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October 29, 2014 5:16 pm

New Israel Fund Under Renewed Scrutiny Over Funding for Israeli NGO Led by Boycott Activist

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avatar by Ben Cohen

An image from the website of the New Israel Fund-backed Human Rights Defenders Fund. Alma Biblash, Executive Director of the HRDF, has described Israel as a "temporary Jewish apartheid state."

The New Israel Fund, the New York-based non-profit which granted nearly $27 million to left-wing and progressive NGOs in Israel according to its latest financial report, is again under scrutiny following revelations of extreme anti-Israel rhetoric by the Executive Director of the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF,) a body supported financially by the NIF.

A just-released fact sheet from NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog that monitors foreign funding for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, discloses that the Executive Director of the HRDF, Alma Biblash, has described Israel in such inflammatory terms as “racist,” and “murderous.”

Biblash also described Israel as a “temporary Jewish apartheid state.” According to NGO Monitor, “Biblash also supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and promotes the Palestinian ‘right of return,’ meaning the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” An article on the “right of return” by Biblash for the anti-Zionist website +972 stated: “Implementing the right of return is the just solution both in terms of historical and present justice for Palestinian refugees. Approximately six million Palestinian refugees live across the world. There will be no justice until Israel recognizes its responsibility for the Nakba (the Palestinian term meaning catastrophe, used to describe Israel’s creation), and allows the dispossessed to return to their homes.”

Between 2011-13, the New Israel Fund authorized grants worth $332,625 to HRDF. NGO Monitor claims further that while “HRDF does receive funding from foreign governmental bodies, it has not submitted quarterly reports to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits in accordance with the Israeli NGO transparency law.”

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“HRDF is a stark example of the irresponsible role of donors to destructive NGOs,” Professor Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor, told The Algemeiner. “While the leaders of the New Israel Fund and the European governments claim to support Israel and human rights principles, they enable the highly destructive activities that do the opposite. By the time these funders acknowledge this failure and end their support,  the damage will be done.”

Guidelines published on the New Israel Fund’s website clearly state the organization’s rejection of the BDS strategy. “The NIF opposes the global (or general) BDS movement, views its use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel. NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs,” the website declares.

Edwin Black, an award-winning investigative journalist and the author of the best-seller “IBM and Holocaust,” has challenged the NIF’s claim that it doesn’t support BDS. Writing earlier this year on The Huffington Post, Black stated:

The NIF vociferously asserts that it does not currently fund any organizations which advocate for a boycott of Israel. But until 2011, generous NIF grants to the boycott vanguard were indispensable to establishing and fortifying the budding international boycott movement. For example, a leading recipient of NIF money was the Coalition of Women for Peace, which boldly demands a boycott of all things Israeli, and has established a well-oiled database called “Who Profits” that targets Israeli enterprises, large and small. According to NIF financial records, in 2008 alone, the NIF bestowed $93,457 to the Coalition of Women for Peace. Over a period of years, NIF financing of this organization reached a strong six-figure sum, including both direct grants and those where the NIF acted as a “go-between” for other donors–a technique called “donor advised” funding.

Naomi Paiss, Vice President of Public Affairs at the New Israel Fund, told The Algemeiner: “We do not fund organizations that fund global BDS programs. HRDF does not have a BDS program. The personal opinions of individuals working for this organization are not relevant, as our funding guidelines are about institutional polices.”

Paiss also clarified that, in funding terms, an “exception” is made by the NIF in the case of organizations who advocate a targeted boycott of goods and services from Jewish communities in the West Bank.

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