The Second Lebanon War, with its rockets raining down on the north and the city of Haifa, and the continued rocket fire at Sderot and the city of Ashkelon, helped to finally burst the hopes of those who thought the disengagement would bring peace. Only the most die-hard left wingers clung to the idea that it had accomplished anything.
This is why, when the IDF went into Gaza to fight Hamas, it was with unprecedented public support. This in turn explains why the Goldstone report was so bitter a pill to swallow – even for cynical Israelis who are used to the world’s unfair condemnation. It also explains how the organization Im Tirzu came to touch a raw nerve in Israeli society.
Probably one of the most difficult places to be an open pro-Zionist is on the college campus – and it is doubly sad that this applies to the Israeli college campus also.
This is why Im Tirzu is so important. Just a short quote from their website:
“We believe the younger generation, and especially the university student population, holds the key to the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and that it is the duty and responsibility of this population to lead Israeli society. Regrettably, in recent years, anti-Zionist trends have been proliferating at Israeli universities, which have gradually displaced, marginalized and excluded the Zionist discourse, preventing Zionists from making their voices heard. Since December 2006, Im Tirtzu has been the only movement that has provided a response to the spread of post-Zionist and anti-Zionist currents among the faculty and student body in Israeli universities.”
Im Tirzu became a household term in Israel early last year when they investigated the NIF (New Israel Fund) and found that they were responsible for the bulk of the testimonies against the IDF in the Goldstone report. People were infuriated that the IDF soldiers who risked their lives to fight the terrorists were betrayed by other Israelis, who, in turn, were funded by foreigners. This created a storm of publicity, and some members of Knesset called for an investigation into the funding of left-wing NGO’s, specifically focussing on the participation of foreign governments. Just this past week the Knesset voted to establish a committee to investigate this funding.
Im Tirzu is also famous for its report about bias on campus – and the Ben Gurion University in particular. Just this week BGU announced that they will be changing their ethics code so that teachers are now asked not to use the University’s name when they speak at political rallies, and are asked to refrain from expressing their political opinions in class. It is amazing what pushing back can accomplish.
What is telling about Im Tirzu and the political groups that are voicing their opposition to these left-wing groups, is that the leadership is (outwardly) secular. Most of Israeli society is pro-Zionist – but many are cowed by the dominant voice of the liberal left from expressing their Zionism. In the past they would be afraid to be associated with the “face of pro-Zionism” – the knitted kipa and beard of the national religious segment of Israeli society. Now a pro-Zionist can be clean shaven, bareheaded, and young – so the stigma has started to fall away. Being openly patriotic is no longer “fringe” – it is mainstream, as it should be.