The demons are dancing tonight. On days like today, which bring news of serial bizarre developments within Israel’s extreme-right, it calls to mind witches madly cavorting on broomsticks or laughing gleefully beside a boiling cauldron. It’s a real Witches’ Brew.
One of the leading proto-fascist outfits, Im Tirzu, has rolled out their response to the bad PR garnered by Ad Kan, which infiltrated spies into human rights NGOs in an effort to criminalize their activity. The pejorative term which filled Israeli media was “spies” or shtulim (literally, “plants” as in “implanted”). It painted a nasty picture of the far-right as conniving fraudsters.
In response, Im Tirzu has developed a new campaign which labels the NGOs themselves as spies or “plants” infiltrated into Israeli society. To follow the twisted logic, these NGOs receive major funding from European foundations and governments to support their projects. Since the EU is an enemy of the Israeli State (in Ronen Shoval’s mind at least), anyone who takes money from it must be alien body within the Israeli body politic.
This is related to Israel’s “justice” minister Ayelet Shaked’s effort to pass an anti-NGO law which would turn human rights work into a tainted enterprise, as the group’s staff would have to wear a figurative Jewish star when working the Knesset, marking them as tainted by EU’s funding. I do have a suggestion for Shoval: instead of an unnoticed badge of shame, why not deck the NGO employees out in a full dunce hat so that all can see them “for what they are?”
But that’s not all: Im Tirzu has upped the ante by vilifying not the just the NGOs, but the nation’s leading artistic and cultural figures who’ve criticized the Occupation and voiced any support for human rights. Among those they call traitors to the State are winners of Israel’s highest literary and cultural awards: Amos Oz, David Grossman, Gila Almagor and Yehoshua Sobol, among others.
Among the copy “gracing” this poster, called Culture Spies:
“A lousy performance of widely rejected spicy ideology .”
“It’s contemptible to fund ‘artists’ who support spy NGOs.”
Let’s call this what it is: it’s a campaign of vilification characteristic of fascist discourse. Think of the rise of National Socialism and its murderous campaign to eradicate socialist leaders like Rosa Luxembourg. Think of the Nazis’ campaign against “Degenerate Art” from a later period in the 1930s. This is nationalist extremism that is rampantly anti-intellectual and anti-art.
Hitler had his pure Aryan race. Im Tirzu has its pure Jewish race. The only difference is that Im Tirzu hasn’t (yet) had the opportunity to carry out its full political program as the Nazis did.
A corollary of all of this vilification is the issue of BDS and “delegitimization.” The latter is one of the most damning charges against Israel’s enemies who include the NGOs, the Israeli cultural figures and the EU “elites.” Of course, none of them support BDS (at this time). But this doesn’t matter. Ronen Shoval is smart enough to know what’s around the corner. He understands that Israel, which must maintain its current course of Occupation will, of a certainty face a full-scale BDS onslaught. Though the EU currently is far from endorsing BDS (currently, it endorses labeling settlement products), there will come a time when it will. Though no Israeli liberal Zionist NGOs (among the ones targeted, all are liberal Zionist) endorse BDS, they will feel more and more pressure to do so as the political tide turns against Israeli policy.
So “The Sliming” is an attempt to pre-empt a catastrophe that hasn’t yet happened. It lays down a marker for the future, putting leading Israeli figures in all fields (not just art and culture) on notice–that this is the fate that will befall you if you run afoul of us.
Lehava and the Wedding Crashers
Yet another of the strange tactics of the Israeli proto-fascist collective is the public announcement by a Lehava, that they plan to crash the wedding of Breaking the Silence (BtS) director, Yuli Novak and her partner, Anat Manielevitch. The group marred the wedding of an Israeli Jewish woman who converted to Islam, and her Palestinian husband, with a raucous, uncouth display.
It doesn’t appear to matter that Novak’s partner herself founded a pre-military academy which prepare the IDF’s future officers. She is marrying Public Enemy #1, the leader of Breaking the Silence. That is enough.
Shai Glick, a Lehava activist posts:
…The director of the “spies” [Novak] is flying over the waves and planning her wedding on February 4th with Anat Manielevitch, the director of the Jaffa [military preparatory] academy.
I hope she [Yuli] sits in jail before then. If not, we will protest lawfully at the enemy wedding of these Jews.
He exchanges messages with the founder of another pre-military academy who organized a group of IDF reservists to attack BtS, Amichai Shikli. Among them are:
Yuli is a lesbian?
Yes, are you surprised?
They’re fucked [masculine verb form]. Or should I say fucked [feminine form]!
After this exchange was made public via social media Glick protested that he wasn’t anti-gay: “There is no relation between me and homophobia — quite the opposite. I respect and admire the gay community and support their struggle.” He also complained of a “political campaign” against him for his post (Israel’s leading mainstream gay rights group, the Agudah, issued a rebuke of his post). To which Manielevitch correctly replied that she wasn’t the one who turned her wedding into a political spectacle. That honor, of course, goes to Glick.
The language used in this attack is clearly homophobic, as Natasha Roth correctly notes in her article. It attempts to graft sexual and gender slurs onto a campaign of political shaming in order to render the attack more effective in the eyes of the public, which Glick presumably believes shares his own homophobic views.
Ex-Felon, Adam Milstein Opines on Radical Islam
This section of my post isn’t strictly related to the above sections because it doesn’t relate specifically to Israeli NGOs. But it is sufficiently bizarre to fit the rubric of this post–to outline some of most bizarre recent outbursts of pro-Israel extremists.
I’ve written before about Los Angeles, real estate mogul and ex-felon, Adam Milstein. He helped rig UCLA student elections with illegal campaign contributions accepted by UCLA Hillel, under its then director, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, which enabled pro-Israel candidates to take control of student government. More recently, he brokered a short-lived alliance between entertainment mogul and alleged Mossad asset, Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson, that would have funded a $50-million anti-BDS campaign.
Milstein also founded an organization meant to serve as an Israeli-American version of Aipac, the Israel-American Council, though with far more extreme political views. At a recent meeting of the group, Milstein, who has no academic training or expertise in Islam or Islamism, argued that BDS supporters in this country were somehow precluded from expressing their hatred of the U.S., so they’ve diverted their rage to Israel. Here’s the highlight reel:
American citizens who join BDS can’t be anti-American [sic]. So they let it out against us. All their anger towards their own country is turned against us.
He adds this bizarre claim:
In 2005 [the year BDS was launched] they [BDS supporters] called for an Intifada against the U.S. administration [of George Bush]. The groups signing the BDS declaration were Fatah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad [sic]…Its [BDS’] mission is to exterminate the Jews of Israel.
Next he turns his “scholarly” gaze toward the world of radical Islam:
Radical Islam is beyond Israel’s borders. It’s doing “good work” in Europe and the U.S. American citizens don’t understand this. We [IAC] must explain to everyone that it’s radical Islam against the entire world. If we restrict ourselves to Israel and Jews alone, we’ll lose.
This article, published with no byline, reads like a press release. It was published in Israel Defense News, even though it has almost no connection to the normal fare of this publication, which relates to Israeli military affairs.
Bibi’s New PR Flack Tells Iranian Interviewer Israel Has No Political Prisoners
After months of searching to replace Bibi Netanyahu’s outgoing spokesflack, Mark Regev, the PM seems to have settled on his choice (though it’s not official yet): he is David Keyes, an American Jew originally from Los Angeles, where he majored in Middle East studies at UCLA. He moved to Israel and came under the political patronage of Natan Sharansky (similar to another American who is part of the pro-Israel hasbara collective, Avi Mayer). Later, he went on to found pro-Israel human rights NGOs which sought to highlight the abuses of the Iranian regime.
Bibi has had trouble filling the post. His last candidate was Dr. Ran Baratz, a failed academic and libertarian ideologue, who found himself disqualified when it came out that he’d told a public audience that Pres. Reuven Rivlin wasn’t important enough to be worth killing.
Returning to Keyes, in this interview with Iranian commentator, he sets forth an articulate, if robotically delivered, pro-Israel mantra. In his well-rehearsed script, he takes care to pronounce the names of Iranian dissidents in his best Farsi accent (remember, he majored in Middle East affairs!). He appears to believe if he can pronounce the names correctly that this will conceal his anti-Iranian agenda.
The interviewer throws him far too many softball questions (perhaps he hadn’t researched Keyes’ background sufficiently and prepared to engage him). But at one point he does stop the pro-Israel hasbaranik when the latter claims that unlike Iran, Israel has no political prisoners (thanks to Ronnie Barkan for preparing this video). Frankly, my jaw dropped when I heard that. In truth, Israel has not just Palestinian political prisoners, it’s also had Jewish ones as well.
Once he is called on his overstatement, he tries to clarify by saying no one is in prison solely because of their political views. This too is blatantly false. There are scores of Palestinians in prison for nothing more than expressing their political views. One of those whose disappearance and imprisonment I first reported here is Ameer Makhoul. He is nothing more than an Israeli Palestinian political leader and journalist. He never engaged in armed struggle and never espoused violence. His crime? That he met with a Jordanian landscape designer who is supposedly a Hezbollah agent. There was never any proof offered that he planned or engaged in any act against the State. Now, Makhoul is serving a nine-year prison sentence. If he isn’t a political prisoner, I don’t know who is.
Another mark of David Keyes maturity is this bit of political theater in which he boasted that he intended to go to Vienna during the Iran nuclear talks to “cause as much trouble as possible.” Among his efforts was signing a mock agreement (video) with a fake Ayatollah, and asking Iran’s foreign minister who his favorite political prisoner was.
At least with Mark Regev, Bibi had an advocate with a minimal level of gravitas. In David Keyes, he’s appointed a clown to advance his message to the English-speaking world. The only thing I can say on Keyes behalf is that he hasn’t, as far as I know, advocated the assassination of any major Israeli leader (as his predecessor candidate, Baratz did).