The New Israel Fund — the bad and the ugly

The following is from an article by Anne Hertzberg of the intrepid NGO Monitor:

…a group of NGOs, primarily funded by European governments, the EU, and the New Israel Fund (NIF) have initiated a campaign to denigrate the Israeli justice system in order to bolster efforts to have Israelis arrested for “war crimes” in Europe, and in order to support the PLO’s application to the International Criminal Court for an investigation of Israel.

They also play an integral role in the PLO strategy to use UN frameworks, not to resolve the conflict, but to “internationalize the conflict as a legal matter” and to “pave the way for (the Palestinians) to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice” as Mahmoud Abbas tellingly revealed in a May 17 New York Times op-ed…

Adalah, an Israeli NGO heavily funded by the NIF and the EU, is a leader of this strategy. At a 2008 conference in Brussels funded by the Swedish government, Adalah’s General Director Hassan Jabareen recommended that Palestinian activists “should try to portray Israel as an inherent undemocratic state” and “use that as part of campaigning internationally.”

Adalah has implemented this strategy in many submissions to UN committees, including the Human Rights Council. Additionally, in 2009, Adalah filed an “expert” opinion on behalf of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in a lawsuit brought by the group in Spain seeking the arrest and imprisonment of seven Israeli officials for alleged “war crimes” arising out of the killing of a senior Hamas terrorist, Salah Shehade.

In 2007, Adalah presented its proposal for a “Democratic Constitution” for Israel. In its introduction, Adalah begins by demanding that

The state of Israel must recognize, therefore, its responsibility for the injustices of the Nakba and the Occupation; recognize the right of return of the Palestinian refugees based on UN Resolution 194 [understood by Arabs as return of any ‘refugees’ who choose to do so — ed]; recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; and withdraw from all of the territories occupied in 1967.

The constitution proposal also contains several options for providing the Arab minority with a veto over all decisions of the Knesset. There is lots more, and it’s clear that the adoption of this constitution would mean the end of the Jewish state.

As Hertzberg wrote, Adalah is supported in part by the New Israel Fund (NIF). In fact, Adalah received more than one million dollars from the NIF between 2006 and 2010.

This is the same NIF that was a center of controversy last year when it was revealed that the great majority of NGO’s that contributed ‘evidence’ for IDF ‘war crimes’ to the Goldstone report — most of which consisted of the repetition of unsubstantiated charges made by Gaza residents in the presence of Hamas officials and translators — received funding from the NIF.

This is also the same NIF that made news again this year when it became known that the NIF funded an extremist group called “The Coalition of Women for Peace” which had little to do with women or peace but a great deal to do with demonizing and promoting the boycott of Israel.

Its 2008 IRS form 990, the most recent one that I have, shows that the NIF distributed more than $20 million in grants in 2008. Not all of the NIF’s projects are anti-state, and these programs are pointed to by its defenders to justify their support. For example, there is a grant for “support for women suffering battering or sexual abuse.” There are numerous grants for “religious pluralism” which I presume means support for non-Orthodox Judaism. There are grants for environmental purposes (although in many cases ‘protecting the environment’ means opposing the security fence).

But the overwhelming thrust of the NIF’s grantees is antagonism to Israeli society as it is. Over and over one sees grants for promoting or protecting ‘rights’ for various groups (mostly Arabs, but also women and some Jewish immigrants). There are a great many grants for ‘community organizing’, and for ‘promoting equality’ in one or another realm. The overall impression is that Israel is oppressive and undemocratic, and NIF funds are used to pressure the ‘establishment’ into changing its ways, following the example of the civil rights movement in America.

And then of course there are things like a grant of $140,000 to “promote peace” (there are numerous large grants for this purpose) and $700,000 for “protecting human rights of all populations in Israel”, $308,000 for “protecting the human rights of the Arab minority in Israel”, and multiple grants totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for “protecting human rights in the occupied territories”. There was even a grant of $458,500 for “promoting democracy and human rights in the media”. Could Israel’s media possibly be made more democratic?

The NIF is big business.  Its 2008 income was almost $35 million in contributions and grants (the Ford Foundation gave it $5 million). Its CEO in 2008, Larry Garber (the present CEO is Daniel Sokatch), was paid more than $228,000 in that year, a consultant named Aaron Back was paid $235,000 for ‘program management services’, and there were seven additional employees with annual salaries over $100,000. Just because it’s a non-profit doesn’t mean that nobody profits!

This huge enterprise is focused on one tiny, embattled democratic country, aiming to remake it in accordance with the fantasies of an ideal society as imagined by liberal American Jews.

This is bad enough, but it also funds a darker enterprise, which is to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. I’m sure its supporters would claim that they are only trying to bring about peace (by opposing the policies of its democratically elected government), but the effect is to weaken the state and strengthen its enemies.

Oh — did I mention that this is the same NIF as the one of which Rabbi Richard Jacobs, the incoming president of the Union for Reform Judaism, is a board member? The URJ has said that Rabbi Jacobs will step down from his outside board positions for the first years of his presidency,  “in order to focus his energies on the task ahead of him.”

What he should do is resign from the NIF altogether, insofar as that organization is hurting, not helping, the state.

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One Response to “The New Israel Fund — the bad and the ugly”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I may be naive but I am shocked each time anew upon learning of the anti- Israel activities of New Israel Fund and JStreet. I wonder if there is any other Democracy which tolerates to the degree that Israel does organizations which aim at undermining its very existence. One would hope that somehow those or most of those American Jews who fund these organizations would be outraged at learning at what is being done with their money.