Are Israel's leftists pure ideologues or guns for hire? Yotam Feldman, who was born into the leftist camp – his father is liberal lawyer Avigdor Feldman – believes the latter.
In a Hebrew language post at the "Eretz HaEmori" blog, Feldman says that in his life, he has witnessed how Israel's "human rights movement" became a source of income for its activists. He relates how his father's old Subaru "gradually turned" into a BMW, and how the family moved from a rented apartment in Yafo to a spacious Tel Aviv apartment.
"When it came time to provide for myself, I also turned to fields that were somehow connected to the state of democracy in Israel," Feldman writes. These fields "gave me an interesting vocation and a salary that was not bad. Then I began to understand that there is something irreversible about belonging to this community. It seemed to me that whoever tied his fate – whether because of family lineage or a private decision – with the fate of the NGOs in Israel, guaranteed himself a livelihood… for most of his adult life."
Nor is his case extraordinary. "It is a well known but seldom stated fact that a very large part of the leftist activists in Tel Aviv earn their salaries in different ways from the human rights branch. Many of the prominent – and often most vocal – activists in the demonstrations are paid spokespeople, PR people, producers and organizers and of course, lawyers who man the tip of the pyramid in these groups."
"This is a pretty confusing situation because when you are standing in a demonstration or even just engaging in idle talk, it is not clear if the person next to you is expressing his opinion as a result of inner conviction or as an inseparable part of his job…"
The leftist circle that lives off of political activism includes journalists and students who write about and research the field, he says. "Therefore, if it were not for the plethora of neo-colonialist European Union initiatives for solving disputes, safeguarding human rights and establishing good governance, it is likely that many of my acquaintances would find themselves without an income."
This is probably why leftist groups are so concerned about proposed committees of inquiry into the sources of their NGOs' funding, he adds.