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Facing Slander and Under Attack: Kohelet Forum’s Contribution in Hard Times

In the year preceding the war, Kohelet Forum Policy was subjected to a wave of attacks, biased articles, libelous zoom meetings and the extensive use of social media to demonize the organization. On October 7, I rushed to enlist in the army along with many of my colleagues in Kohelet, most of us to the frontlines. Four days later I took leave for my wedding, which instead of being a large event celebrated with hundreds of guests in a fancy hall, took place in the “Yad Sara” building with only a small circle of family and friends and I returned the next day to the fight. While most of the Israeli people decided to put our differences behind us, some carried on with the attacks. I received death wishes and threats that I would be held accountable after the war, and even my mother received messages wishing I would be killed in Gaza.

Kohelet Policy Forum was made a target because of its importance as the foremost think tank in the national camp and the most influential one in Israel. The Forum has assisted policy makers in implementing policies guided by the principles of a free economy, national identity, and governance, while also supporting many civil society organizations with research, workshops and a variety of tools. It is understandable that pressure groups and cartels are angered by their losses when monopolies are broken up and transparency is demanded from controversially managed organizations, but Kohelet nonetheless works to promote individual liberty and citizens’ welfare. Some on the political left suspect Kohelet of secret motivations, despite the fact that the entirety of Kohelet’s content is open and accessible to the public.

 Kohelet Policy Forum is a think tank working to ensure Israel’s future as the nation-state of the Jewish people; to strengthen representative democracy; to expand individual liberty; and to entrench the principles of a free market.

We were smeared and castigated as enemies of the poor, of women, of LBTQ, as being anti- democracy and pro-corruption. None of this is true, but anonymous paid ads continued to disseminate such disinformation. The Haredi press wrote about how we were against Haredim, while on the internet we were accused of working only for Haredim. The open strategy of those working against us was to divide and conquer and bring everyone into conflict. Instead of arguing against our content, they attacked the organization, its employees, and donors on a purely ad-hominem basis, despite the fact that our workplace is diverse and pluralistic, and notwithstanding the guiding principles, made up of many employees from differing backgrounds holding a variety of opinions, who dedicate their time to writing and research aimed at improving the lives of all Israeli citizens.

The attacks on the Forum broke the bounds of legitimate criticism, and we can only hope that the behavior we saw in the form of death threats, breaking and entering offices, blocking the office entrance and physical violence against members will not become the accepted norm against any organization. No less important, we hope that if such behavior is repeated, the police will mobilize against the perpetrators and the media will condemn it. There are still senior officials today who call for shutting the forum down because they dislike our policy papers. As the media are fond of saying, an all-out “poison machine”. It is no accident that the newspaper and organizations that promoted the venom against Kohelet are also prominent among those demonizing the state of Israel.

Kohelet Forum was established to enrich the public dialogue after years of monolithic thinking in the realm of civil society, primarily within the community of policy makers and elected representatives. The Forum lends its assistance to the entire political spectrum in formulating coherent policies on a range of subjects. In the twelve years of our activity, we have achieved much and grown significantly, but after a nine-month-long campaign by a few dozen Israelis to severely harass one of our major donors, (gleefully admitted to by the participants) we have been forced to substantially reduce our workforce and shut down departments. Yet alongside those who seek to demonize us and prevent alternative voices from being heard, we discovered many who came out to support our work with their words and their wallets. Kohelet Policy Forum will continue to work without bias to strengthen and advance the State of Israel.

First appeared in Israel Hayom (“Why they want to make the Kohelet Policy Forum go away”, 5.6.2024)

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