There is a brewing media scandal inIsrael that has received scant attention. Let’s try to change that. Earlier this week, a fictitious settler group published an ad in Haaretzsupporting price tag attacks. One point they made in their support wasthe claim that price tag attacks are civil disobedience in the same sense thatIlana Hammerman’s group, We Do Not Obey,is. She is the activist who began a protest movement by drivingPalestinian mothers and children from the West Bank into Israel in order totake them to the beach, amusement parks, zoos, etc. For her efforts,she’s been rewarded by three police summonses for questioning including awarning of criminal prosecution. It is illegal both for Palestinians toenter Israel without proper permits and it is illegal for Israeli citizens tobring such individuals into Israel.
We Do Not Obey acts in ways that aretotally non-violent and designed to promote tolerance and peaceful co-existencebetween Israelis and Palestinians while price tag is a violent, abusive andillegal form, not of civil disobedience, but of hooliganism and even terror. Thevery comparison of the two is an act of outrageous chutzpah.
What is even more shocking about thead than the bogus logic of the argument offered in it, is the fact that the adpurported to be signed by settler women who support the price tag acts ofvandalism and defacement of Palestinian mosques, cemeteries, etc. It alsolisted the purported settlements in which each endorser lived. Inreality, every woman’s name included in the ad is a member of Ilana Hammerman’sgroup of peace activists. In other words, the individual who created thead engaged in an act of fraud and Haaretz abetted the fraud by accepting the adand asking no questions to verify the authenticity of those names. Nordid it verify the authenticity of the fake group which purported tosponsor the ad.
Further, after Haaretz discovered ithad been duped, it notified Hammerman that it would no longer accept any op-edpieces by her about her work with We Do Not Obey (as it had in the past). It appears that Haaretz, instead of blaming the person who perpetratedthe fraud, is washing its hands of Hammerman and her entire movement. Aclear case if there ever was one of blaming the victim. Instead ofshowing respect for fairness and freedom of speech, and apologizing for theirerror in helping defame these women, Haaretz takes a typically liberal approachand absconds from the entire controversy.
We now know who is the author of thefraud. He is Benny Katzover, a notorious settleractivist. Here is the audiotranscript of the interview in which he took credit for the ad. Amonghis recent claims to fame (or better yet, infamy) is an interviewhe published in a Chabad journal, claiming the Israeli democracy hadoutlived its usefulness and should give way to a state governed by Jewish law(“We didn’t come here to establish a democratic state”). Does anyonebesides me find it ironic (or possibly sociopathic) that a radical settler whorejects Israeli democracy defends price tag attacks as legitimate forms ofcivil disobedience?
We don’t know who paid for the$1,000-1,500 cost of the ad. Haaretz knows, but I doubt they’re going totell. A source I’ve consulted who is knowledgeable about the storybelieves that the funding came from either a settlement or a settler agency,which may mean that the State itself paid for the ad (either directly orindirectly). In fact, a statementon the group’s Facebook page declares the ad was likely paid for throughpublic funds. This would mean that this act of fraud was actuallyendorsed and paid for by a government entity and the taxpayers of Israel. Further, it would mean that public funds were used to endorse the acts ofhooliganism and lawlessness represented by the price tag movement. In theevent that this claim is true, it would mean that while Israel’s leaders arepublicly decrying price tag pogromism, other parts of the Israeli government orits public agencies are actually endorsing it. Does this surprise anyone?
It also shouldn’t surprise anyonethe government would smear Hammerman since her activism is considered a primeexample of delegitimization, the right-wing concept du jour. YuliEdelstein’s Hasbara ministry is charged with combatting delegitimization andEdelstein himself is a prominent settler leader. It wouldn’t be beyondthe realm of possibility that his agency could’ve played some role in theattack, though I’m still exploring this angle of the story.
The women of We Do Not Obey havebeen consulting an attorney to decide how to proceed. It’s ironic thatthe draconian proposed defamation law that may shortly pass the Knesset andbecome law would greatly aid these women in their pursuit of justice. Itwould allow them to personally win substantial financial compensation of up to$75,000 each (for 40 women) from Katzover without having to prove any financialdamage to them. The Israeli far-right devised this cockamamie law to useagainst the Israeli NGO and peace activist community. It never occurred tothem that it could be used against them as well by the Israeli left. That’s how smart these dullards are.