In a deposition in a libel case brought by the far-right Israeli group, Im Tirzu, its director, Ronen Shoval, admitted that he hired private investigators (Hebrew and English) who obtained confidential legal documents from the office of Michael Sfard, the Israeli human rights attorney. The documents concerned his Israeli NGO clients, among them Yesh Din. These stolen papers were transferred the documents to two far right Israeli newspapers. Sfard noted his law office had been burglarized and documents stolen. All this means (and what follows are my own judgments, not those of the defendants or Sfard), that Ronen Shoval directed individuals to break and enter Sfard’s office and steal documents that were privileged and confidential. They also broke into the office of Yesh Din, whom Sfard represents. This also means that the two newspapers received such stolen documents, probably knowingly.
The libel suit was brought by the highly litigious Shoval against those Israeli activists who created a Facebook page, Im Tirzu–Fascist movement–So There! The group’s claim is that calling it fascist constitutes libel because it is false and damaging to its reputation. Apparently, the group doesn’t think much of democratic values like free speech unless the values are ones THEY are exercising.
In a circumambulation through the miasma of Jewish ultra-nationalism, Sfard questioned Shoval for three hours. Among other pearls of wisdom emanating from him were these notions: western culture is decadent, materialist and egotistical, Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) is a metaphysical entity and an organic vision of nationality.
The lowest of the low for the Im Tirzu crowd is to call someone a “post-Zionist.” This is somewhat equivalent to a Haredi Jew who calls another Jew apikoros. In other words, someone who’s betrayed the faith and gone over to the Dark Side. There are blatant post-Zionists like Peace Now, the New Israel Fund and the like. But then there are hidden post-zionists like Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Kadima, Olmert. Shoval confessed that he didn’t believe in unfettered freedom of speech: the law should prevent human rights organization from publishing statements or materials that endangered the State. You can imagine how sweeping the definition would be.
When questioned about his use of private detectives to break into Sfard’s office, Shoval was absolutely unapologetic. In fact, this was a project he felt the police should be doing and so he found his illegal behavior easily justifiable. He could not understand why law enforcement agencies have not already charged the attorney with treason. Sfard is one of Israel’s leading human rights attorneys and represents the NGO, Yesh Din, which has led a campaign to bring war crimes charges in Israeli courts against IDF officers.
Shoval believes that the Israeli activists who founded the Facebook page are enemies of the State. This somehow places them outside the bounds of legal protections. If you believe that leftists are a cancer against the nation, then there’s nothing that isn’t justified in the name of preserving the homeland (or should I say, Fatherland?). This reminds me of the attitude of Augusto Pinochet that motivated the coup against Salvador Allende. In other words, Ronen Shoval is, if not a fascist then a proto-fascist.
During his testimony, Shoval also coined a wondrous ideological term: he accused Israeli NGOs like Yesh Din, B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence of engaging in acts of “mental terrorism.” Apparently the mere act of advocating for human rights is terrorism in the minds of such cretins.
Im Tirzu has non-profit status in Israel. This means that a portion of donations to the group are tax-deductible. The organization touts its mission as educating the Israeli public about the history of Zionism and its continued relevance today. But what Israel’s tax authorities should now examine is whether hiring private investigators to perform burglaries and using the tax-deductible donations of Israeli taxpayers to do so, is within legal parameters of an Israeli non-profit. I have no doubt that given the far-right nature of the Israeli government the tax man will figure out a way to absolve Im Tirzu of culpability. But we should make it as hard as possible for them to do so.
Im Tirzu is poison and Israeli society has been infected with this poison by its far-right ultranationalist ideology. Ronen Shoval has been brought up with a Zionist silver spoon in his mouth. He believes he and his ilk “own” Israel and the very conception of the Zionist state. Everyone who doesn’t share his views (like “Arabs” and leftists) may remain by his sufferance. But that right may be rescinded at his discretion. That’s the Israel Ronen Shoval envisions. Lest anyone argue that the Shovals of Israel are flukes or a minority–that simply isn’t so. He is a prince of contemporary Zionism. Like Naftali Bennett, who stands to win 15 Knesset seats in the upcoming election (running to the right of even Avigdor Lieberman’s Likud-Beitneu Party), Im Tirzu is Israel’s future (if not its present).
Imagine not Ronen Shoval, director of Im Tirzu, but Minister Shoval, who gets the opportunity to direct the activities of the Shin Bet and Israeli police. Then he can abandon the private investigators and use the machinery of state to persecute his enemies.
What liberal Zionists must ask themselves is how can they stomach an Israel that is run by unreconstructed fascists like Shoval and Bennet? How long can they defend an Israel run by and for not just Jews, but this particular aberrant version of the Jew?
Where have we heard another religion deal with such a problem? Where have we seen a malignant perversion of traditional religious dogma take up the cudgel for its particular violent, intolerant, triumphalist Crusade? Yes, of course–Al Qaeda and the jihadists. You see, we Jews have the same problem that Muslims have. We have those who’ve perverted the sacred texts and used them to justify hate and violence. Now what are we each going to do about it?