Im Tirtzu campaign labeling artists ‘foreign agents’ slammed as ‘Israeli McCarythism’

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Opposition leader Isaac Herzog and other Israeli politicians slammed the new campaign poster of the NGO Im Tirtzu that labeled a number of Israeli artists as “foreign agents” for their affiliation with left-wing groups.

The NGO’s poster comes on the heels of Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev’s “Loyalty in Culture” legislation proposal to the Knesset Education Committee.

Regev’s proposed bill would grant government officials the right to withhold government funding to cultural institutions that incite to racism, violence or terrorism, or support armed conflict of terrorism against Israel.

The illustration includes artists Sha’an Stritt, Amos Oz, Yehoshuah Sobol, and Gila Almagor, members of left-wing organizations The New Israel Fund, B’Tselem, and Yesh Din respectively.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called the new Im Tirtzu campaign “Israeli McCarthyism.” 

“This McCarythism, in a shameful effort is trying to take control of Israel. The creative treasure of Israel’s artists and writers will survive forever. The  Israeli McCarthyism and the zeros that lead it will disappear just as they disappeared in the United States. The question is only when and how much it will cost us,” Herzog said. 

MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said Im Tirtzu, led by the government, “was destroying Israel from inside and alienating it from the outside world.”

“The real ‘foreign agents’ are Miri Regev and the government,” Livni said.   

Head of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid said “all fair-minded people, Right and Left, needed to come out against Im Tirtzu’s ugly, divisive, and violent campaign.”

“In the State of Israel- the state of the people of the book, the Jewish people – artists, and writers and cultural figures must not be persecuted. With Im Tirzu’s campaign of hatred that incites to violence, a red line has been crossed.”

MK Dov Hanin (Joint List) asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open a criminal investigation into Im Tirtzu for incitement. Hanin said that the campaign created a “real danger of serious violence.”

MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) wrote a letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon asking to declare Im Tirtzu an illegal organization.

“I am asking you to act immediately using your authority under the Defense Emergency regulations to declare the the extreme Right movement Im Tirtzu a prohibited organization,” he wrote.

“This a movement that systematically encourages, with its violent propaganda that incites against citizens and groups, the destruction of the rule of law in Israel.


(Photo: New Im Tirtzu campaign campaign)

The new Im Tirtzu poster followed the opening and closing of a preliminary inquiry of the Deputy Attorney-General for Special Affairs into a similar campaign that the group launched. Im Tirtzu’s controversial video released in December, cited the specific names of senior officials in the organization “Breaking the Silence” and labeled them as “foreign agents.” The exploratory examination sought to determine if this constituted incitement, which in the end found that it did not. 

The intentional use of the language “foreign agent,” first in the video and now again in the poster targeting artists echoed the wording of MK Yoav Kisch’s (Likud) proposal that aimed to identify organizations that are funded by a “foreign political entity” and label them as moles of the country that funds them. The legislation strived to prohibit government ministries or the IDF from cooperating with them in any way, unless the justice minister orders an exception.

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