Right-wing group accuses activists of being foreign agent ‘moles’

Likud MK distances himself from Im Tirtzu after introducing legislation branding B’Tselem and other foreign-funded NGOs as saboteurs

A still from an ad accusing Israeli activists of being foreign funded 'moles.' (screen capture: Facebook)
A still from an ad accusing Israeli activists of being foreign funded 'moles.' (screen capture: Facebook)

The right-wing Im Tirtzu organization on Tuesday accused leading figures from Israel’s left-wing human rights organizations in a video clip of being “moles” operated by foreign countries to sabotage Israel’s counter-terror efforts.

The provocative campaign was released shortly after Likud MK Yoav Kisch announced he would advance a bill that would brand organizations that are heavily funded by foreign countries as “moles,” effectively barring them from meeting with government officials and members of the Israel Defense Forces.

Shortly after the clip was released, Kisch distanced himself from the right-wing organization’s “aggressive” campaign, which was designed to garner support for the legislation.

The human rights activists named in the video work for Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and Hamoked — Center for the Defense of the Individual.

Likud MK Yoav Kisch attends a discussion regarding a legislation deferring mandatory haredi conscription until 2023, at a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in the Israel parliament. November 19, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Likud MK Yoav Kisch (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The clip was posted Tuesday on the Facebook page of Ronen Shoval, founder and former chairman Im Tirtzu, which campaigns against what it contends is left-wing bias on university campuses and elsewhere.

“It’s unbelievable how foreign countries help terrorists via Israeli agents,” Shoval wrote.

The clip opens with a view of a street. Menacing music plays in the background as a sinister-looking, bearded Arab man approaches the camera and raises his arm, a knife in his hand.

“Before the next terrorist stabs you, he already knows that Ishai Menuhin, planted by Holland, will be sure to defend him against an investigation by the Israel Security Services.” A mugshot of Menuhin — Executive Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and a chairperson for Amnesty International –- Israel – appears with an ID card on which is written: ‘Name of organization: The Public Committee against Torture. Operating country: Holland’).

“He also knows that Sigi Ben-Ari [a lawyer for Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual], an agent of the Norwegian government, will defend him in court.

“Before the next terrorist stabs you, he already knows that Hagai El-Ad, [Director of B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories], a European Union agent, will call Israel a war criminal.

“Haggai, Ishai, Avner and Sigi. They are Israelis. They live here with us. And they are agents. When we fight terror, they fight us. A law on agents can take them outside the law. Sign your support.”

After the clip aired, Menuhin filed a complaint with the police that the ad amounted to incitement to violence against him, the Ynet news website reported.

Kisch, who said on Monday that he would advance the “moles bill” later this week, said he was not involved with the Im Tirtzu campaign championing his legislation.

“I will continue to advance the bill, but with that, I have reservations from the aggressive personalization in the campaign by the student organization ‘Im Tirtzu,'” he said in a statement. “I am not connected to the campaign, and this is not my way — I deal with substance. My law is separate from the campaign by Im Tirtzu.”

While Kisch denied his links to the group, a draft of what appeared to be the proposed legislation was uploaded on the Im Tirtzu website, though it could not be immediately verified.

Kisch’s proposal would label groups funded by foreign governments as “moles” for the sponsoring countries, prevent them from contacting government or army representatives, and levy a NIS 100,000 fine against these organizations in the event they violate Israeli law.

“NGOs that encourage boycotts, incitement, and calls to put IDF soldiers on trial in international courts are not NGOs that are important for the internal discourse in Israel,” Kisch wrote. “These are NGOs that are working to harm Israel in the international arena by spreading lies and incitement, and this phenomenon needs to stop.”

NGO Monitor opposed the proposal, saying it diverts attention “from the core issue: extensive and irresponsible European funding” and fuels “the emotional reactions of fringe groups from both the left and the right.”

“Over the past few years, the Israeli debate on foreign funding for political NGOs has become increasingly intense. As a result, there is a need for professional, in-depth research in order to avoid confusion and understand the details,” Gerald Steinberg, the head of NGO Monitor, said in a statement. “The name-calling from left and right – using terms like ‘traitors,’ ‘fascists,’ ‘agents’ or ‘McCarthyism,’ – and demonization campaigns or personal attacks do not contribute to a healthy public debate. This uncivil discourse is antithetical to Israel’s democratic values.”

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