Breaking the Silence About the New Israel Fund
The adage about two Jews and three opinions is one that is likely to remain a perpetual reality for our people. There is room for views on the Left and the Right, whether we agree or not, as long as those ideals are rooted in loyalty and fairness. There are certain opinions, however, that we cannot accept: those rooted in deception, intended to cause harm, yet presented under the guise of legitimate concern. Views that lead to actions which undermine the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people cannot be welcomed, nor given credence, much less financial support, by those who believe in Israel as a Jewish nation.
Actions that seek to undermine the men and women who serve in the IDF; ones that would have Israeli citizens arrested in foreign countries and charged with war crimes; ones that would see Israel brought before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, are unacceptable. Additionally, those who would encourage and support a boycott of Israel, painting the country and its people as an apartheid nation and people, cannot be seen as beneficial in any way, as they only help to make Israel appear illegitimate to world bodies and the court of public opinion.
This, of course relates to the ongoing debate in Israel about NGO Breaking the Silence and its primary benefactor in the United States, the New Israel Fund. Breaking the Silence, it has recently been revealed, is simultaneously funded by Palestinian entities opposed to the existence of the Jewish state.
In May 2015, Breaking the Silence provided 57 testimonies against IDF soldiers for a report intended to prove that Israel not only used excessive force during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, but callously targeted Palestinian women, children and noncombatants. It has also been revealed that report was partly commissioned by the Palestinian foundation The Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat, operating in Ramallah. The Secretariat noted in a report published in 2015 that it paid Breaking the Silence to bring it testimonies against the IDF.
Additionally, Hamas, at no less than nine events it held worldwide, used the Breaking the Silence report to promote the idea of bringing Israelis up on war crimes charges. Two were held in Scotland, under the auspices of MAP (Medical Aid for Palestine) and the anti-Israel Scottish National Party. Other events took place in Zurich, Luxembourg, Madrid, and in several places in the United States, under the banner of the New Israel Fund. Following the intense advocacy of the Hamas-backed groups, last month an IDF reservist who served in the Operation Protective Edge was detained over accusations of war crimes after landing in Britain on a business trip. He was released after Israel’s embassy intervened, but it confirmed that groups are working hard to expose individual Israeli citizens to international scrutiny.
Last week, 20 IDF combat soldiers began a campaign to urge donors to groups opposed to the IDF — and funded by the New Israel Fund in America — to recognize the damage their money is causing. Letters were delivered to more than 100 major donors to the New Israel Fund, including Barbara and Eric Dobkin, Murray Koppelman, the Leichtag Foundation, the Jewish Communal Fund, and Rabbi Gordon Tucker of Temple Israel of White Plains, New York.
Offering the benefit of the doubt, the letter stated, “The goal that you sought to achieve with your donation was to support Zionism and support organizations working for human rights and against anti-democratic activities. You support organizations that you believe work towards creating a better, saner, more democratic, and more moral Israel.”
They called on these donors to use their clout to “[d]emand that the New Israel Fund cease and desist from supporting organizations that defame IDF soldiers, in Israel and around the world. These include organizations such as Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Yesh Din, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and Machsom Watch.”
It cannot be ignored that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon forbade the entrance of Breaking the Silence to all IDF bases, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced a ban on Breaking the Silence members presenting their case in schools.
Within the US Jewish community there is no shortage of opinions. There are issues of religion that our rabbis and leaders argue over.
When it comes to the state of Israel, however, the Israel Defense Forces must be a holy entity for our people. When work delegitimizes the state of Israel, seeks to have it citizens threatened as they travel around the world, and causes the military to be anything less than a force of strength and security against Israel’s enemies, it harms the Jewish state.
It is time for donors to the New Israel Fund to stop funding the enemies of the Jewish state.
George Birnbaum is a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hank Sheinkopf, CEO of Sheinkopf Communications, is a political strategist who has worked on campaigns in four continents. His clients have included former president Bill Clinton.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of a top 20 US PR agency, and author of For Immediate Release.
This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post.