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Im Tirzu Sues Israeli Peace Activists for Calling It ‘Fascist’

im tirzu fascist facebook logo

Im Tirzu Fascist Facebook group logo: 'Im Tirzu, a Fascist Movement...Big Deal'

Im Tirzu’s Ronen Shoval is one of the most litigous far-right activists in Israel.  He’ll sue anyone for anything.  He’s threatened Hebrew Wikipedia if they called the group “right-wing,” to which the editors unfortunately caved (here’s the Hebrew Wikipedia article).  When six Israeli peace activists created a Facebook group, Im Tirzu–Fascist, he got his lawyers on the case and threatening demand letters were mailed.  Fortunately for Israel’s rapidly diminishing sense of free speech, the six secured their own attorney and fought back.  They said: “Hell no” to the demand that they take down the group and retract the word “fascist,” which had stuck in Shoval’s craw.

The lawsuit is finally being heard in Israeli court.  The defense is putting on a case that is similar to the one my attorneys brought in defending the libel suit brought by Rachel Neuwirth.  Since I’d used the word “Kahanist” to describe her in a blog post here, and she objected to the term, we brought evidence to show that Neuwirth’s views closely resembled Kahanism.  Similarly, the defense in the Im Tirzu trial has brought expert witnesses, including Hebrew University Professor Zeev Sternhell, an expert on the Israeli far-right, to argue that Im Tirzu’s views may be legitimately compared to those of other fascist movements:

He [Sternhell] concluded that Im Tirzu’s ideology and actions contained elements of fascism.

…In texts written by Shuval, Sternhell sees a clear expression of fascist thinking. References to the nation as an organic body, Sternhell says, are fundamentals of fascist thought. Other signs of fascist thought include the view of an atrophied West and the sense that the situation in Israel is an emergency requiring extremist action and struggle against the “traitors.”

Sternhell points out that a decision on whether a movement is fascist or not must be based not on comparison with a classical fascist state but with movements at their early stages, and which later turned the state into a fascist one.  “If we take into account that Im Tirtzu is just beginning and is operating in a society where rejection of the fundamentals of liberalism is perceived to be a sin, then it is showing early and troubling signs of fascist potential,” Sternhell writes.

Im Tirzu wants to pull the wool over every Israeli’s eyes by claiming it’s a non-partisan Zionist advocacy group with a purely educational mission.  That’s how it persuaded Bank Leumi to include it in a social networking promotion in which it stood to win a prize as a popular “educational” NGO in Israel.  The nomination proved so controversial when it appeared the group might win, that the bank cancelled the entire promotional campaign.  It left both the bank and Im Tirzu with considerable egg on their faces.

One of Im Tirzu’s main missions is rooting out “anti-Zionist” discourse from academia and rating professors for the level of adherence to Israeli nationalist values.  Sounds pretty political to my ears.  But to Shoval, it’s purely educational and devoid of any political meaning.  The campus advocacy portion of the group’s mission is also similar to Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch, which asks students to report on their professors when they betray supposed anti-Zionist tendencies.

The group also smeared New Israel Fund chair Naomi Hazan by accusing her and her group of aiding and abetting Judge Goldstone in preparing his report on the Gaza War.  They pictured her in full pages ads in every Israeli newspaper with a rhino horn growing out of her forehead making her look like an animal instead of a human being.  Many thought the campaign could’ve been taken right out of Julius Streicher and Der Shturmer.

And don’t forget the “advocacy” listed in their mission.  This is a code word for “hasbara.”  This group is part and parcel of the Israeli government campaign against so-called delegitimization.  What Im Tirzu does in Israel is similar to what Stand With Us does here.  Both are extensions of government advocacy campaigns.  The beauty of being an NGO is that you can both act in concert with the government, but you can take positions more controversial than the government and you can also accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the 1% fat-cat Israeli corporate oligarchs.  In 2009, John Hagee gave the group $150,000 through the Houston Jewish federation.  It was the largest gift it had ever received to that point.  As a result of some controversy stirred by this, the Jewish group said it would no longer serve as a conduit for donations to Im Tirzu.

The heroes of this venture are Didi Remez, Noam Livne, Edan Ring, Ari Remez, Roy Yellin, Yuval Yellin, and Tal Niv.  They are being ably defended by Michael Sfard, Ishay Shneydor and Shlomy Zechary.  If you’re Israeli, please contribute to defray the costs of their defense and to take the fight back to the rightists.  They’re working on being able to accept foreign donations as well and I’ll announce that here when it’s ready.  If you’re on Twitter, might I suggest using the #imtirzufascist hashtag as a way of striking back against the anti-free speech cretins.

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  • Denis February 12, 2012, 8:41 AM

    “The heroes of this venture are Didi Remez, Noam Livne, Edan Ring, Ari Remez, Roy Yellin, Yuval Yellin, and Tal Niv.”

    Indeed they are.

    The Israeli SLAPP suits like this one should concern all of us who write blogs that offend Israeli right-wing nuts. Many of these radicals can’t tell the difference between being offended and being defamed, and writing from the US does not immunize one against an Israeli suit. I say that as a lawyer and as one who once fought an international SLAPP suit for 15 years. Even when these suits have no discernible merits — and SLAPP suits, by definition, have no merits — they are serious. I know I’m preachin’ to the choir on that point.

    The troubling scenario is where RWN Israeli clowns file a defamation suit in Israel against a US blogger, then they get an Israeli default judgment and bring the Israeli judgment to a local US state court to “domesticate” it. The US domestication action is not based on whether or not there was defamation, but on whether or not the original Israeli suit complied with the U.S. notions of fair play and the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Usually the issue is about whether or not the defendant got fair notice of the Israeli suit. But the U.S. court won’t re-try the issues or re-hear the evidence as to whether or not the original comments were true, or any other defenses that could have been raised in the original suit.

    An even scarier scenario is where a blogger in one country writes something that is deemed criminal in another country but is free speech in the blogger’s country. Some countries have draconian criminal laws against insulting the rulers or the government or denying “The Holocaust,” for instance. The blogger could, theoretically, be charged with such a crime in the foreign country, arrested in his home country and extradited. The US is now trying to extradite Gary McKinnon a British citizen and alleged hacker on this type of global long-arm of the law (or global fascism, if you prefer) approach. I don’t know of this very, very long-arm approach being used to stifle free-speech. Yet.

    I guess my point is that these blogs can be treacherous things, particularly for those of us who are quick to apply terms like “fascist” and “Kahanist” and “right wing-nut” to individuals, even individuals in distant places. We know from the Olympia Food Coop SLAPP suit that Israel will use groups like Stand With Us to back lawsuits against private U.S. individuals whose free speech is viewed as a threat to Israel. Fortunately, the OFC defendants got the backing of Center for Constitutional Rights. Otherwise they would be mince-meat.

    BTW, the hearing to dismiss the SLAPP against OFC suit is coming up on Feb23 in the Washington Superior Court, Thurston County, WA. The outcome of this hearing will be vitally important to the free speech interests of BDS advocates and any blogger who has the audacity to criticize Israeli apartheid. After Oprah defeated the SLAPP suit against her she famously chortled: “Free speech rocks!!” Let’s hope that’s still the case . . . and will always be.

    • Asaf February 12, 2012, 11:34 AM

      Using SLAPP suits is pretty low but i am curios how this whole thing will turn out especially because their line of defense will try to prove their claims and not just proving that they are protected by freedom of speech.

      • Denis February 12, 2012, 12:15 PM

        You’re right. I don’t think Israel has an anti-SLAPP law.

        In the U.S., in states w/out anti-SLAPP laws, the defendant still has access to a motion for summary judgment, which argues that on the facts before the court no jury could find for the plaintiff so the case should be dismissed. Presumably, Israel has analogous pre-trial SJ procedures but the court ruled against these defendants.

        Just guessing.

      • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2012, 5:53 PM

        Truth is the ultimate libel defense.

  • Mollie February 12, 2012, 10:19 AM

    So how come you were the first to cheer on Neve Gordon when he filed his now notorious SLAPP suit against a rightwing professor who dared to criticize his public political activities and writings, who dared call Gordon a groupie of Norman Finkelstein?

    • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2012, 5:50 PM

      Since when is suing someone for calling you Kapo & “judenrat wannabe” a SLAPP suit. Israeli law prohibit use of Holocaust smears in political discourse. Neither Neve Gordon nor I made the law.

      Also, the word “fascist” is not actionable under the same law since it isn’t specifically Holocaust related.

      Besides, Israel has no anti SLAPP statute. But I urge you to get involved in reforming Israeli law if you feel it doesn’t protect far right freedom of speech.

      • Nancy J February 12, 2012, 11:59 PM

        Since when is calling someone a kapo and Judenrat wannabe freedom of speech? Since always. (By the way, Gordon never claimed he was ever called a kapo!). Or do you oppose only SLAPP suits by rightwingers but not by leftwingers opposed to freedom of speech!

        • Richard Silverstein February 13, 2012, 1:46 AM

          What is it in the word “law” that you do not understand?? Under Israeli law it is a violation to use Holocaust language or imagery to attack someone else especially in political discourse. Surely you can understand why this would be so given Israel’s intimate connection to the Holocaust? Or perhaps you can’t. At any rate, it’s not my job to say whether this is a good law or bad one. It simply is one. If you don’t like the law get it annulled. Until then, Neve Gordon is perfectly within his rights to use it against Steven Plaut.

          And again, there is no such thing as a SLAPP suit in Israel since Israeli law does not have such a concept. Instead of whining, this is something you should work on so that rightists of the variety you support may use it to defend themselves against suits them deem nuisances or political motivated.

          • Nancy J February 13, 2012, 4:29 AM

            Actually that is NOT what it says in Israeli law. A previous court ruling that asserted itheld has long been overturned. In any case that “rule” was clearly a violation of freedom of speech and it was only “enforced” as a harassment tactic against critics of leftists.

            So YOU stop YOUR whining about the law! Tell me, have you ever responded to a comment on your little blog in a non-abusive manner?

          • Richard Silverstein February 14, 2012, 12:10 AM

            have you ever responded to a comment on your little blog in a non-abusive manner?

            Not to the likes of you.

            As for slavery, you’re not exactly a student of history. Until the mid to late 19th century slavery was a commonly accepted practice and not viewed by most as a violation of anything including human rights. It only came to be viewed this way gradually, first in England and later in the U.S. & elsewhere.

            SLAPP is a legal term, not a term that applies outside of the law. So once again attempting to claim that there is such a thing as SLAPP in an Israeli context is wrong.

            The Knesset is considering a libel law which would make it easy as pie for Im Tirzu to sue the pants off every liberal & leftist it wishes & bankrupt them in the process. The Knesset would never prohibit SLAPP suits because that would put Ronen Shoval’s lawsuit industry out of business.

            If anyone is a SLAPPER it is Shoval. But why don’t you criticize him for abusing the law? Because you’re a rightist, that’s why. You’re as rightist as they come. And I wouldn’t trust your word about yr political views not being right-wing as far as I could throw ‘em.

            YOu’ve had your say and more comments on this narrow subject than anyone can stand. You’re welcome to participate in other threads here. But you’re done in this one. That means you may not comment on this subject, just to be absolutely clear to you.

          • Nancy J February 13, 2012, 4:34 AM

            When the US had slavery, and the law did not prohibit it, slavery still existed and was a violation fo human rights. Even if Israeli law does not use the term “SLAPP” for harassment suits to silence critics, they are still SLAPP suits and still are cynical fascist harassment tactics to designed to suppress freedom of speech. Oh and the Knesset is now considering proposals to prohibit SLAPP suit harassment.

            And YOU need to learn to read. I never said I support any rightists, just their freedom of speech, which you evidently do NOT support!

            So much for Silversteinian notions of democracy!

  • Amir G February 12, 2012, 10:29 AM

    You Ban everyone who dares to state his opinion and call you an Anti-Zionist. In defiance of free speech, civilized debate and free debate spirit. I have seen you bashing at people showing very little civility, respect and no courtesy.

    Richard SIlverstein wants to pull the wool over every Israeli’s eyes by claiming he supports Zionism while he doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite the fact that the Knesset and Government compounds are located in undisputed Israeli territory, which was part of the Israeli territory pre 1967.

    You of all people should understand why Im-Tirzu is using whatever in their power to stop people from labeling them as something they (Im-Tirzu) doesn’t recognize.

    • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2012, 8:01 PM

      Actually, not only is this a lie, but Joel’s comment makes clear that even individuals I’ve banned will sometimes have comments published here as long as they don’t violate comment rules.

      Some Zionists actually believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of two states. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe. But it’s true. And because one conditions recognition of Jerusalem’s capital on the mutual recognition of Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital does not exclude you from being a Zionist. There is no rule that I know that says that Zionists must be Likudniks.

      As for your disingenuousness about Israel’s national symbols in Jerusalem, you’ve of course missed the mark widely. The problem isn’t the location of the Knesset or ministries in Jerusalem. The problem is that Israel declares ALL of Jerusalem it’s own & its capital. In other words, it’s calling the land in East Jerusalem its capital as well. This is simply unacceptable. East Jerusalem isn’t the capital of Israel. East Jerusalem is Palestinian and the future capital of Palestine.

      You have once again come perilously close to calling me anti-Zionist. So I’m going to end the issue with you once & for all. I am conditioning publishing any further comments from you on answering the question: am I a Zionist or anti-Zionist in your definition. I will accept nothing but a clear answer to this question. If you fudge I may not publish another comment of yours here. So you have 2 choices, either I’m the one or the other. Which is it?

      • Amir G February 12, 2012, 10:02 PM

        You miss the point by few miles.
        The point is not whether or not I think you are an Anti-Zionist or not. The point is that You think you are a Zionist, and you will ban anyone who will call you an Anti-Zionist.

        This is very similar to Im-Tirzu taking to court people that label them as a fascist group. of course it’s done on different levels but the principle is similar.

        Both you and Im-Tirzu try to establish a prestige, and you don’t tolerate those who damage it.

        as for what i think, you are not that different then Magnes and Brit-Shalom, and personally though i do not agree that their vision is possible, they are a valid voice within the Zionist community.

        • Richard Silverstein February 13, 2012, 1:42 AM

          I don’t “think” I am a Zionist. I AM a Zionist, which is why I will not allow anyone here to claim otherwise. This is simply a fact. Any statement that says otherwise simply cannot be proven to be true & is false. Patently false statements are a comment rule violation. I would dare you or anyone to prove that anything I’ve ever written could be construed as anti-Zionist. I’ve made this demand many times & no one has answered it successfully. People can come up with statements that are hostile to Israeli leaders or policies or institutions or even criticial of Israel’s political system or social construct. But never that deny Israel as a state or nation, which is the central tenet of anti Zionism.

          I have not taken anyone to court for any reason related to my blog or political views, so comparing me to Im Tirzu in that regard is not only wrong, it’s an argument in bad faith. And no, denying I am an anti-Zionist isn’t similar to anything Im Tirzu does on any level.

          Thank you for conceding that my vision is a valid voice within the Zionist community and for placing me in such honored company (though I am not a bi-nationalist as they were). Remember you said that.

          • Amir G February 13, 2012, 7:04 AM

            Big Part, Huge part in Zionism was always the immigration to Israel. In that aspect you fall short.

            So let me ask you, what makes you a Zionist ? the fact that you have a vision for a state you don’t live in ? the fact that you state your opinion in a blog ?

            since you are overly sensitive, let me just say that i do not ask that question to belittle you, i am asking that to understand.

            As for Brit-Shalom, though you may be moved by their vision, they had almost no contribution to the formalization of the state of Israel, and if it was up to them, there would have been no Independent Jewish state, to date. They were always a very strange voice within the Zionist community, one that preached partly for assimilation of sort (very logical considering their German origin) and we all know from the pages of History that the concept of assimilation has failed.

          • Richard Silverstein February 14, 2012, 12:31 AM

            Sorry, to be a Zionist I don’t have to be a classical Zionist nor do I have to embrace the Ingathering of Exiles or repudiation of the Diaspora. A Zionist may reject some tenets of classical Zionism, which I do. So no, you can be a Zionist without making aliya. Sorry to disappoint you but it’s true.

            I am not going to explain my views of Zionism to the likes of you. I’ve written this all at length in posts published here. DOn’t ask me to do your research for you. As Hillel said: “Now go and study.”

            Brit Shalom’s contribution to Zionist thought, which is the very foundation of the State of Israel, was huge. If it was up to Brit Shalom there would be peace betweeen Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Which is better, a Jewish state in a state of perpetrual war and always under existential threat; or an Israel with its main ethnic groups living at peace with each other & realizing their respective forms of national self determination?

            Brit Shalom never preached “assimilation,” and you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. They supported a binational state, that means two nations living together in a single state. That’s far from assimilation. Your sense of Jewish history equating Brit Shalom with the assimilation suffered by German Jewry is completely fahrblunget.

  • Denis February 12, 2012, 6:47 PM

    That’s the rule of thumb, but be careful; it’s not absolute.

    For instance if I publish the statement: “Mr. X has never denied having sex with prostitutes.” That may well be a true statement but it could be defamatory nevertheless because the obvious inference is that X had sex with prostitutes and never denied it, when the truth of the matter may be that X has never even seen a prostitute in his life and I knew that when I made the statement.

    A SLAPP suit lawyer can take a true statement by the intended SLAPP victim and allege that the way the victim used the true statement smeared the plaintiff. With all the stink-hole lawyers in the world, it’s not too hard to find one who will stoop to this sort of thing, although for them it’s not stooping.

  • dickerson3870 February 12, 2012, 7:38 PM

    RE: “They’re working on being able to accept foreign donations as well and I’ll announce that here when it’s ready.” ~ R.S.

    MY COMMENT: Please do! I look forward to contributing.

  • Nimrod February 15, 2012, 4:49 AM

    Your translation of the Im Tirzu Fascist Facebook group logo is incorrect.
    It should have been something like:
    ‘Im Tirzu, a Fascist Movement (than there is one)’

    Anyway, by Israeli law, Im Tirzu can sue the creator of that group, just like Peace Now organisation could sue anyone who would open a facebook group calling them traitors.

    • Richard Silverstein February 15, 2012, 9:12 AM

      Please, I need no translation help fom you. Your version made no sense in English.

      As for lawsuits. Peace Now is called “traitor” virtually every day & doesn’t sue anyone because it doesn’t believe in wasting energy on such stupidity. You might suggest the same to your friends in Im Tissue.

      • Amir G February 15, 2012, 6:51 PM

        I think a better translation would have been
        “If you’d like a Fascist Movement, then there is one – I’m Tirzu.