New Im Tirtzu campaign
New Im Tirtzu campaignIm Tirtzu

Matan Peleg, CEO of the grassroots Zionist movement Im Tirtzu, spoke to Arutz Sheva on Thursday about his group's new campaign calling out "foreign agents" in the Israeli cultural scene, which has been condemned by those in both the political left and right.

Leftist MKs in the Zionist Union party attacked the campaign, as has Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of his party. The clip was released Wednesday night to boost support for Culture Minister Miri Regev's (Likud) plans to make government funding for cultural endeavors conditional on loyalty to the state, although Regev has also been critical of the campaign.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also weighed in against the campaign on Thursday night, saying he "opposes the use of the term 'traitor' for those who don't agree with me. We are a democracy with a diversity of opinions. At the same time most of the public firmly opposes Breaking the Silence which spreads libel against the country abroad."

Peleg condemned the backlash against his group's campaign.

"The attempt to portray our expose, which is necessary, as an effort to call people 'traitors' is incitement against Im Tirtzu," said Peleg, responding to critics of the campaign which points out musicians, artists and actors aligned with radical leftist groups.

"We argue that there needs to be transparency, and it is important that it not be hidden that these members of the cultural scene who attack Minister Miri Regev are members of the public council of B'Tselem, the New Israel Fund, or Yesh Din."

The public has a right to know the opinions of its cultural icons, according to Peleg.

He noted that "if Joshua Sobol attacks Regev, let them know that he's a member of Yesh Din, so that the public will know that he isn't just an artist but rather a political activist. We aren't calling to boycott artists and there is no incitement here, we only want transparency."

Double standard

The Im Tirtzu head expressed surprise that those who were eager to condemn his campaign did not speak out against the boycott of famed singer Ariel Zilber's lifetime achievement award, or the boycott of the recently opened cultural center in Ariel, Samaria.

"This is a double standard. It's our right to demand transparency, and if Gila Almagor wrote after Operation Protective Edge that she is ashamed of the IDF, why shouldn't we list that she is, among other things, a member of the B'Tselem organization?"

"When an artist like Shaanan Streett reads out testimonies (against the IDF - ed.) of Breaking the Silence at their event, that gives them legitimacy," said Peleg. "It is my right to expose the fact that he is a member of their movement."

Commenting on the phenomenon, he added, "unfortunately we have gotten used to Israeli culture being a leftist culture, and if they call for a boycott of Ariel Zilber or a theater in Ariel, that's okay, but when we expose their political activities that isn't okay."

Despite the criticism Peleg vowed that the campaign will continue, saying, "it's already up on Facebook and our site, it was clear to us that the moment we touch the sacred cows like Amos Oz there would be an uproar here, this is an attempt to silence Im Tirtzu."

"The truth hurts, we know that the politicians run on automatic without actually reading things, so it's a disruption for them. There is nothing dangerous in exposing information, those who are embarrassed about being a member of the New Israel Fund shouldn't be there, (but) to come and say there's something dangerous here? There never was such a thing."