What do the Houston Jewish federation, the Jewish Agency, John Hagee, and Im Tirzu have in common? They’re all either directly or indirectly funding a major assault on academic freedom on Israeli campuses.
Im Tirzu is on the warpath once again. Not to be outdone by the BDS movement, one of whose tools is an academic boycott of Israel, the Israeli rightist group has threatened the president of Ben Gurion University–if she doesn’t depose the current leadership of the political science department and reform the “anti-Zionist” syllabi of its courses that it will begin a campaign to convince donors to stop giving and students to stop enrolling.
Since the Knesset is considering a cockamamie bill punishing any Israeli who supports a boycott of Israel, perhaps the good solons might want to consider including Im Tirzu in the list of those who could be punished. I’d think that supporting an academic/fundraising boycott of Ben Gurion University might enable faculty there to make a plausible legal case that their institution suffered tangible damaged by Im Tirzu’s assault.
The Israeli finance website, Calcalist, reports (Hebrew) that John Hagee donated $120,000 to Im Tirzu in 2009 through the Jewish Agency. The money had been transferred to the Agency by the Houston Jewish Federation as part of an overall $5-million gift. $3-million of that came from CUFI and went towards its largely pro-settler Israel philanthropy. Hagee passed the gift through the Agency in order to qualify for a U.S. tax deduction. The Israeli site also notes that the Central Fund of Israel, a pro-settler fund supported by American Jews, donated $35,000 as well. I reported some of this earlier in this post. But what I’m trying to discover is whether the funds reported on by the Calcalist are independent of the $200,000 in Hagee gifts I reported earlier. I suspect that they may be since there was no mention concerning the earlier gift that it was a pass-through via the Jewish Agency.
The Israeli website notes that the Agency is only supposed to act as pass-through for donations to “non-political” Israeli groups. I wonder how they fudge this one concerning one of the most hardline political groups currently functioning in Israel? Further the Agency is only supposed to accept funds for projects that are directly connected to its work. So does this mean that Im Tirzu is a project under the official auspices of the Agency? Or has someone there fudged those inconvenient rules again? Further, the funds provided to the Zionist-Brut group were supposed to be used for “educational” purposes. Instead, they were used to support political activism. They went for salaries and covering other organizational expenses.
Is it any accident that the Jewish Agency’s chair is Natan Sharansky, doyen of the Israeli right, and affiliated with the Likudist Shalem Center. The latter is heavily funded by American Jewish gambling magnate Shelly Adelson, an ardent funder of Bibi Netnayahu’s political career.
A second article in the Calcalist makes this important point:
The Jewish Agency supports organization’s from the Israeli lunatic right, which are attempting to destroy the values of academic freedom in Israeli higher education. The Agency, a body whose mission it is to bring new immigrants to settle in the Holy Land, instead transfers very large sums to poisonous organizations which seek legitimacy in attacking academics who’ve actually done something in their lives, having not just written propaganda exposes divorced from any reality.
The columnist concludes by noting the absolute insanity of the Jewish Agency providing funding to an organization that wishes to unleash the thought police on Israeli universities. You’d think the Agency’s mandate would be to improve the quality of life in Israel rather than attempt to destroy one of the jewels of the Israeli state (well, perhaps a bit tarnished, but still the universities are key national institutions).
Will anyone in Israel make Ronen Shoval and his jackbooted friends in Im Tirzu explain why they are accepting a single kopek from a crazy Texas preacher who says Hitler was half-Jewish, that the latter and the Holocaust were sent by God in order to create the State of Israel, and that the Rothschild’s were part of an international economic conspiracy???
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.