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October 24, 2018 5:25 pm

New Israel Fund Director: Grantees That Call Israel Colonial, Apartheid State Don’t Violate Red Lines

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New Israeli shekel banknotes and coins. Photo: Pixabay.

The New Israel Fund won’t back away from funding groups that accuse Israel of colonialism and apartheid, a senior official with the progressive charity told The Algemeiner last week.

The clarification comes after Hassan Jabareen — the head of the Israeli legal center Adalah, an NIF grantee focused on Palestinian rights — levied these charges in a July interview with the publication Arab48.

Jabareen said the recently-passed basic law enshrining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people presented “a new opportunity for us to define the Israeli regime according to its laws, and not only based on its practices both internally or inside the territories occupied in 1967.”

“This law clearly explains why the Israeli regime is a colonial system similar to apartheid, in contradiction to the international Apartheid Convention, which considers apartheid a crime against humanity,” he argued.

Jabareen then suggested that “the legal discourse within the Green Line and in the 1967 Occupied Territories has to change” to reflect this situation.

Mickey Gitzin — the Israel-based executive director of NIF, which has described the nation-state law as inconsistent with Israel’s Declaration of Independence — said in response to a query from The Algemeiner that Jabareen’s comments did not cross the charity’s red lines against the Palestinian-led campaign to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) Israel.

“In a moment of frustration for a minority group after the nation-state bill, saying such a thing, I think it’s a legitimate statement within the concept of freedom of speech,” Gitzin said. “I don’t see Israel as an apartheid state, I don’t think most Israelis see Israel as an apartheid state, and I wouldn’t say it — but I really feel that it completely falls under the freedom of speech.”

Shortly after assuming his post in July 2017, Gitzin told The Jerusalem Post that NIF did not use the term “apartheid,” and “none of the organizations NIF supports has a policy of treating Israel as an apartheid state.”

“I am Zionist, but it doesn’t mean everyone I support has to be Zionist,” he added. “Part of the greatness of Zionism is respecting a variety of points of view.”

The US-based charity has previously come under criticism for its funding of Adalah, including by the Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor, which in an August report warned that the center “regularly presents Israel as a racist and undemocratic state and partners with anti-Israel BDS groups.”

“This is not the first time that we find a gap between what the New Israel Fund says it is funding, and what its grantees actually say and do,” Itai Reuveni, Israel desk director at NGO Monitor, told The Algemeiner. “A number of NIF grantees have become increasingly radical in their rhetoric, including calls for ‘international intervention,’ and the NIF has to ask whether its red lines have real meaning.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April accused the NIF of pressuring Rwanda to refuse to resettle African migrants currently in Israel, and called for a parliamentary inquiry into the “foreign organization,” which he claimed received funding “from foreign governments and bodies that are hostile to Israel.”

“The primary aim of the NIF is to erase the Jewish nature of Israel and to turn it into a state of all its citizens next to a Palestinian state without any Jews on the 1967 border with its capital as Jerusalem,” he asserted on social media.

NIF has rebuffed the charges, saying Netanyahu’s “latest attack on NIF … confirms that Israel’s democratic institutions, from civil society to the judiciary to the free media to the national police, are at risk from an increasingly authoritarian-minded political leadership.”

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