Powered by WebAds

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Diaspora up in arms over New Israel Fund

Reading all the uproar over the New Israel Fund over the last week or so, I cannot help but wonder why so many people in the diaspora apparently didn't know that NIF supports organizations that seek to undermine Israel's existence as a Jewish state. I've known this for about 15 years! Maybe people finally noticed this time the NIF's position was so blatantly opposed to the Jewish consensus: Operation Cast Lead was a very popular war (over 90% Jewish approval), and at least in the US and in Israel, most people seem to understand that the Goldstone Report was hopelessly biased.

In any event, the diaspora is apparently quite up in arms over the New Israel Fund's support for organizations that provided biased, anti-Israel material to Goldstone.
Bar-Ilan University Professor Gerald Steinberg..., who also is director of NGO Monitor stated Wednesday, “NIF claims to provide broad support for different groups in Israel, but many of its actions promote a very narrow and radical agenda. The most politicized NGOs – including B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel — receive about 20 percent of NIF’s budget. They use these funds to manipulate Israeli politics, while exploiting human rights rhetoric to demonize responses to terror.”

In Australia, Danny Lamm, president of the State Zionist Council of Victoria, cancelled a meeting in Melbourne at which NIF head Naomi Chazan was due to speak, according to the Jewish Australian News Service. He said several NIF-funded groups are “alleged to have actively reinforced a worldwide propaganda campaign against Israel, using the vicious rhetoric of apartheid, using ‘lawfare’ to threaten Israel’s leaders and soldiers should they travel, and using and supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns.”

Lamm pointed out the Council has no issue with the NIF’s principles. “We, too, very much want peace between Israel, the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors…. The Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) does not have a political argument with the NIF,” he said. Lamm asked, “How can the NIF support an organization like Adalah when, despite having as its mission the protection of Arab civil rights, routinely accuses Israel of implementing ‘apartheid’ and of committing war crimes?”


Writing in the generally pro-Orthodox and nationalist New York Jewish Week, investigative journalist David Bedein wrote, “The New Israel Fund, in its defense, says it does not support those who demonize Israel or call for divestment or boycott of Israel, and that it will not assist those who advocate the 'right of return' for Palestinians to reclaim land lost to them in 1948.”

Bedein then noted that NIF funds the Coalition of Women for Peace, whose keynote speaker, Naomi Klein, called for a boycott of Israel and sanctions against the Jewish State. He added that the NIF-funded Adalah group “expresses support for Sheik Raad Salah, the leader of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic movement, whose incitement against Israel is legendary. Salah claims that there was never a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount and has called for an Intifada to protect Al-Aqsa from a Jewish plot."
Writing in the Forward, Shmuel Rosner pretty much gets it right.
Not long ago, when J Street, a new dovish Jewish lobby, was established in Washington, its supporters were complaining that the American Jewish debate over Israel had been muted, hushed by the Jewish establishment. We should have a debate about Israel as fierce and as vigorous as Israelis themselves have, those behind J Street kept saying. Why can Israelis air their differences with such force and we American Jews can’t? Why can’t we be as blunt and aggressive when we disagree with Israel’s policies?

Apparently, such comparisons work for the proponents of “open debate” only when they themselves benefit from it. They enjoy the intensity of the Israeli domestic debate, the bluntness of it, but only when it serves their goals. Now — when the dragon of Israel’s aggressive public discourse has seared the holier-than-thou New Israel Fund — fierce debate doesn’t seem as appealing.

Granted, the criticism of NIF was at times ugly in tone, too personal and quite disgusting in its use of tasteless images of NIF’s president, Naomi Chazan (the kinds of things one typically finds in fierce Israeli debates). But it is also a manifestation of real concerns and legitimate frustrations that Israelis have with the way liberal American Jews and their Israeli emissaries try to affect Israeli society.

Yes, it was a blunt message: NIF, we don’t like how you strengthen organizations that we find harmful to Israel. We don’t like that your grants support anti-Zionist Arab groups, that you help people who busy themselves bad-mouthing Israel and its policies around the world, that you have too many friends who seem to think that Israel can do no right, that you seem quite unmoved by the anxieties of Israelis who worry about the likes of the Goldstone Report and quite unready to share the burden of rebutting unfair criticisms of Israel.

I don’t expect NIF and its beneficiaries to enjoy such a message. But this isn’t McCarthyism. It’s telling the NIF crowd the blunt truth, and maybe, hopefully, making them realize that while they’re busy making their liberal benefactors abroad happy, they’ve lost touch with Israelis.


The dire predictions about the future of Israeli democracy are being propagated by those who got tired of trying to persuade Israelis and rally them to their cause — the real “democratic” way. Instead, they have decided to force Israelis into submission by way of marshaling external pressure. While this approach may succeed in frightening their allies abroad, it’s not going to win them many new friends at home.
Rosner also refers to NIF's contributions to the Goldstone Report as 'unintended.' I would not go that far. While NIF may not have handed over material to Goldstone and may not have instructed the organizations it supports to do so, it was at least aware of the possibility that they might and did nothing to stop them. In legal terms, they were grossly negligent. At best.

Read the whole thing. (There are other things there with which I don't agree, but he got the NIF part right).

By the way, the Im Tirtzu report is now available online (133-page pdf) (Hat Tip: Daled Amos).


At 5:54 PM, Blogger Moriah said...

Can't the supporters of Israel defeat this type of Jewish anti-Israel NIF with a fund of our own called the Nu? Israel Fund?


Post a Comment

<< Home