The Rockefeller Brothers Fund Is Bankrolling Israel’s Destruction
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which singles out democratic Israel among all the world’s nations to delegitimize and destroy, is in the news. The American Anthropological Association will vote on a BDS resolution in April. The University of South Florida, Northwestern and Vassar voted to boycott Israel and there is a divestment campaign at Columbia. Israeli Apartheid Week, a BDS hate fest demonizing Israel, occurs on college campuses across the country in the spring.
Why does the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a premier philanthropy, finance non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that employ BDS to eliminate the Jewish state?
Here’s some background on BDS. In 1945, the Arab League instituted an economic boycott of the Jews. “Human rights” NGOs at the Durban 2001 UN racism conference expanded the boycott to include Israeli academics, institutions and products and divestment from all Israeli companies and those doing business with Israel. This was part of the strategy to equate Israel with apartheid South Africa.
BDS demands “the end of Israel’s occupation and colonialization” of all Arab lands, dismantling the security wall that protects Israelis from Palestinian terror, and the right of return to Israel of several million descendants of original Arab refugees. In the words of Palestinian BDS leader Omar Barghouti, “A return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state,” adding that the two-state solution “is really dead. Good riddance!” Using human rights vocabulary and confabulations about victimization, the BDS movement forms alliances with churches, unions, universities, academic associations and well-known artists, athletes or other public figures, thus lending the movement legitimacy.
Prominent Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid recently commented that BDS “is the agenda of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran. The agenda of the BDS campaign is to try to destroy Israel…. Of course it’s anti-Semitic. … It is because it’s anti-Semitic that the campaign has such energy around it.”
In 1940, the sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. founded the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as “a private, family foundation helping to advance “social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.” In 2014, RBF provided $30 million in grants worldwide, with gifts related to the Arab-Israeli conflict made through its Peacebuilding program.
The RBF Peacebuilding goals include “supporting innovative and collaborative …policies for conflict prevention, management (and) strengthening constituencies and political will for conflict transformation and durable peace.”
RBF donates to many worthwhile organizations. However, the 2015 funding of NGOs that actively support BDS against Israel causes serious concerns.
In 2015, RBF granted $140,000 to Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP supports BDS “as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people.” JVP’s Facebook page praises “a new generation of Palestinians … rising up en-masse against Israel’s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.” How is contributing to JVP advancing a “just and durable peace”?
The American Friends Service Committee received $50,000 from RBF in 2015 for its Israel program, which supports and promotes BDS initiatives on university campuses and holds the BDS Summer Institute “focused on building skills for divestment campaigns.” By advocating Palestinian “right of return,” AFSC means to end Israel as a Jewish nation. AFSC’s Middle East program director, Dalit Baum, authored the 2014 Loyola University divestment resolution. In November 2015, the Wall Street Journal published an article, “The Quakers, No Friends of Israel,” stating that AFSC’s “benign reputation masks a tough campaign to boycott the Jewish state.”
Zochrot, a pro-Palestinian organization that regards the creation of Israel as a “catastrophe,” received $20,000 in 2015 from RBF. Zochrot’s goal is to eliminate the Jewish state by “de-Zionizing Palestine.” Zochrot’s founder, Eitan Bronstein, explained, “When the refugees return, Jews will become a minority in the country. Israel as a Jewish state will change radically, and it will no longer be defined as such.” This NGO demonizes Israel by accusing it of ethnic cleansing and massacres. How is supporting Zochrot and AFSC advancing a “just and durable peace?”
Middle East Policy Network (MEPN), aka Al-Shabaka, received $100,000 in 2015. Electronic Intifada describes Al-Shabaka as “guided by Palestinian Civil Society’s 2005 Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).” In July 2013, Al-Shabaka hosted a roundtable, “Political Agency for Palestinian Return,” arguing that “efforts for changing the balance of power by weakening and isolating Israel should be seen as efforts for refugee return” and that anti-Israel boycotts are “the most effective and strategic campaign for refugee return at present.” How does funding MEPN promote a “just and durable peace?”
Equally compelling evidence for support of BDS exists for Middle East Children’s Alliance, Grassroots Jerusalem, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and +972, which received a total of $290,000 in 2015 from RBF.
Given the relatively small budgets of these NGOs, these RBF grants significantly support activities that are anything but “peacebuilding.”
Why does the Rockefeller Brothers Fund find it perfectly appropriate to fund activity which singles out the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s only democracy among all nations of the world (including North Korea, Syria, Iran) as the perpetrator of the world’s worst ills? Why does RBF fund activity which fundamentally conflicts with its mission to advance “just and durable peace”? Does it endorse these extremist groups? If not, then it must act to preserve its reputation.
In 2014 and again in 2015, NGO Monitor contacted Stephen Heintz, RBF’s president, and Ariadne Papagapitos, Peacebuilding’s director, to ask how the Rockefeller Brothers Fund squares its funding BDS-supporting NGOs with its mission and peacebuilding guidelines. Their responses indicate that RBF sees no conflict between its stated mission goals and NGOs that assault Israel’s right to exist. A recent request to interview Stephen Heintz was denied as was one for additional information beyond that on their website.
Why can’t the Rockefeller Brothers be more like the Fords? Initially, the Ford Foundation took the same path as the Rockefeller Brother Fund, financing numerous NGOs that fundamentally undermined Israel’s existence through BDS with its insistence on the “right of return” for all descendants of Arab refugees. But the Ford Foundation changed direction when, due to the diligent and detailed work of NGO Monitor and the investigative reporting of New York Times bestselling author Edwin Black, along with public pressure, it decided to change its granting policy. It seems that the Ford Foundation realized that the promotion of peace and the promotion of BDS are diametrically opposed. RBF needs to follow the same playbook.
During my recent phone conversation with Edwin Black, he commented, “Rockefeller Brothers Fund is at the forefront of BDS financing. I am astonished that RBF could support the BDS campaign, which is anti-Semitic, not political.”
John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Rockefeller dynasty, is quoted as saying, “Every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.” It is certainly time for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to recognize its obligation to act responsibly.
Ziva Dahl is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center with a Master of Arts degree in public law and government from Columbia University and an A.B. in political science from Vassar College. Her bylines appear in the New York Daily News, the New York Observer, and The Hill. This article was originally published by The NY Daily News.