Ben Murane signed up this week at blogger and began defending the NIF from its Im Tirzu critics. He has been active at this blog; I assume he's active elsewhere, also. I'm assuming someone at NIF US gave him the task of dealing with the blogger front. Nothing wrong with that, of course. He has stirred up quite a bit of discussion here; I've decided it's valuable enough to bring back to the front of the blog. I appreciate that all participants have been civil. Unfortunately this is not obvious in today's blogosphere.
Ben also suggested an interesting link, to an article by Ron Kampeas. I don't think I've read Kampeas before, and we probably disagree on some matters of substance, but Ben's right. It's an interesting article.
There's one major fallacy in Ben's argumentation which somehow hasn't been mentioned yet, but first, allow me a quick recap of matters we've already hashed.
1. The Im Tirzu campaign is in poor taste. Even taking aim at Naomi Hazan personally without the offensive caricature is poor taste; she has been in the public eye for decades, and we all know that she's basically harmless. There are mudslingers in all corners of the Israeli political arena, but Hazan has never been one of them. In addition, it has enabled the NIF to turn the debate from its substance to its form. The one thing still not resolved in my mind is the extent to which the furor was fed by the poor taste. Might a benign and polite campaign have disappeared after 15 seconds of fame, while this one is still here in its second week? If so, for all the regret, perhaps Im Tirzu got it right?
2. The NIF and many of its grantees have done much good in Israel. They cannot take as much credit as their recent publications and statements might have us believe, but there's no way to cast them as consistently negative. Having said this, there are parts of the story they're not trumpeting at the moment, such as low-profile but consistent discrimination against all settlers, as a group. Try posting a wanted ad on their classifieds board for something related to a settlement. How does this fit into human rights, you might ask? It doesn't of course. Regular readers will recollect how I documented another facet of this bias, here (and follow the internal links for more).
3. The fact of NIF grantees supplying false and derogatory information to the Goldstone report is well documented. I've written about this a number of times over the past six months or so, and no-one listened. Along came Im Tirzu and were nasty about it, and suddenly the whole relevant world is agog. I recognize that this blog is not very significant, but it also tries to be calm and measured. More elbow power to Im Tirzu: they know how to get their point across to a broad public. Sources? Read chapter XXV of the Goldstone report, for example, which is based almost entirely on NIF-NGOs, and is basically a lie in its entirety. That's for starters. Some of my thoughts on the matter are here and here. And of course, there was the trip to Hebron,which I wrote about here).
Now, to the major fallacy. Ben compares the NIF and its grantees to the ACLU et.al. and says that just as no-one tires to shut them down so it shoud be incomprehensible that anyone in Israel would touch the local human rights organizations, exasperating as they may be. Set aside the matter that no-one is suggesting they get shut down, merely have their funding looked into, the comparison is profoundly wrong.
American human rights organizations don't try to drag their country to foreign forums to be judged. The Israeli NGOs do. They make no secret of the matter; they're proud of it. To rephrase this, the American discussion takes place within the sovereignty of the United States. The Israeli one takes place in an international court of public opinion, politics, diplomacy and boycotts, where Israel's very existence is the heart of the discussion. I'm not going to get into the details, because we all know it to be true: Israel is at war over its right to exist. There are Israelis on the side of Israel's enemies. Some are there with full intent; others are there by default. The result is the same.
For the NIF to be comparable with the ACLU it wold have to publicize its findings in Hebrew, and Hebrew alone. The reality is the opposite.
Last year I once asked a CEO of one of these organizations why they publish so much in English. His answer was simple: our supporters don't know Hebrew. We must raise funds, and that can only be done if our supporters see what we're doing. (We need the international community, since Israeli democracy alone won't go where we want it to go).
You begin to see why the Im Tirzu attack on funding is so threatening to these folks.
Personally, I didn't believe the chap. True, they need to raise funds, and there aren't enough Israelis who might support them. My feeling, however, has always been that there's a second reason.They wish to appear in a better light before their non-Israeli friends, as in "Yes, our regime is ghastly, but we, tho a minority, we're your type of folks".