NIF tries to walk between raindrops, gets soaked

A two-faced policy on BDS

A two-faced policy on BDS

This January, an American charity, the New Israel Fund (NIF), was accused of funding most of the Israeli NGO’s that provided the documentation for the Goldstone Report.  And the NIF supported organizations dedicated to the delegitimization of Israel for long before that.

As a result of pressure from the organization “NGO Monitor”, the NIF agreed to change its funding guidelines, to now include the following restrictions (my emphasis):

Organizations that engage in the following activities will not be eligible for NIF grants or support:

  1. Participate in partisan political activity
  2. Promote anti-democratic values
  3. Support the 1967 occupation and subsequent settlement activity
  4. Violate the human rights of any group or individual, advocate human rights selectively for
    one group over another and/or reject the principle of the universality of human rights
  5. Condone or promote violence or use violent tactics
  6. Employ racist or derogatory language or designations about any group based on their
    religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
  7. Works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel, or to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel.
  8. Engage in activities at odds with the positions, principles, or vision of the New Israel Fund.

But some of the NGOs supported by NIF clearly do violate no. 7 above. And we were led to believe that NIF would stop funding them. NGO Monitor tells us that

On September 16, 2010, in a JTA report published shortly before Yom Kippur, the guidelines were presented as a fundamental change in NIF’s funding policies. NIF Director Daniel Sokatch told the news agency that NIF “would prohibit proposals for a binational constitution of the kind that two NIF grantees submitted several years ago.” (The grantees in question, Adalah and Mossawa, each proposed constitutions in 2007 calling for Israel to abandon its definition as a Jewish state. NIF grantee Mada al-Carmel’s “Haifa Declaration” is similar.)

Almost immediately thereafter, NIF officials began to backtrack:

…in a later JTA story, Sokatch “clarif[ied]” that, in the cases of Adalah or Mada al-Carmel, a text denying Israel’s Jewish character “would have to be central to an organization’s activities in order to result in a suspension of funding, and that NIF would be the one to make the determination over whether or not that threshold had been reached.” [my emphasis]

So, as long as a group can claim that denying Israel’s Jewish character is merely incidental to their activity, no problem. Back right up to the money bin and fill up. Naturally, all of the organizations named above claim that their central activity is working for Arab rights, and only incidentally denying those of Jews.

More recently, the question of NIF support for groups promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement [BDS] has been raised. Back in April, I quoted the following from the NIF website:

Although we will continue to communicate publicly and privately to our allies and grantees that NIF does not support BDS as a strategy or tactic, we will not reduce or eliminate our funding for grantees that differ with us on a tactical matter. NIF will not fund BDS activities nor support organizations for which BDS is a substantial element of their activities, but will support organizations that conform to our grant requirements if their support for BDS is incidental or subsidiary to their significant programs.

It’s still there, and Jeffrey Goldberg understands it this way:

The way I read this, the NIF does not support the attempt by anti-Israel activists to turn the world’s only Jewish country into a pariah state, and Jews into a target — once again — of a broad-based economic boycott. Except when it does, a little.


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