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On the 3rd March, Mr Tuvia Tenenbom, a journalist, celebrated playwright and author of the best seller Catch the Jew!, delivered a talk entitled ‘NGOs and Israel – An undermining relationship?’ The event was chaired by Mr Davis Lewin and hosted by the Henry Jackson Society in partnership with Stand By Us UK and APEI.
Introducing the premise of his book, Mr Tenenbom described two contrasting Israels: the 20th Century amalgam of Jews and Arabs, and the contemporary European presence now influencing Israeli society. Beneath a rubric of regional stability and human rights, he argues European agencies sponsor NGOs in the dissemination of anti-Semitic themes and imagery, publicising any perceived Jewish wrongdoing and framing Israel as a ‘fascist state’ in a bid to ‘get the Jews out from the Middle East’.
He diagnosed the genesis of anti-Semitism, in its current form, as a 2000 year old disease emerging with the secession of Christianity from Judaism. Crucially, Mr Tenenbom maintains Jews have been persecuted throughout history and, while this culminated in the Holocaust, the underlying racist tendencies have gradually re-surfaced over the last 70 years across Europe, the United States and increasingly within Israel itself. Similarly, European-backed NGOs operating in Israel continue to develop narratives dismissing pro-Israeli arguments as intrinsically subjective, in contrast to an ‘objective’ reality of Palestinian victimhood and violent Jewish perpetration. He highlights the EU as an anti-Semitic organisation and alludes to the recent recognition of Palestine by European states as emotive and fundamentally self-gratifying.
In terms of possible prescriptions, Mr Tenenbom called on the Israeli public, and the global community more broadly, to demand truth, transparency and verifiable evidence in all media coverage. This requires journalists to collect data directly rather than through activists, engaging with local actors on the ground and speaking the language. Across democratic societies everyone has the right to demand the end of racism and if necessary, the aggressive tactics characterising anti-Semitic messaging should be appropriated to support Israel and the Jewish people. He concluded by arguing the NGO Bill currently circulating in the Knesset, mandating public disclosure from Israeli groups receiving more than half their funding from abroad, should be passed and, if possible, expanded to include any level of external financing.