Does a Leading US Law Firm Support the Boycott Israel Movement?
White & Case is one of the world’s leading and largest law firms. According to their website, they have “advised on some of the largest transactions ever to come out of Israel.” They also note, “Over the last decade, we have helped Israeli companies raise over $20 billion in debt financing and Israeli companies and investors in raising over $9 billion in equity financing.”
Shockingly, a senior executive at White & Case — Oz Benamram, the company’s “chief knowledge officer” — is also an International Council Member of the New Israel Fund (NIF), an organization that supports groups that boycott Israel. Inside the Jewish state, the NIF is widely regarded as an extremist organization that is outside the political mainstream.
According to White & Case, Mr. Benamram provides the firm “with strategic direction on knowledge management and technology, and leads the Knowledge Management department in developing and implementing the systems and processes that enable the Firm to use its collective knowledge to benefit its clients worldwide.”
White & Case works closely with Israeli companies, issuing recent position papers on the Israeli economy. Clearly, Benamram’s involvement with the NIF is a conflict of interest.
Benamram is a member of the New Israel Fund’s International Council, which “is an advisory group established in 2002 to supplement the work of the organization’s governing Board.”
Recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu said this about the New Israel Fund:
The New Israel Fund is a foreign organization that receives funding from foreign governments and elements hostile to Israel. … The ultimate objective of the fund is to erase Israel’s Jewish character and turn it into a state of all its citizens, alongside a Palestinian nation-state that is free of Jews on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital. For decades the fund has funded anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian organizations, including those who slander IDF soldiers such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, and those who fight for Palestinian terrorists, such as Adalah.
A spokesperson for White & Case told us that the “NIF doesn’t support BDS.”
The New Israel Fund says on their website that they oppose the “occupation” and the “NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.”
Thus, the NIF admits that it supports groups that participate in anti-Israel boycotts.
The high-profile SodaStream debacle, which saw actress Scarlett Johansson step down as the “global ambassador” of Oxfam, centered around this very issue. Sodastream was, of course, in the West Bank.
Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled recently that the Israeli Finance Minister can “impose fines and withhold funding from Israeli NGOs calling for boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel.” Yet unfortunately, the NIF continues to practice what Justice Hanan Meltzer described as “political terrorism.” (NIF-sponsored organizations petitioned the court to overturn the law against boycotting Israel.)
Boycotts are simply beyond the pale. Several Knesset members from Israel’s political left have expressed their opposition to the boycott against Israel. MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Union) lambasted 16 foreign ministers from the European Union who called for the labeling of products from the settlements. He said, “This is blatant anti-Israel activity and should be condemned.” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has also written and spoken on this exact issue repeatedly.
While Mr. Benamram and the New Israel Fund have the right to their viewpoints, there is an inherent conflict of interest between working with Israeli companies and supporting a boycott of Israel.
A partner at White & Case wanted it known that “our firm is global and diverse, and I am quite sure employs individuals of varying political views and affiliations. Their views are their own, and are not views of the firm.”
While he is right — and surely many White & Case employees have diverse viewpoints — one wonders if White & Case would allow radical right-wing extremist leaders to simultaneously serve as senior executives.
The New Israel Fund is currently under investigation in Israel and its leaders have been detained in the past at Ben-Gurion Airport for questioning for “national security reasons.” Organizations such as Birthright Israel have said that they will not work with the NIF. So why does Mr. Benamram?
As Prime Minister Netanyahu recently noted, the New Israel Fund is beyond the pale. Those who work with Israel — and decent people everywhere — must oppose all anti-Israel boycotts and disassociate themselves from the NIF.
George Birnbaum is an international political consultant who formerly served as chief of staff for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hank Sheinkopf, CEO of Sheinkopf Communications, is a leading political strategist whose clients have included former President Bill Clinton. Ronn Torossian is CEO of a Top 20 US PR Agency and author of For Immediate Release.