Im Tirtzu: Donors Must Rethink

Successful movement's chairman Shoval turns to nationalist philanthropists who 'would rather build an outpost than shape consciousness.'

Gil Ronen , | updated: 10:30 PM

Ronen Shoval
Ronen Shoval
Im Tirtzu


In Israeli politics, it has been the year of Im Tirtzu – the media-savvy Zionist students' movement that managed to create a true stir with a February campaign that exposed the New Israel Fund's dastardly doings before the Israeli public.

The campaign targeted NIF chair Naomi Chazan and received high-profile news coverage. Im Tirtzu's research focused on the NIF's complicity in the Goldstone Report that attacked the IDF for its 'Cast Lead' Gaza operation. The NIF came under fire in Israel and in Jewish communities worldwide. Used to being ignored by the leftist media and to waging losing battles, Zionist pundits were ecstatic at the new movement's successes.

A few months later, Im Tirtzu was back with another report – this time about the overwhelming proportion of radical leftists in Ben Gurion University's Political Science Department. Again, the media was full of the story.

In a Rosh HaShanah interview with Arutz Sheva, Ronen Shoval, 29, chairman of the movement, expressed his belief that the movement and others like it could be doing a lot more to save Israel if only Jewish donors begin to think differently. Donors, he said, are used to buying houses from Arabs in Judea and Samaria or eastern Jerusalem, and settling Jews in them. That is important, but they should also be thinking about shaping public consciousness.

 "The question is,” he explains, “do facts on the ground create public consciousness, or is it the other way around? The Jewish approach" he feels, "is that the universe was created through words: that is to say, consciousness creates reality.”

"Throughout the history of Zionism, these rival approaches competed with each other and complemented each other. Herzl believed in shaping consciousness and asked the world's powers for a charter to settle in the Land of Israel. The Hovevei Tzion movement, meanwhile, believed in buying 'another dunam [area of land,ed.] and another goat.'   
"These two great streams collided in the summer of 2005, in the Disengagement. The settlement movement thought that it was creating facts on the ground in Gush Katif – but it turned out that without proper consciousness, one government decision was enough for all of the communities there to be destroyed. It won't help us to buy another house in eastern Jerusalem, and another one after that, if they decide to hand over eastern Jerusalem to the Arabs in the end.”

"The other side understands this but the nationalists continue to think in terms of material, not spirit. That is why we lose touch with the nation of Israel. The nationalists invest in buildings, not books. Do we have one publishing house? One theater? The entire cultural world is controlled by one side. We used to comfort ourselves and say that 'the dogs bark but the caravan passes,' but this no longer works. If we do not wake up – the entire Zionist venture is in danger.”

"We must invest in thinkers, in culture – and not just in yet another outpost and another useless caravan. What is it good for? If the public consciousness is not there, it will be seen as an illegal outpost and torn down. But if the public consciousness is primed, it will be seen as part of the Zionist settlement ethos and a great mitzvah.”

A7: Why doesn't the nationalist side have a fund like the NIF?

RS: It is easier to destroy than to build.

A7: What happened to the Knesset subcommittees that were supposed to look into the New Israel Fund after your campaign?

RS: There are several bills that are being prepared. There is a lot of work to be done. The Knesset members tend to work on things that are on the public agenda – otherwise they need to be pressured.

A7: Do you think someone is trying to stonewall you?

RS: I hope and tend to believe that the Knesset members understand the national importance of this matter and are working at full tilt in order to remove the radical anti-Zionist threat facing us.  

A7: How does the NIF achieve such control over the Israeli media?

RS: They support the Agenda Center for media, which pumps out the 'correct' positions to journalists. They find jobs for journalists and provide training for them. That is how the PC mechanism is created. In addition, 'social' and legal organizations place issues on the public agenda.

As a result of all this, Israel is much less pluralistic than the US. The Americans have both Fox and CNN, they have the Washington Post and the New York Times: the media airs about 80% of the spectrum of public opinion on various subjects. The remaining 20% are considered extreme and illegitimate. In Israel, the media mechanism makes sure that only 20%-30% of the public's views are heard – and everything else is branded as illegitimate. They determine the consensus. The silencing is much more radical.  

A7: Some leftist bloggers claimed that all your activists are men, and that women dislike your movement. Is this true?

RS: Not every stupid claim deserves a response. There are many women in Im Tirtzu.

A7: So what is the next step?

RS: There are many interesting surprises in the works.

A7: For Naomi Chazan?

RS: Yes, for her too.