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By David Newman
What do President Shimon Peres, Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, former Education Minister Yuli Tamir, world reknowned author Amos Oz and former Justice Minister and Minister in charge of Security Affairs Dan Meridor have in common?
And where do Ben Gurion University President and head of the University Coordinating Committee Professor Rivka Carmi, former Knesset Speaker and former Head of the Jewish Agency Avrom Burg, Knesset Deputy Speaker and former Hebrew University professor Naomi Chazan, leading Israeli academics with worldwide reputations, such as Philosophers Professors Zeev Sternhell and Menachem Brinkner, Political scientists such as Yaron Ezrahi, Gabi Shefer and present Dean of the Social Sciences at the Hebrew University Avner de Shalit, Historians of Israel and the Holocaust, such as professorsBenny Morris, Hana Yablonka, Yehuda Bauer and Renee Poznanski, Likud member of Knesset and active supporter of citizens rights Micky Eitan, and former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and Spain, professor Shlomo ben Ami, appear as members of the same club?
There are two options. Either they come together in some mythical heavenly afterlife.
Or, they are all members of the anti-Zionist, Israel bashing, self-hating Jews conspiracy who have been targeted by any one of the three extremist right wing organizations Im Tirtzu, Academic Monitor and Isracampus in recent years.
And this is but the tip of the iceberg.
A thorough analysis of the web sites and publications of these three organizations has revealed a list of well over 1000 names of prominent Israelis – politicians, diplomats, academics, Rabbis, ex-military personnel, authors and film producers – who appear on the right wing blacklists and who, so it would appear to anyone who still believes the so-called “information” on these sites, are causing perpetual damage to the State of Israel.
Almost anyone who dares to think aloud, promotes social justice, works on behalf of peace and the cause of human rights, dares to dream (as did Herzl so many years ago) or believes in freedom of speech, has a chance of finding himself / herself on the list. Indeed, anyone reading this column and who perceives themselves as a law abiding upright citizen of the State of Israel could well find themselves on this list.
Check it out. You only have to put your own name in the search engine on www.blacklist.co.il to see if you are a member of this exclusive club. Given the prominence of names which appear, I can only recommend that if you do not appear , you should do your utmost to join the club, following which you will belong to a group of people whose contribution to the state of Israel and the Jewish people is second to none, and without whom Israel would be in a lot worse situation than it is today. Each single name in the list has done more for Israel than the accumulated activities of all three organizations and their supporters and funders, most of whom reside in the Diaspora and are prepared to support this attack on Israel from the comfort of their remote and faraway geographical locations. Depending on when you check your name out, you may have a problem accessing the site. Within five minutes of the list of names appearing on the web this past Sunday, the cyber war specialists had sprung into action and it was removed by right wing hackers, soon to be reinstated.
It is always easy to hide oneself under the cloak of patriotism. It is a favorite trick of the right wing to present themselves as the defenders of the national spirit while categorizing all others, including Presidents, government ministers, ambassadors and prominent university professors, as traitors, anti-Zionists, and abettors to the enemy. In a country which is in perpetual conflict with its neighbours and where fears concerning the security and safety of the State is always at the top of the national agenda, such language is easy to sell to the public and the tabloid media, and hardly anyone ever bothers to actually check the veracity of the accusations or the insinuations, or whom the people targeted really are. And given the recent political climate in Israel, where radical right wing forces have taken over parts of government and even the Knesset Education Committee, these terrible slurs on some of the elites of Israeli society have forced their way into the formal debates of government, giving it a legitimacy which causes great damage to the reputation of the Israeli parliament throughout the world.
But now the truth is out. The list of published names and the terrible slurs and adjectives used to describe these people and their “crimes” are out there in the open for all to see. If, after reading these lists , anyone is still convinced that these organizations act in the best interests of Israel or the Jewish people, then they have a very strange idea what it means to be part of a thriving democracy. And if anyone thinks that by funding these organizations instead of using their philanthropy to support universities, hospitals, schools and welfare organizations, they are contributing to the State of Israel, then they are very much mistaken. The damage they are causing to Israel’s global name and reputation, is irreparable. They cannot turn a blind eye or turn away when Israel is criticized by all those amongst the democratic family of nations, who have always supported Israel but who are now beginning to ask questions about the country’s commitment to its values of democracy, freedom of speech and belief in human rights.
As a proud citizen of Israel, I am honored to be a member of this blacklist. When I see who my fellow members are, I would not want to be excluded from such a prominent list of Israeli citizens. I can only recommend that anyone reading this column, who believes in the vibrancy that is the State of Israel, hurry to add your name to the list. Membership is free and it is open to all those who are prepared to contribute to the future development of this country and the principles of free speech and critical thought.
If you wish to help change this reality, please read Embracing Israel/Palestine which you can order at www.tikkun.org/nextgen/EIP, join the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, and help us build a new way of thinking in the US which will eventually influence Israel and Palestine (which is also no beacon of free speech).
David Newman is Dean of Social Sciences at Ben Gurion University. He is a religious Zionist who has fought for pluralism and for peace in Israel. He has in the past few years been one of the Jerusalem Post’s token progressives amidst a newspaper that continues to serve primarily the settlers and their fans throughout the world. But when he wrote this one, it was refused by the Jerusalekm Post so he turned to us (he has written for Tikkun in the past). We are delighted to share this with you, but saddened about the state of assault on free speech in Israel, which mirrors the absence of free speech and debate in much of the Jewish community and its newspapers in the United States.