Friday, May 11, 2018


Only the most delusional could possibly find comfort in the Israeli Prime Minister's targeting of the New Israel Fund as the organization somehow "responsible" for Netanyahu's abandonment of the refugee deal he had agreed to with the United Nations on Israel's behalf. See, e.g., -- Netanyahu Launches Commission of Inquiry Against New Israel Fund. I offer no brief for the NIF, but...really? 

It is obvious, as in all things, after the PM reached a "deal" -- this time on the deportation of foreign workers -- dire consequences were promised by Netanyahu's coalition partners (this time, and not for the first time) led by Minister Naftali Bennett) were the "deal" to proceed and, voila, Bibi not only killed the "deal," he somehow conjured the New Israel Fund's invidious influence with...Rwanda...for forcing the breach. (Perhaps, the Prime Minister will now blame the NIF for other deals he has blown up over coalition politics, like, for example, the egalitarian prayer space deal, or the Conversion Bill deals. Just kidding, of course.) As it turned out, the Government wisely abandoned its deportation decision, at least for the moment.

It was a little over one year ago that the NIF COO, a former Federation Chief Executive, was held for 90 minutes and interrogated at Ben Gurion Airport before she was allowed into the country solely because of her position with the Fund, an American 501(c)(3). One of my mentors in Jewish organizational life, Brian Lurie -- the former CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Francisco, The Peninsula...and the United Jewish Appeal, before he revitalized the NIF first, as its CEO and, then, as its lay Chair -- Brian Lurie whose love for Israel knew/knows no bounds; to accuse any organization of which Lurie plays a leadership role of disloyalty to a democratic Israel is blasphemy. 

Yes, the New Israel Fund falls on the left wing of the political spectrum; and, yes, the NIF has funded Israeli NGO's intermediating with Palestinians -- it has been doing so, generally in very small allocations, for decades. On the very negative side, NIF's significant funding of B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Adalah,  Israeli NGOs whose activities are often anti-Zionist in the extreme,, so much so that it makes it difficult to defend NIF. Yet, NIF is perfectly capable of defending itself.

And, this is the Fund's Mission:
"Achieve equality for all the citizens of the state regardless of religion, national origin, race, gender or sexual orientation;
Realize the civil and human rights of all individuals and groups through the protection of Palestinian citizens and other marginalized minorities, including the advancement of collective rights, and opposition to all forms of discrimination and bigotry;
Recognize and reinforce the essential pluralism of Israeli society and tolerance for diversity;
Protect the access of minorities to democratic channels for the expression of their interests and identities and the promotion of their rights"
It strikes methat this Mission statement is in support of Israel's democracy and civil societyOh, and here is the New Israel Fund's position on BDS:

"The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland."*
There are those who find the NIF Mission "too liberal," "too left wing," "anti-Israel." It is clearly a Mission so out-of-step with the current Government's position on so many things. But have we, in the Diaspora and those of our extended family in Israel, moved so far, are we now so illiberal, as to agree to the propriety of the subjection of the New Israel Fund and, presumably, its leaders, to an Israeli "Commission of Inquiry" with regard to its alleged invidious influence with the Government of Rwanda? 

Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Throughout its long history, the NIF has always been an organization whose leadership has included, un-apologetically, American and Israeli women and men on the left of the political spectrum. The Fund has provided Grants, most of which you and I would consider small individually and  in the aggregate, to organizations among which are those which promote activities anathema to the sitting Prime Minister...but, this total misrepresentation?
"The ultimate objective of the fund is to erase Israel's Jewish character and turn it into a state of all its citizens, alongside a Palestinian nation-state that is free of Jews on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital,"
Adding to this pathetic and unsupported conclusion from the Prime Minister himself -- so McCarthyite in its "substance" -- Netanyahu threw in George Soros as the master manipulator of the NIF "plot."

Under the Law of Unintended Consequences, the NIF reports that these attacks have resulted in what it calls a "BiBi Bump" in its fund-raising. This article included the words of the Fund's CEO, Daniel Sokatch, another of the San Francisco past CEOs in Fund leadership: "We had nothing to do with pressuring the Rwanda government, it's an absurd claim." Underscoring that absurdity were the observations from Dan Meridor, once a Deputy P.M. in the Netanyahu administration:
"This whining and this wild attack on the New Israel Fund is a strange and serious phenomenon. First of all, does anybody know who NIF is...And , yes, they want a country that is just and that is equal. Most of them are outstanding Zionists their entire lives."
Oh, that.

And, after all of this, as reported in JNS: "New bill aims to cancel all government cooperation with the New Israel Fund."  As the article (written so poorly that to often defies understanding) discloses, that the right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu, characterized as a "Zionist organization" in the article, "...called on the government to cut all ties" with the NIF and a Knesset member responded with a Bill that offers neither fact nor due process.

I have always presumed to understand Israel's democracy; that presumption is wholly rebutted by "stuff" like this outburst from the Prime Minister, and, thereafter, by Knesset legislation. Outrageous. Next, will there be a Commission on Inquiry for Israeli-born Natalie Portman?


* Sadly, the NIF reserves the right in its policies to join in boycotts of goods produced beyond the "Green Line"


Anonymous said...

Sadly, your critique of the democratically elected government of Israel seems very reminiscent of the Never Trumpers, regardless of which side of the political aisle they fall.

To that end, please allow me to refer you to this long read:

Since when is political bluster an "assault on democracy"?

But, what is an assault are foreign interlopers

How would you feel if a well endowed French or British NGO engaged in strong political advocacy against the government here? Or even more so, went after the perpetually corrupt elected officials of Cook County?

While I may not agree with everything that Netanyahu does, I haven't the audacity or gall to insinuate myself on a political system where I neither vote, pay taxes or performed mandatory military service. I might add that I have at least 30 cousins that do all of those things, and not a one of them supports Bibi. But not a one believes that an American NGO should operate politically in Israel. They view that as an "attack on their democracy".

Any commentary about the embarrassing manner in which Netanyahu conducted himself in the immigration matter is entirely besides the point.

But, rather than going on, please allow me to share a few more articles for your readers:

And let us not forget, that many of the grantees of New Israel Fund are also well funded by true enemies of Israel.
And their excuses that they don't know what their grantees are up to or where they receive funds or that they do support BDS falls on deaf ears.

Anonymous said...

Richard, thanks and to the Comment above, I think it's time that Diaspora Jewry no longer feel intimidated from speaking out on issues that concern all Jews whether those issues arise in your Chicago, my New York or in Jerusalem by those who claim that unless you live in Israel, serve in the Israeli military, and-or pay taxes in Israel you have no right to speak out. To the best of our knowledge, Naftali Bennett is unrestrained in diverting Government funds to "help" us, as he sees "help" to be in Diaspora matters just as years ago Yossi Beilin demanded that American Jews support his efforts to effect Israeli=Palestinian "peace."

Anonymous said...

Bibi decided to inject himself into American politics by completely bypassing the Democratic Party to address Congress and, when Obama was President, the Executive office altogether.

A private donor (Adelson) is donating big bucks to finance the building of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. He most certainly does not speak for me, nor should private citizens or corporations be allowed to have such a role.

As I always tell my friends, it is beyond unconscionable that among all of the Jewish communities in the world, only in Israel can you get arrested for carrying a Sefer Torah. That is an Israel that I will fight with all of my breath as an active and observant American Jew since birth.