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John Hagee to cut Im Tirtzu funding
By GIL SHEFLER
The main donor of controversial NGO Im Tirtzu expressed deep displeasure with the organization on Monday over its campaigns against the New Israel Fund and Ben-Gurion University, and signaled that it plans to discontinue its funding.
John Hagee Ministries (JHM), named after the pro- Israel evangelical pastor who founded it, told The Jerusalem Post it contributed funds to Im Tirtzu in 2009 under the impression that it dealt only with Zionist education.
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“Im Tirtzu misrepresented its focus when they told us their mission was strictly Zionist education,” Ari Morgenstern, the spokesman for JHM, said.
“We had no prior knowledge of Im Tirtzu’s political actions and we never seek to involve ourselves in Israel’s internal political debate.”
Hagee’s group is Im Tirtzu’s biggest donor, according to a tax return from 2009. That year the NGO received $100,000 from Hagee and $34,096 from other sources.
JHM stopped short of officially announcing it would cut the organization off, maintaining it would only announce the recipients of its donations at its annual meeting in San Antonio. But the tone of the statement left little doubt that it would discontinue its support.
Im Tirtzu was in the headlines last week when it emerged that the group had threatened to persuade Ben-Gurion University donors to withhold funding unless BGU hired more patriotic academics. According to Im Tirtzu, the university’s political department needed “balancing” because of what it termed its lecturers’ heavily anti-Zionist slant.
The university rejected Im Tirtzu’s demands, saying it would not countenance any infringements on its academic freedom.
Last year Im Tirtzu launched an ad campaign against the New Israel Fund, accusing it of funding human rights groups it claimed helped besmirch Israel in the Goldstone probe, which had been commissioned by the UN to investigate alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.
On Monday, Hagee’s organization came out strongly in support of BGU, to which it also donated $100,000 in 2009.
“We do not believe that the political positions of a few professors characterize an entire university,” Morgenstern said.
“JHM is not concerned with our support for Ben-Gurion University. We of course do not support any call for divestment in Israel in any way. But looking at what BGU does for the people of Israel in general and the development of the Negev in particular, we believe that the people of Israel benefit from BGU’s success.”
Im Tirtzu issued a terse response to JHM’s remarks on Monday night, thanking it for its help.
“We thank JHM for their meaningful support for the movement in its early stages,” Im Tirtzu spokesman Erez Tadmor said.
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