Archive for November, 2010

NIF tries to walk between raindrops, gets soaked

Saturday, November 20th, 2010
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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The moral confusion of the Obama Administration

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Daniel Gordis:

Until this week, we might have thought that while America and Israel could disagree on certain policies, when it came to defending Israel’s fundamental legitimacy, there could be no doubt as to what the US would do. Now, the pretense is over. This administration will protect the Jews and their state only if the Jews accede to American demands that Washington thinks it needs to advance its own diplomatic agenda abroad. That is the sign neither of a trustworthy ally nor of a country animated by principle.

The Obama Administration is animated by ‘principle’ to be sure, but the principle involved is not the moral vision of our Founding Fathers, which is grounded in Judaism, Christianity and the principles of the Enlightenment. Rather, this administration adheres to the ethical system of left-wing academe, in which the highest values are multiculturalism and political correctness (PC).

This is why our government places a nation like Israel on the scales with political entities that behave like the Barbary Pirates or worse, and finds it moral to be ‘even-handed’ in its treatment of them. And this is why our President treats despots like the King of Saudi Arabia with exaggerated respect, despite the fact that this unelected tyrant rules a kingdom which violates our basic ideals of equal rights for people of different race, sex or religion, and chops off the hands of petty thieves.

But it would be very un-multicultural to note that these Saudis (and others) are uncivilized barbarians with noisome habits and ugly attitudes, so we pretend that they deserve the same respect as Israelis or Americans.

Nothing illustrates the way in which we’ve allowed our principles to be subverted than the current flap about invasive airport security. In order to avoid the act or appearance of profiling — a serious violation of PC — the TSA is prepared to violate a much older and important social taboo by invading the personal space and privacy of travelers in an unprecedented way.

Full-body scanner image. There are better ways to spot a terrorist.

Full-body scanner image. There are better ways to spot a terrorist.

The cost of the technology is enormous, and there is a large group of people — the ones whose values differ the most from those of our administration, by the way — who will at least be humiliated and at most placed in a mortifying bind.

Not only is this expensive and socially explosive, it represents closing yet another barn door after the horse has been carried away. Having caused us to jump through another hoop, terrorists will now find a different method or target to attack.

Nevertheless, an alternative known to be effective — a rational system of profiling and psychological screening like Israel uses — is absolutely ruled out for moral reasons! But like the people who cling to their guns and their religion, the ones who object to having their bodies viewed or their ‘junk touched’ will just have to get used to it.

It’s ironic that the culture of the ‘Palestinians’ or the Saudis is considered so worthy of respect, while that of socially conservative Americans is treated with disrespect and condescension.

The administration isn’t even consistent in its multiculturalism!

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A litmus test

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

It’s a no-brainer that for the 4 to 5 million hostile Arabs, 99% of whom have never lived in Israel, who have grown up and been formed under the thumbs of the most radical terrorist factions in the ‘refugee’ camps of Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA), to ‘return’ to pre-1967 Israel would be catastrophic.

Everyone knows this. How could it be otherwise? And yet, the ‘right of return’, a ‘right’ which doesn’t exist anywhere in international law, combined with a hereditary refugee status — something which no other class of refugees has ever been granted — is insisted upon by those who at the same time claim that their goal is ‘two states living side by side at peace’.

The premier example, of course, is the PA, which includes the ‘right of return’ as part of their definition of a ‘two-state solution’. We’ve been through this before: a state of ‘Palestine’ where Jews are not allowed, and what used to be Israel, which will be an Arab-majority state. Good luck to the Jews there!

Another example is the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which holds the ‘right of return’ as one of its objectives. Thanks to friend-of-Obama Ali Abumimah for stating this clearly:

An overwhelming majority of organizations have endorsed Palestinian civil society’s two calls for boycott, divestment and sactions against Israel and for academic and cultural boycott of Israel — until it ceases to deny Palestinian history, ends the Occupation, ceases discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and permits displaced Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

You can be sure, therefore, that when someone calls for ‘right of return’ and ‘ending the occupation’, they are talking about the ‘occupation’ of 1948, not 1967. The advocates of BDS make a big deal about how it is a non-violent strategy, but clearly the denouement will not be non-violent, not when the ‘returnees’ start to try to claim ‘their property’.

This provides a test to distinguish those who really do desire coexistence from those who want to throw the Jews into the sea (an expression perhaps originated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hassan al-Banna). Do they call for ‘right of return’? Do they support the BDS delegitimization strategy? If so, they fail the test.

Even J Street is careful to claim that they are opposed to BDS. But Jewish Voice for Peace, the only ‘Jewish’ organization on the ADL’s list of the top ten most anti-Israel groups in America, supports it.

Locally, Peace Fresno explicitly calls for right of return and supports BDS (as if anyone cares). The Fresno Center for Nonviolence does, too. Do they see a contradiction? Probably not.

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Shorts: Cohen’s incredible remark, no freeze yet

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Here are a couple of things to think about today:

First, for the absolutely most unadulterated 200-proof bullshit in the world of Mideast punditry, it is impossible to beat Roger Cohen, who was actually paid something by the NY Times to write this:

But what of Iran? Netanyahu wants Obama to build a credible military threat. Ascendant Republicans bay for war. Clinton has to persuade Israel the best way to disarm Iran is by removing the core of Tehran’s propaganda — the plight of stateless Palestinians.


— Mr. President Ahamdinejad, listen, great news!

— What? Did the Zionists move back to Poland?

— No, but almost! Obama persuaded them to dismantle all the settlements and move back within the 1948 lines. A Palestinian state has been declared, with its capital in al-Quds!

— Allah be praised! Now we won’t need those atomic weapons — quick, sell the uranium on Ebay. Nasrallah can close up shop and go home — who will want to join Hizballah now?  Stop sending money to Hamas — they are dancing in the street now that Palestinians aren’t stateless. And Assad might as well dump his missiles, too.

This business of trying to control the entire Middle East and its oil resources, overthrow the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, establish a Shiite caliphate, humiliate the US and wipe the Zionists off the map was tiresome — I’m glad we can stop, now that the Palestinians have a state.

And get Obama on the phone — thanks to him, we can finally have good relations with the Great Sat– er, America. What a man he is!


There’s no freeze agreement yet, and the US has apparently not put its promises into writing. And anyone who remembers the way Hillary Clinton announced that the oral commitments made by the Bush Administration were not ‘enforceable’ knows that you can’t trust these people otherwise. Daled Amos has a good summary here of the way the carrots seem to be evaporating from the Obama Administration’s carrot and stick offer.

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The Community Alliance

Monday, November 15th, 2010

A free copy of a 24-page local newspaper called the “Community Alliance” landed on my porch today.  Fresno has had more than one alternative newspaper competing with its one commercial paper, the Fresno Bee, over the years. Forty years ago it was the staunchly conservative Fresno Guide. Members of the counterculture hated the Guide, so they never picked up the free copies that were thrown onto their lawns, driveways and porches. Little by little, they weathered. By now they’re all gone.

I picked up my copy of the Community Alliance. Unlike the Guide, this is a ‘progressive’ newspaper. It mostly contained locally written articles about people, events and issues in the area, but there were a few pieces about international subjects by diverse writers from outside the community. There is no distinction drawn between news and opinion, something that the right-wing Guide was careful about, I might add.

I’d been warned that almost every issue contains at least one letter or story attacking Israel, and it’s not surprising. Our ‘progressive’ community brings us between one and four films, speakers, panels, or other events devoted to bashing Israel every month. There are dedicated anti-Israel activists in many local organizations — the Center for Nonviolence, Peace Fresno, California State University Fresno, WILPF, the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Islamic Cultural Center, KNXT (the TV station of the Catholic Diocese), etc. — and all of these and others have been sponsors or co-sponsors of such happenings. So how could they miss this opportunity?

This issue has a full-page article calling for us to end Israel’s “apartheid and occupation” by boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). I won’t bother much with the content, except to say that it accuses Israel of fascism, apartheid, genocide, and ethnic cleansing,  calls the Turkish Mavi Marmara terrorists “human rights activists,” and more.

Human rights activist on board the Mavi Marmara

Human rights activist on board the Mavi Marmara

The ‘occupation’ that the BDS movement opposes is not the occupation of Judea and Samaria that began in 1967. It is the ‘occupation’ that consists of the continued existence of a Jewish state. BDS will not end until the ‘return’ of the Arab ‘refugees’:

An overwhelming majority of organizations have endorsed Palestinian civil society’s two calls for boycott, divestment and sactions against Israel and for academic and cultural boycott of Israel — until it ceases to deny Palestinian history, ends the Occupation, ceases discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and permits displaced Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.  — Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada

There are stronger statements in Arabic, which make clear that the goal of BDS is not coexistence, but rather to further what they call the “de-Zionization” of Israel.

What is distressing is that the local Left does not appear to see anything exceptional about this article, or any of the other articles and letters published in the Community Alliance vilifying Israel, or any of the daily diet of lies and slander they are fed from the local alternative radio station KFCF and the Pacifica network.

Many of the people that support these institutions are my friends — the beaming face of one of them shines from an advertisement for his business in the Community Alliance — and many of them really do care about fixing the social problems like homelessness and hunger which are prevalent in our economically strapped region.

I’ll go further and say that some of them know that what they read and hear about Israel in the ‘progressive’ media and in the steady stream of anti-Israel films and speakers is viciously false. Some of them have family members that live in Israel and have been there more than once.

Yet they don’t object to the steady stream of distortions, lies, blood libels and propaganda supporting the most murderous of Israel’s enemies — people who really do want to commit genocide, like Hamas — that emanate from the media and organizations that they support.

I’ll grant that these organizations do good in the local community. I’ll grant that the left-wing perspective on local, national and international issues should be heard, no less than the conservative one. But what has happened (for historical reasons that I won’t discuss now) is that with respect to Israel, the progressive ideals of self-determination, justice and peace have been warped and changed into their polar opposites.

So what I want to know is why people who know better don’t complain about the films and speakers? Why do they allow the anti-Israel activists free rein in local organizations? Why do they continue to buy ads in the Community Alliance and contribute funds to KFCF and Pacifica Radio without protesting their outrageous bias?

Why is that?

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