Why NIF Supports a Boycott of Israel, and Why We Must Stop It
Over the last year, we have researched and published many articles examining the boycott movement against Israel, and revealed a number of the financiers of this anti-Israel undertaking. Our articles have appeared in The New York Post, The Hill, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Press, The Algemeiner, and dozens of other newspapers worldwide.
Together, the three of us have worked for Prime Ministers Olmert, Sharon, and Netanyahu, and multiple Israeli foreign ministers and several mayors of Israeli cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. All three of us realize, as do the vast majority of Jews — and civilized people — that the boycott against Israel is a very real danger.
We heed the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu who echoed the entire Israeli Zionist political spectrum when he said, “The boycott generators do not see the settlements in Judea and Samaria but the settlements in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Beersheba, Haifa, and of course, Jerusalem, as the focus of the conflict.” Netanyahu continued, “We must not cave into the pressure. [We must] expose the lies and attack the attackers. We shall unite forces in Israel and abroad, expose our enemy’s lies, and fight for the Israeli citizen’s right to live their lives peacefully and safely.”
We stand united with Israel in exposing the attackers.
As difficult as it is to say, one of the most egregious forces working against Israel is an American Jewish organization — The New Israel Fund (NIF). The NIF is sophisticated, well-organized, and well-funded, and it is a leading funder of programs and groups that harm Israel.
It misleads many people with its friendly name, humanitarian philanthropy, and clever marketing tactics.
Technically, the New Israel Fund officially opposes the worldwide Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement. Yet it funds groups that encourage boycotts of all areas of Israel post-1967. The New Israel Fund claims that the post ’67 areas are not parts of Israel, and therefore this should not be considered a “boycott.”
Numerous individual leaders within NIF support BDS personally, and numerous grantees of NIF work in the BDS movement as well.
The NIF also funds attempts to demean the IDF and discourage young Israelis from serving in the armed forces through such NGOs as Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, and others. It funds media bias intended to isolate Israel through the likes of +972 Magazine. NIF grantee Hamoked is an NGO that funds lawsuits supporting the families of terrorists. The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement and others work toward attempts to disobey Israeli judicial bodies — including the Israel Supreme Court. The list goes on and on.
The New Israel Fund harms Israel. This is why we expose the funders who help foster the boycott.
It is remarkable how successful the NIF has been at infiltrating the American Jewish community:
- Alisa Doctoroff, President of UJA-Federation is a major donor and supporter of NIF, as is Rabbi Aaron Panken, President of Hebrew Union College the largest training school in the world for Reform Judaism. He is on the NIF International Council.
- They are joined on the International Council by Avraham Burg, former deputy speaker of the Knesset, who recently declared in Yediot Aharonot that “Zionism is over.” In September 2003, he wrote in The Guardian that “Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.”
- Also joining them on the International council is Kathleen Peratis, a lawyer who supports BDS and wrote an op-ed declaring, “If you want two states, support BDS.” She described BDS as a “non-violent tool,” and wrote, “[N]ot buying Sodastream or Gush Etzion wine is a start.” Peratis has met with Hamas members, and brags about it.
Are these people with whom the Presidents of UJA and Hebrew Union College should sit in positions of leadership with?
Among donors to the NIF are the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Jewish Communal Fund, The the Lopatin Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, and others. They also donate millions to “respectable” Jewish causes, but that does not make their funding of the boycott acceptable.
There are synagogues who donate to The New Israel Fund, including Temple Beth El of Santa Cruz, CA; Tzedakah Hevra at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, MA; Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun in Wisconsin; Kehila Chadasha of Bethesda, MD; Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia; Temple Beth Avodah of Newton Center, MA; Temple Shalom of Newton, MA; Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco; and Temple Israel Center in White Plains, NY.
This disease, this sickness called self-hatred is widespread; perhaps it is to be expected in an American Jewish community where assimilation is nearly 70%.
In Israel, there is consensus among the Left and Right that boycotting is absolutely unacceptable, and the recent move by the EU to label products from post 1967 regions reaffirms how devastating it is. Birthright Israel, perhaps the most successful American Jewish organization of this generation will no longer work with NIF, and the ruling Likud Party calls NIF “anti-Zionist.”
Even with a sense of disgust, we must continue with this vital mission. American Jews — their institutions and leaders — are funding a boycott that harms the Jewish state; they must be held accountable. Those who stand with the New Israel Fund are standing against Israel. To suggest otherwise is as much a lie as the NIF’s claims that it opposes boycotts. We urge anyone affiliated with it to stop supporting this organization. The New Israel Fund is neither a friend nor supporter of Israel, and the Jewish community must oppose it.
George Birnbaum is an international political consultant, who formerly served as chief of staff for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hank Sheinkopf, CEO of Sheinkopf Communications, is a leading political strategist who has worked on campaigns in four continents. His clients have included former president Bill Clinton.
Ronn Torossian is a New York-based Public Relations executive and author of For Immediate Release.