The New Israel Fund, Jewish Values and Atonement

September 23, 2012 3:21 pm 2 comments

Part of Eli Valley's cartoon "The hater in the sky". Photo: screenshot via 972mag.com.

In its September newsletter, the New Israel Fund (NIF) urged Israelis to examine their behavior (“cheshbon nefesh”), declaring “We have been telling you for some time about the upsurge in hatred and incitement in Israel…” But, in Jewish tradition, the processes of introspection and atonement for sins of commission and omission begin at home, including for the NIF.

As the most powerful political and social framework in Israel outside of the government, the NIF exerts major influence through its funding—providing millions of dollars every year to dozens of organizations.

The founding donors and officials sought to promote important social objectives in a Zionist framework. But over the years, the Zionist commitment became blurred, and money from pro-Israel donors was channeled to extreme anti-Israel organizations, including key supporters of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns. NIF’s network also played a central role in the discredited Goldstone report, which falsely accused the Israeli military of systematic war crimes. In addition, while claiming to promote liberal, progressive Jewish values, a number of NIF-funded groups push highly intolerant and polarizing agendas, amplifying the impact of radical fringes in Israeli society, at the expense of the democratic consensus.

As a result, NIF is viewed with increasing suspicion by many Israelis and in a number of diaspora communities. In response, in September 2010, the NIF leadership belatedly adopted guidelines to prevent funding for groups that work “to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel.”

In some important cases, these guidelines have been implemented, and in 2011, the NIF ended funding for three NGOs—Mada al-Carmel, Al-Qaws, and Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP)—that promote demonization.

Unfortunately, the NIF failed to publicly acknowledge the reasons for ending support, or to explain how these extreme groups were funded in the first place. Indeed, NIF remains a highly non-transparent organization, without the checks and balances or democratic processes that are necessary to prevent abuses and highly damaging mistakes in judgment. While belatedly cutting off these three grantees, the NIF continued to fund groups involved in global demonization campaigns, such as Adalah, Breaking the Silence, Machsom Watch, and Yesh Din.

In 2011, the NIF also began funding for three additional divisive NGOs, including +972 Magazine, a blog pushing a radical fringe agenda. A number of +972’s bloggers have invoked the immoral and false “apartheid” analogy, and in a February 2012 interview in The Nation, Noam Sheizaf, +972’s editor-in-chief, referred to Jerusalem as an “apartheid city.” In May 2012, +972 published a cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raping President Barack Obama and eating his limbs. And in September, Sheizaf used his twitter account to refer to critics as “the Jewish KKK” and “fascist”—reinforcing the image of the NIF network as exploiting a “progressive” and “liberal” façade for extreme polarization and hate speech.

In contrast to the actual behavior of the grantees, NIF has justified its funding for +972 as support for a “progressive view of domestic issues and Israel’s foreign relations” and of “broad public discussion and constituencies.” However, this English-only site is unknown to the “broad” Hebrew-speaking Israeli public. Rather, its targeting of an international audience with a message that demonizes Israel and attacks opponents (real and imagined) is entirely inconsistent with NIF’s stated aims and principles.

Another new grantee, Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF), also raises many concerns regarding NIF’s decision making. HRDF is administered by Lizi Sagie, who was forced to resign from B’Tselem in April 2010 after she referred to Israel’s Memorial Day as “a pornographic circus” on her personal blog. She then had a short stint as a co-director of ICAHD, a fringe Israeli NGO that supports a “one state” political formula—meaning the end of Jewish national sovereignty.

Michael Sfard is a key part of the HRDF operation, advising the board on “application of Aid Criteria when reviewing aid requests” and monitoring the “performance of attorneys receiving aid.” According to reports, Sfard is the lawyer for a group of defendants involved in a private libel suit and receiving funds through HRDF. These activities appear to contradict the NGO’s mandate, and create at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In addition, NIF authorized $162,430 for Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM) in 2011. This organization’s main activities revolve around confrontational protests in the Negev, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. In March 2012, a very crude and offensive poster was posted on the official Facebook page of SJSM, and then removed after harsh criticism from some of its members and women’s rights activists.

All of these funding decisions for divisive groups were taken under an NIF leadership that has recently changed, particularly with the appointment of a new president, Brian Lurie. It is possible that under Lurie, NIF’s long overdue “cheshbon nefesh” will now begin, perhaps leading to changes in funding policies promoting demonization and polarization. Before preaching to others about Jewish morality and ethics, the NIF needs to return to and apply these values to its own activities.

Gerald M. Steinberg heads NGO Monitor and is professor of political science at Bar Ilan University.

2 Comments

  • The NIF consistently funds internal actors within Israel whose sole objective is to demonize the state and to seek confrontation with Israeli authorities on any and all issues possible. Such organizations actually have a perverse interest in taking the most extreme positions so as to attract the most attention and correspondingly more funds. Rather than working towards a more harmonious society, NIF creates a situation that promotes confrontation and conflict between the various sectors of Israeli society, while also promoting the denigration of Israel abroad. If the NIF does an actual heshbon nefesh it should start by considering whether through their funding of such organizations they have actually accomplished anything good rather than relying on the naive reading of the mission statements of such organizations.

  • +972 is one of the most radical anti-Zionist and anti-Israel web sites funded by the NIF. Most of the writers/”journalists”, at +972 represent the most radical left elements in Israel and abroad. One “journalist” in particular was fired by a leading English Israeli newspaper because of his hate rant about Israel.

    The NIF has been one of the leading funds giving aid to the enemies of Israel.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.