Right-wing group ripped for ad campaign targeting some performers as traitors

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli officials from across the political spectrum have denounced the right-wing group Im Tirtzu for an ad campaign that attacks Israeli performers and artists affiliated with left-wing groups as traitors.

The campaign comes on the heels of an Im Tirtzu campaign introduced last month that singled out four Israeli human rights activists and called them “moles” who act against the State of Israel and Israeli soldiers.

The new campaign, called “Moles in Culture,” accuses the artists of supporting left-wing groups that receive some funding from foreign governments. Among the well-known Israelis in the arts mentioned in the campaign are writers Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, actress Gila Almagor, and singers Rona Keinan and Chava Alberstein.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among the right-wing lawmakers to denounce the latest ad.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

“[I] oppose the use of the word ‘traitor’ to describe those who disagree with me,”  Netanyahu, of the Likud party, said in a statement in response to the campaign. “We are a democracy and there is a multitude of opinions.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev, who has been under fire recently for proposing a bill to withdraw arts funding for those deemed “not loyal” to Israel, also criticized the campaign.

“Alongside the public’s right to know, one should avoid statements that may lead to incitement and violence,” she said. “Damage to any person in respect of his political views is wrong.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the right-wing Jewish Home party, called the campaign “embarrassing, pointless and degrading.”

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the center-left Zionist Union, compared the Im Tirtzu campaign to 1950s McCarthyism in the United States in a Facebook post.

Im Tirtzu has long targeted harsh criticism at liberal Israeli activists, and specifically the New Israel Fund, which funds various activist groups.

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