The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is set to award academic credits to students who volunteer for the fascist group Im Tirtzu, reported Haaretz last Thursday, February 13, even though university regulations state that such credits are not to be given for work with political groups.
The university has been giving academic credits for social service since 2018, and publishes a list of recognized organizations once a year. The list includes volunteer work with welfare organizations operated by the municipality in hospitals; for students working with youth, seniors, Holocaust survivors and asylum seekers; and for volunteering with social service projects run by the university itself that work with students from socioeconomically disadvantaged sectors of the population. To receive the credits, students must volunteer at least 30 hours a month.
According to Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), “It seems that the university has made a mistake in judgment as to the political identity of Im Tirtzu. This is a clearly fascist organization whose activities in general are de-legitimization of groups and individuals whose positions differ from those of this racist body.”
Since its founding in 2006, Im Tirtzu has become notorious for its right-wing activism and intimidation of academics and Left organizations in the campuses it deems to be Communists and “unpatriotic.” The organization itself says it merely seeks to promote “the values of Zionism in Israel.”
Im Tirtzu now has some 15 branches and since 2017 has “operated a phone line to take reports about leftist lecturers.” Last year, Im Tirtzu started a website that posted the names and contact information of dozens of lecturers who had expressed left-wing opinions. Academia for Equality (an Israeli left-wing organization with a membership of more than 400 university and college lecturers and professors) drew comparisons between the website and fascism and McCarthyism and heavily criticized it.
In addition, the organization’s activists often protest against human rights NGOs, and have attacked Arab students, Hadash activists and Breaking the Silence – a group publishing first-person testimonies of veterans of the Israeli army – as “foreign moles who protect terrorists.”
In 2010, the group sued five left wing activists for slander over a Facebook group named “If you want a fascist movement, there’s one already.” After three years in court, a Jerusalem district judge dismissed a large portion of the suit’s claims, agreeing that the movement does indeed bear similarities to fascism.
According to a Peace Now research study, besides a few private, known donors, most of Im Tirtzu’s money comes from American organizations with a right-wing orientation, which do not reveal the origins of the donations transferred to Israel. This includes the Central Fund of Israel, the One Israel Foundation and others. In addition, the association received donations from an Evangelical organization named Christians United for Israel. The money was transferred via the Jewish Agency and reported under its name.