinged lies about a black man. That’s a fact.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            Yeah, we are supposed to love a president that doesn’t miss any opportunity to throw Israel under a bus.

            And to confirm your argument is weak you bring up spurious charges of racism. Good job.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Love the hack “throw Israel under the bus” cliche.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            The truth is the truth even if it is a cliche.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            “Toss Israel out with the garbage” might be a better metaphor. Is there any rational reason for world’s only superpower to back a state which spies on it, steals its secrets, subverts its democracy, undermines its foreign policy, and does all of this arrogantly, deviously and ungratefully?

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            Bryan is channeling his inner Obama.

            Reply to Comment