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Mainstream Media News Blackout on New Israel Fund Inquiry

A small students' group succeeded in bringing about a Knesset inquiry into the NIF's funding of subversive groups. Someone made the news go away.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/4/2010, 6:05 PM

It was a short, sweet victory: a small grassroots movement of students and IDF reservists, Im Tirtzu, launched a savvy and aggressive campaign against the New Israel Fund, for its support of NGOs that besmirched Israel and were quoted in the Goldstone report. Aided by information from Prof. Gerald Steinberg's NGO Monitor, Im Tirtzu exposed the fact that the NIF receives much of its money from the Ford Foundation – which also aids vehemently anti-Israeli Arab groups – and disburses millions of dollars annually to Israeli groups that accuse the IDF of war crimes and support anti-Israel campaigns abroad.

The Im Tirtzu campaign began with an extensive report on their findings in Friday's Maariv newspaper, by prominent journalist Ben Caspit. Apparently knowing in advance that the rest of Israel's media outlets would try to suppress the news, Im Tirtzu bought advertisements that rammed its message across for four straight days this week. The campaign, which could not be ignored, caused a frenzy and by day's end Wednesday Im Tirzu declared victory: a Knesset debate was held and a subcommittee of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee was created to investigate their claims.

However, Israelis who tuned in to the Wednesday evening newscasts on Channels 2 and 10 – the only commercial television channels with news programs – saw and heard nothing about the event. The parliamentary vote on creating the subcommittee was not even mentioned verbally in either channel's newscast. Mabat, the news program of state-run Channel 1, covered the public storm and parliamentary vote with a short item, 22 minutes into the newscast.

While Maariv's Caspit and some pundits on the newspaper's website supported Im Tirtzu, other columnists in Maariv and elsewhere attacked Im Tirtzu and the journalists who supported it, calling it an “extreme right-wing group” and accusing it of using Nazi-type propaganda against the NIF's chairwoman, Naomi Chazan, because its advertisements featured a caricature of her with a horn on her forehead, charging at the Israeli flag. The caricature was based on a play of words on the Hebrew word keren which means both 'horn' and 'fund'.

Im Tirtzu's chairman Ronen Shoval said in an e-mail message to supporters Wednesday that the New Israel Fund had threatened to sue news outlets that carried stories attacking it and that Im Tirtzu had also received threatening messages.