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New Israel Fund Honors ‘New Generation’ of Israeli Social Justice Activists, No Arabs Need Apply

The New Israel Fund will hold its annual young leaders fundraising event in New York on November 2nd.  Here is how the website describes the goal of the event and NIF in general:

A new generation of voices is speaking up for social justice and equality in Israel! Celebrate these pioneering activists…fighting for a better Israel.

The New Generations Benefit is the premiere annual event for progressive supporters of Israel in their 20s and 30s, raising funds for the New Israel Fund’s work to strengthen Israel’s democracy and promote justice and equality for all members of Israeli society.

Well, at least they paid lip service to all Israeli citizens in that italicized phrase, because they sure didn’t pay lip service or any attention to over 20% of the Israeli population when they determined their honorees.  They will be Zvi Benninga–Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, Idit Menashe–SHATIL, Gil Gan-Mor–Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Inna Zysskind and Pavel Kogan–Fiskha Club and Havaya-Life Cycle Ceremonies Religious Pluralism and Marriage Equality, and Noa Sattath–Religious Action Center.

Who’s missing from this list? Israeli Palestinians, that’s who. None will be recognized. Now, does this mean that no Israeli Palestinians are working for social justice in Israel? To read this list it would. But of course that’s a lie.

While NIF does offer funding to a number of Israeli Palestinian NGOs working for social justice and human rights, over the past year it has allowed itself to be buffeted by smears raised by NGO Monitor, that its grantees were anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.  All the charges were fabrications and outright lies.  But that hasn’t stopped NIF from running for the hills.  It reworked its grantee guidelines in order to exclude Israeli Palestinian NGOs who “rejected Jewish sovereignty” (whatever that means).  Presumably they weren’t sufficiently in tune with Bibi Netanyahu’s version of Israel as a Jewish state.  Presumably, if you were anti-Zionist or supported anything other than a two-state solution, you stood to get your funding cut.

This is the same organization which has severed ties to a number of its Israeli fellows for stepping out of line, one of whom was Shamai Leibowitz, who made the mistake of speaking at a BDS rally in Cambridge.  Even though he didn’t identify himself in any way with NIF, he was thrown out of the program.  Similar treatment has been afforded others as well.

By the way, I’m not in any way demeaning the stellar social justice work performed by the Israeli NGOs honored at this event.  I’m criticizing NIF.  If you attend this event, be sure to ask NIF where the Israeli Palestinians are.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • David October 25, 2011, 5:04 AM

    Well, shit. I know NIF had begun to wobble. I didn’t know it caved.

  • iris October 25, 2011, 7:50 AM


  • chybn October 25, 2011, 8:44 AM

    Hard to believe they’ve caved. Maybe they have become so big they’re now establishment. But they do support some very fine organizations and I know of no alternative that does what they do.

  • Simone October 25, 2011, 10:05 AM

    There is no such thing as an “Israeli Palestinian”. There are Israeli Arabs, just as there are Israeli Jews. Being Israeli means holding Israeli citizenship, just as being Palestinian – if and when a Palestinian state ever comes into being – will mean “holding Palestinian citizenship”. (I doubt there will be Palestinian Jews in such a state, as Abu Maazen has frequently said no Jews will be allowed to live in the Palestinian State and will not even be allowed to be part of any UN forces which might be present in such a state as guarantors of a peace treaty.
    Of course, if Israel and a future Palestinian state decide to allow dual nationality, as do many western states, then – and only then – will it be possible to talk about “Israeli Palstinians”.

    • Richard Silverstein October 25, 2011, 7:33 PM

      You’ve committed a major breach of comment rules. You are a Jew. YOU do not determine what Israeli Palestinians call themselves. They do. Just as Israeli Palestinians don’t determine what Israeli Jews call themselves. If you can’t call them “Israeli Palestinians” as they themselves call themselves, then you’re being racist. I do not countenance racism here. So you are on very very thin ice fr here on. The rules of characterization of ethnicity here are that you use the terms generally used by that ethnic group, not the ones you use for ideological or political reasons to diminish their rights or standing (which is what you do in calling them “Israeli Arab”). I will not let you disrespect Israeli Palestinians. Mark my words well & clearly.

      You’re lying about the Palestinian view of Jewish settlement in Palestine. In fact, the Palestinians in the West Bank will welcome Israeli Jews who wish to take Palestinian citizenship or accept Palestinian sovereignty. Even Hamas has welcomed such inititiatives by Rabbi Menachem Froman. Too bad you’e proven wrong once again. If no Jews will be allowed in Palestine, then it’s impossible to allow Nakba refugee Palestinians to live in Israel. And this will not be the outcome since it can’t be if justice is to be served. Very few Israeli Jews will want such an arrangement so it’s pretty moot anyway.

  • David October 25, 2011, 4:30 PM

    Sure, NIF supports some decent organizations, but that is no excuse for hypocrisy and dictating political affiliations. They might just as well say you have to love Netanyahu and buy into his “vision” to get funding. There’s just no excuse. And, yes, what is “Jewish sovereignty” that they can use the term? Where is that sovereignity anywya? New York City? Where? I am following with the IRS on NIF’s tax-exemption, among other tax exempt organizations, admittedly more egregiously Zionist than NIF.

  • David October 25, 2011, 4:33 PM

    “following” is “following up” and “anywya” is a neologism that means many things.

  • ishay October 25, 2011, 9:15 PM

    From wich program was Shamai Leibowitz thrown out?

    • Richard Silverstein October 25, 2011, 11:15 PM

      They have a human rights legal fellowship which supports bringing Israelis to the U.S. to earn law degrees in human rights. I don’t know the specific name of the fellowship. He studied law at George Washington Univ, where he earned his U.S. law degree.

      • iris October 26, 2011, 12:35 AM

        “civil liberties law fellowship”, not GW but AU (American University, WCL -Washington College of Law therein), the degree is LLM and this is the flagship of NIF’s programs. Past fellows – Avigdor Feldman, Dan Yakir, Joshua Schoffman, and so forth. Fellows are hand picked from active lawyers who have a sound record in practicing civil rights law, in Israel.

  • Ben Murane, New Israel Fund October 26, 2011, 8:53 AM

    No international organization has done more over Israel’s history to achieve equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel than the New Israel Fund. Richard Silverstein should know that. He has chronicled the excellent work of many of our grantees who seek to address the needs of Arabs in Israel, our law fellows (many of whom have been Israeli Palestinians), and our victories protecting the rights of this vulnerable population.

    Just two weeks ago, we issued a statement signed by more than 1,000 rabbis against the shameful mosque burning in Israel. And contrary to Silverstein’s claims about our guidelines, the vast defunding of grantees he prophesied never materialized. We continue to operate on the democratic ethos that there is room for many opinions within the NIF tent; only organizations that actively work against our principles are excluded from funding.

    NIF’s resources are limited. We make investments where we think we can have the greatest impact. That means that every year we must make difficult decisions about not continuing grants to some groups. Nevertheless our investment in bringing equality to all Israelis – including those of Palestinian heritage – has not waned.

    If you share our vision of equality for all citizens of Israel, then you should attend the New Generations Benefit in New York. The year 2011 was historic for Israel and for the New Israel Fund. 500,000 Israelis stood up for social justice, expressing the values that NIF has embodied in our work for over 30 years. On Nov 2nd, 300+ young professionals in New York will celebrate that same spirit. Five young Israelis – including several who have devoted their activism to Jewish-Arab equality – will be profiled throughout the night.

    • Richard Silverstein October 27, 2011, 11:34 AM

      Thanks for the PR boilerplate which shows you either didn’t read my post or didn’t care to address the very specific & legitimate criticism I offered. To the charge that the honorees at this year’s benefit are Arab-rein, Ben offers…no comment. Instead he says that “several” of the Jewish honorees have devoted themselves to “Jewish Arab equality.” Not good enough. Again, Israeli Palestinians are Israeli. Yet not represented on the program. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

      To the charge that NIF has expelled Israeli civil liberties fellows for expressing their personal political views w/o publicly associating themselves w. or invoking NIF, Ben offers…no comment. Instead he waxes poetic about those law fellows NIF hasn’t expelled.

      To the charge that NIF has imposed draconian, anti-democratic new guidelines demanding Israeli Palestinian groups endorse “Jewish sovereignty” he offers…no comment except to fudge by claiming any funding reductions are due to limited resource. I never had much respect for Ben, but he’s hit an all new low point here.

      As for the rest, he drones on & on about the wonderful things NIF does & implies that I’m uncharitable because I’m ignoring that & instead focussing on what they’ve done wrong. Well, I’m sorry. NIF is betraying it’s values in so many ways. Betraying its mission, betraying Israeli Jews & Palestinians to whom it used to offer even greater support than it does now & will in future. NIF has been cowed by NGO Monitor, Im Tirzu & other far right thuggish groups. Instead of standing up to them it has caved, Ben’s statement makes crystal clear.

      I’m sad to say that if you want to support Israeli Jewish & Palestinian NGOs don’t do it through NIF. Do it directly through the groups themselves.

      • Perplexed October 27, 2011, 12:25 PM

        Ben: “the vast defunding of grantees [Richard] prophesied never materialized… our investment in bringing equality to all Israelis – including those of Palestinian heritage – has not waned.”

        Richard: “Betraying its mission, betraying Israeli Jews & Palestinians to whom it used to offer even greater support than it does now & will in future.”

        Even PR boilerplate is likely to stick to facts. Richard, do you have any evidence that NIF has dropped funding for Israeli-Palestinians?

        • Richard Silverstein October 27, 2011, 11:58 PM

          First, Ben lied about what I predicted. I never predicted a “vast defunding” of grantees and I challenge him to adduce any evidence to support this. I said that those grantees who were deemed to be denying “Jewish sovereignty” (their phrase, not mine) could be denied funding. I’m certain that they have defunded groups. But you won’t get them to breathe a word about that since they don’t want to fuel the debate. They prefer to focus on the bland & the milquetoast rather than confronting the political realities. Typical liberal Zionists with their head in the sand.

          Any group claiming to work on behalf of all the citizens of Israel as NIF does that uses a criteria of supporting “Jewish sovereignty” over Israel is not working to support all Israel’s citizens, but rather only its Jewish citizens.
          Finally, this passage implies that they have cut off funding to some:

          NIF’s resources are limited. We make investments where we think we can have the greatest impact. That means that every year we must make difficult decisions about not continuing grants to some groups.

          I don’t have the funding to employ researchers who can go through files and reports to compare funding for NGOs from yr to yr or to contact Israeli Palestinian NGOs to ask whether they’ve been defunded. But if readers see this & have information to add I encourage them to do so.

          • Jason Edelstein October 31, 2011, 3:25 AM

            Great news, Richard!! NGO Monitor employs researchers so you don’t have to. See our report that answers all your NIF funding related questions here: http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/changes_in_nif_funding_grants


            Jason Edelstein
            communications director
            NGO Monitor

          • Richard Silverstein October 31, 2011, 7:07 PM

            If you think I trust a single word from the mouths of you fraudsters you’re sadly mistaken. The day I rely on you for research is the day I close up shop & change the blog’s name to From the Mouth of Steinberg.

        • Omar October 30, 2011, 11:14 PM

          funding for Mada al Carmel was dropped

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