(Horrid Ideas) The Tikvah Fund & The Racist Right in Israel

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Always academic undercover, there was nothing ever innocent about the Tikvah Fund. In the States, they have since shut down their field operations, at Princeton and NYU. This article here at Haaretz includes in its analysis of the influence of conservative American money in that country a long look at how the Tikvah Fund a rightwing shande to Jewish Studies, continues to do its thing for the hard, anti-democratic right in Israel, openly and without the subterfuge. An idea is a material thing; and a horrid idea is a horrid thing. Here again is Roger Hertog opining below about the power of “ideas” and putting money behind their production. This is just an update to what has become an old story.

From Haaretz:

In Washington, where think tanks and leadership training operations are thick on the ground, the activities of these groups may seem par for the course. But in Israel, which has far fewer stable, well-funded political institutions, the appearance of the Tikvah Fund and other conservative projects with U.S. money behind them is a dramatic political development. 

Last May, Jerusalem hosted the first-ever Israeli Conservatism Conference. A brand-new organization, calling itself the Israeli Conservatism Movement, was behind the event: Its stated goal is “developing a distinctly Israeli and conservative school of thought, and a community affiliated with its ideas.” 

Roger Hertog, a U.S. conservative businessman and chairman of the Tikvah Fund, shares this vision. “On the road to conservative victory,” he explained from the podium, “ideas must manifest themselves in the cultural and political processes that will shape Israel’s destiny. That is the challenge facing conservatism in Israel … and I think it can be won. It’s not just that ideas matter. They’re the only thing that matters,” he concluded. 

According to estimates, the Tikvah Fund invests $10 million to $15 million a year in its project to transform Israel. And its cumulative impact can’t be overstated: Each and every one of the publications and institutions mentioned above is either fully or partly sponsored by the fund.

This is, of course, a legitimate move in the battle of ideas that takes place in any democratic society. And yet, one should call it for what it is: The right-wing, spearheaded by the Tikvah Fund, is attempting to replace Israel’s Declaration of Independence — the closest thing Israel has to a constitution, and a document that outlines a model for liberal Zionism, upholding equality for all citizens, Jewish or not — with the tea party’s manifesto. 

 

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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