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February 28, 2014 2:01 pm

Financing Mideast Flames – Confronting BDS and the New Israel Fund

avatar by Edwin Black


A demonstration in London calling for a boycott of Israel on Jan. 3, 2009. Photo: Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira via Wikimedia Commons.

At a time when the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is seen as a viable threat to Israel, many are asking where the oxygen for BDS is coming from.

Critics point to the prestigious New Israel Fund (NIF) as an organization whose financing has been inseparable from the boycott movement as we know it.

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.

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Go-between financing to create a tax deductible transaction is a key feature of the global boycott movement. In the 2009 annual report of the Coalition of Women for Peace, p.34 contains a prominent appeal: “To our American friends: For a US tax deduction, make out a check to the New Israel Fund, write on the memo line (or separately) that it is For the Coalition of Women for Peace, and mail it to New Israel Fund, 1101 14th Street NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, DC 20005-5639. (Minimum they will accept – $100).

“To our British friends: For a UK tax deduction, make out a check to the New Israel Fund, write on the memo line (or separately) that it is For the Coalition of Women for Peace, and mail it to New Israel Fund, 25-26 Enford Street, London W1H 1DW. (Minimum they will accept – 70 GBP).”

At Australian Limmud Oz Festival in 2011, NIF board member Naomi Chazan asserted that the NIF no longer funded the Coalition of Women for Peace. When at that conference, a recently deposited copy of a donation check to the Coalition of Women for Peace was produced showing monies were still transiting NIF accounts. Chazan explained that the transfer of money was “an error.”

The Coalition itself always kept the NIF informed about how its money was being used, and the robust boycott activities it was undertaking. A May 23, 2011 letter to the NIF’s Israel executive director Rachel Liel from Coalition coordinator Eilat Moaz confirmed, “For the past two years, CWP staff members readily answered numerous questions posed to us by NIF regarding our projects, campaigns and positions. We have ensured our full cooperation to NIF and extended our assistance in explaining the legitimacy, the legality and the importance of our activities.”

The NIF no longer provides money to the Coalition. Now the Coalition is strong enough to gather its monies from other sources.

However, the BDS movement is now fortified by a conveyor belt of brutality and oppression accounts—some legitimate, some exaggerated, some invented—force fed to the world by agitation NGOs, including many financed by the New Israel Fund. The NIF’s financial records for 2012 indicates that it granted $109,615 to Breaking the Silence, $255,477 to B’Tselem, and $209,161 to Adalah. These three groups are among many NIF grantees that operate at the front line of anti-Israel information.

The NIF vigorously insists its grants to hundreds of Israeli NGOs advances democracy and social improvement—which is true for a number of the recipients, which are actually engaged in charitable and betterment programs that benefit women, children and disadvantaged groups. But beyond good works, scores of the NIF’s recipients have caused leading critics such as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Yoni Chetboun to assert, “The main goal of the NIF is to undermine the Israeli Army, by knowingly financing left-wing Israeli groups that try to get young Israeli soldiers prosecuted for war crimes.” Other prominent MK’s have gone on the record to second Chetboun’s comment. The NIF energetically rebuts such charges and dismisses them as purely political attacks.

However, one can only imagine where the BDS movement would be today if the NIF had not spent so much money a few years ago to help erect the budding BDS infrastructure, and if today’s debates were not fueled by well-financed NGO campaigns that portray Israel as a cruel, undemocratic, and oppressive apartheid nation that must be boycotted and sanctioned into either submission or oblivion.

Edwin Black is the award-winning author of the international bestseller IBM and the Holocaust. This article is drawn from his just-released newsbook, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel.

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