A few days ago the Israeli financial blog Calcalist published an expose (English translation) on a $3-million gift by John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, which was passed through the Jewish Agency via the Houston Jewish federation where it originated. I’ve reported in the past on the beneficiaries of tens of millions of dollars of Hagee/CUFI largess which are often settler projects and major settlements. The gift Calcalist was most interested in was $120,000 transmitted to the far-right Israeli group, Im Tirzu.
Among other violations of Jewish Agency procedure concerning this gift and noted by the Israeli blog was that its funding is supposed to support educational projects, which it does in many cases. But the notion that there is any educational component to Im Tirzu’s agenda is laughable. It is a purely partisan entity characterized by bare-knuckle, brawling-style political activism as evidenced by its scuzzy attacks on the New Israel Fund‘s Naomi Hazan and its nascent campaign to sack the leadership of Ben Gurion University’s political science department for alleged “anti-Zionist” tendencies.
Israel has (or once had, before major cuts in the national education budget) a fine higher education system developed over decades and nurtured in the principles of academic inquiry and the freedom to pursue knowledge in diverse ways. Im Tirzu, if it had its way, would turn the Israeli educational system into cheerleaders for an ideologically correct pro-Zionist agenda. They would destroy the notion of academic freedom which is the pillar of any good university. And the Jewish Agency is willing to financially pimp on behalf of this garbage.
Just after I published my post on this, I noticed that Haviv Rettig Gur asked to friend me on Facebook. I remembered he was at one time a Jerusalem Post reporter, one of the interchangeable set which vent their noxiousness under the tutelage of queen bee neocon ranter-editor, Caroline Glick. I wondered why he wanted to friend me. After I confirmed him as a friend I received a message from him on my Wall sternly admonishing Calcalist and, by inference, me for “profound and irresponsible ignorance” in our reporting on Hagee’s gift.
In his initial message he wanted to make the point that the Jewish Agency wasn’t endorsing Hagee’s gift or Im Tirzu, but was merely providing “philanthropic oversight,” which in a later message he described as follows:
In order to enable contributions to charities and Israeli civil society from abroad, the Federations, the UIA and the Agency provide a special program of financial oversight. This program is trusted by the American authorities, so that when we say the money arrived at its destination and is used for its intended purpose, they believe us and the donor back home can receive the tax benefits of his or her donation.
Translation: the Jewish Agency passes money from Hagee along to Im Tirzu. Further, the Houston federation sends the check to the JA, which in turn transfers it to Im Tirzu. Which means the Agency, in doing so, gives Hagee and his dirty anti-Semitic money an Israeli-Zionist heksher in addition to a 501c3 designation making it tax-deductible.
Here Rettig Gur argues that Israel should be proud of Hagee’s beneficence:
Hagee, for his part, uses the [JA pass-through] service for gifts for which Israel should be deeply grateful. Hagee’s own Israel portfolio…included last year a $750,000 gift to Barzilai Hospital, among others. Ironically, Im Tirzu’s latest target, Ben Gurion University, also received money from Hagee.
Again, this is self-serving pap. If you read the post I wrote on Hagee’s Israel giving, anyone can see that the preponderance of his charity is to the settlement enterprise. Yes, he does give to glatt kosher non-profits like hospitals and he does give major gifts for aliya absorption, but it doesn’t cancel out his massive giving to support the “don’t give an inch” brigade. As for Ben Gurion University, I think it’s safe to say next year BGU won’t be receiving a red cent (or agora) from the likes of Hagee since he’ll certainly want to honor Im Tirzu’s version of pro-Zionist BDS.
Rettig Gur argues additionally that Hagee’s gift to Im Tirzu is no different from gifts it designates for “leftist” Israeli groups as well such as Bustan and Shatil. The mere fact that Im Tirzu is a Zionist group gives it immediate approval. No mention, in this line of argument, of the Agency’s requirement that funds only be given for educational purposes. Further, the so-called leftist groups he mentions are not engaged in intimidation or incitement against anyone. They don’t pay for full-page ads in all the major Israeli papers picturing Naomi Hazan with a rhino-horn on her nose in a Shturmer-like pose. Nor do they extort Zionist-correctness from Israeli universities. In fact, Bustan and Shatil are engaged in the important work of building Israeli democracy through empowering Bedouin communities (on the one hand) and promoting social justice for underprivileged sectors of Israeli society (on the other). These are positive and constructive goals in which no one is smeared, no one is sacked from their job. You can’t say the same for Im Tirzu.
The Jewish Agency PR flack argued that the story of Hagee’s gift was “old news” because Didi Remez had reported it on his blog in February. What this conveniently ignores is that Didi did not know at the time that the gift was funneled to Israel via the Jewish Agency and Houston federation. That is BIG news. News that it is Rettig Gur’s job to minimize as insignificant. Additionally, Calcalist reported that the Central Fund of Israel, an American Jewish pro-settler group sent $35,000 to Im Tirzu. None of this was reported by Didi. So the term “scoop” used by Calcalist, and which so annoys Rettig Gur, is a precise and correct term.
My trusty correspondent also takes humbrage that I’ve implicated his boss, Natan Sharansky, in the matter by mentioning him in my first post. I merely noted that Hagee would surely feel right at home trusting his money to be channeled through an agency directed by the Israeli neocon, Sharansky.
Rettig Gur closed his last message (undoubtedly there will be more as he seems to have an inveterate need to explain and defend himself and his employer) with a strange set of near-non sequiturs intended to buff his Israeli liberal street cred:
I’ll accept your apology for sullying my good name, and happily respond to any further concerns. Funny, I have some good friends in places like B’tselem, Van Leer and ACRI. My father was a parliamentary aide to Yossi Sarid as far back as the 1970s and was a board member of RHR for a while. In all my life, no one from that world has ever been as rude and crude to me as you, and you’ve never even met me.
Why does someone like this feel he is owed any special treatment? Why should I treat him with kid gloves when he aids and abets the likes of John Hagee and Im Tirzu? So I replied:
You can accept my apology if you wish to be a fantasist. But you won’t be getting an actual apology from me any time soon. There is always time to repent from your embrace of scum like Im Tirzu. But I doubt you’ll ever do so. When you do, then let me know and I’ll concede teshuva is a concept that works in your case. Till then, you’ll have my consistent criticism of you and JA.
Oh, and isn’t that nice ‘some of your best friends are Negroes.’ How sweet and condescending. You’re really a good guy aren’t you? Liberal & all.
Your father was an aide to Yossi Sarid 40 years ago & you want a pass because of that? What have you done lately? Not your father, you.