The flap over Im Tirtzu’s exposé of the New Israel Fund’s (NIF) support of left-wing Israeli organizations that contributed to the slanderous Goldstone report gets bigger every day.
- Naomi Chazan, the fund’s president, was dis-invited from a speaking tour of Australia.
- After Chazan threatened to sue the Jerusalem Post, the Post dropped her as a regular columnist.
- There are calls in the Knesset to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the NIF and foreign funding of Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
- A group of high-ranking reserve officers signed a petition supporting Im Tirtzu against the NIF.
It’s hard to exaggerate the feelings of most Israelis about the Goldstone report, which many see as a modern-day blood libel. Even many members of the so-called ‘peace camp’ feel that the report goes too far in crediting Palestinian accusations against Israel for alleged ‘war crimes’ in Gaza, while downplaying and ignoring real crimes perpetrated by Hamas. So when Im Tirtzu pointed out that the 16 Israeli groups that produced a large majority of the anti-IDF ‘documentation’ — most of which is clearly false — were all grantees of the NIF, there was immediate outrage against the US-based fund.
Supporters of the fund in Israel and the US struck back with an assault of illogic, red herrings, ad hominem arguments and manufactured outrage at Im Tirtzu’s advertisments, but did little to refute the content of its criticism.
For example, David Saperstein of the US Reform Movement complained that
In their twisted attribution of blame for the Goldstone Report to the NIF, these attackers are trying to delegitimize the New Israel Fund in much the same way that the Goldstone Report is being used to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world. It is ironic, to say the least, that those pointing to the danger of the Goldstone Report are using the same tactics of half-truths, hyperbole and sweeping generalizations they criticize in it to delegitimize the New Israel Fund.
But Im Tirtzu did not present half-truths or generalizations about the citations in the Goldstone report. They counted them. Saperstein, like many of Im Tirtzu’s critics, claims that they left out all of the ‘good things’ that NIF grantees do. But this is beside the point, which is to show that many of the NGOs that they support do the work of Israel’s enemies. And speaking of hyperbole, the Goldstone report accused Israel of deliberate murder of a civilian population, of war crimes; this is hardly the same as an analysis of the uses to which NIF money is put.
Other critics relied on tenuous chains of guilt by association. Im Tirtzu received grants from something called the “Central Fund of Israel”. Now, follow this: the Central Fund also supports an organization called Honenu, which has provided funds for the legal defense of settlers who were (rather brutally) removed from outposts by police, for soldiers accused of harming Palestinians, and for some right-wing extremists (who nevertheless are entitled to legal representation). How this proves that Im Tirtzu is itself an extremist group, and how it has any bearing on its findings about the NIF escapes me.
They also trumpet the fact that Im Tirtzu got $100,000 from Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which has raised huge amounts of money for such things as bomb shelters in Sderot, as well as making grants to local Jewish Federations in the US to direct to Israel. CUFI is unpopular as a result of the socially conservative views of its founder, Pastor John Hagee, but its largess has been distributed mostly to noncontroversial pro-Israel causes.
Other critics claimed that Im Tirtzu’s cartoon showing Naomi Chazan wearing an unflattering rhinoceros horn was outrageous and antisemitic. This too is entirely irrelevant to their charges.
Finally, many of the attacks take the form of saying that Im Tirtzu wishes to ‘muzzle’ free speech and democratic criticism of Israeli policy. This is so absurd that it beggars description. The NIF, with its huge resources — it received $40 million in grants from the Ford Foundation alone — and its powerful friends, like the Reform movement in America, is clearly a Goliath in media presence compared to the tiny student organization that is Im Tirtzu. But since they couldn’t refute Im Tirtzu’s facts, they chose to accuse it of “McCarthyism.”
The 16 NGOs mentioned by Im Tirtzu are Adalah, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Center for the Defense of the Individual, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, [Physicians] for Human Rights [ — Israel], Gisha, Bimkom, Rabbis for Human Rights, Itach, Other Voice, New Profile, Machsom Watch and Who Profits from the Occupation.
It’s important to realize that these groups have done far more than contribute to the Goldstone report. Some of them are Israeli Arab (oops, ‘Palestinians living in Israel’) groups supposedly working for civil rights for Arab citizens but actually pushing an agenda to change Israel from a Jewish state to a bi-national “state of its citizens” with a new flag and national anthem, and in which the Arab minority would have veto power of government decisions.
Breaking the Silence is a group of former Israeli soldiers who have toured the US delivering ‘testimonies’ to the mistreatment of Palestinians by the IDF. When their more serious allegations have been investigated, they are almost always found to be based on hearsay. And even when stories of harassment are true, they are presented entirely without context, without explanations, for example, that incidents have taken place at checkpoints where Palestinian terrorists regularly try to smuggle bombs into Israel.
B’Tselem has been deeply involved in supporting the demonstrations against the security barrier in the villages off Bi’ilin and Ni’ilin, in which Palestinians, left-wing Israeli extremists and international supporters attempt to destroy the barrier and to provoke police and soldiers protecting it.
NIF-funded NGOs regularly engage in public relations blitzes, often facilitated by professional media consultants. They hold press conferences, issue glossy publications in multiple languages, and contribute regular op-eds and articles to high-profile media outlets such as Ma’ariv, Haaretz, The New York Times, and Huffington Post. They regularly submit reports at the UN and send representatives to conferences in Europe and America. B’Tselem has a growing lobbying office in Washington and a representative in the UK.
NGO Monitor researchers have analyzed NIF funding practices for years. While the organization does some positive work in Israel that should be applauded, it refuses to engage in debate regarding several of its grantees that demonize Israel at the UN, support boycott and divestment campaigns, promote “lawfare” cases against Israeli officials, and even advocate erasing the Jewish character of the state. Significantly, many NIF donors are unaware of these activities. NIF has rebuffed all of NGO Monitor’s attempts to discuss appropriate “red lines” for the groups they fund.