New Israel Fund Caving to Im Tirzu Pressure?
The Forward brings distressing news that the New Israel Fund has prepared draft funding guidelines that would bar any Israeli NGO which did not endorse Israel as a Jewish state:
The New Israel Fund, the target of attacks by right-wing organizations accusing it of supporting anti-Zionist groups, is discussing the possibility of specifying in its guidelines that grants will be given only to groups that accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish homeland.
…According to three sources who have either seen the new proposed guidelines or were briefed on their content, the debate has also touched on the issue of defining the not-for-profit organizations that are eligible for receiving NIF grants. Board members and major donors are grappling with whether to require that grantees accept the idea of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thus agreeing to the principle of Israel as a Jewish state.
I have had my share of disagreements with New Israel Fund, most significantly when it expelled Shammai Leibowitz from one of its fellowship programs after he spoke publicly on behalf of BDS and the story was picked up by Maariv’s resident red-baiter, Ben Caspit. But I have, throughout the Im Tirzu attacks, stood by NIF and championed its cause. But if it follows through on such guidelines it will have succumbed to the venom spewed by Im Tirzu. It will have caved to pressure from the Israeli right to conform its mission to a pro-Zionist one, rather than one that embraces the notion of Israel as a state that empowers all its citizens, including those who are not Jewish.
There can be no doubt that there is any Israeli Palestinian group which NIF currently funds that can support the notion of Israel as a Jewish state. Besides, this very notion is a condition demanded in the past by Bibi Netanyahu before he would negotiate with the Palestinians. So in effect, if the NIF “goes there,” it will have adopted Bibi Netanyahu’s political agenda. Can this be possible? Is this what things have come to? That the NIF, under enormous pressure from the Israeli right, determines that it must compromise with its values in order to appease its enemies? Does NIF really believe this will protect it from the worst of the hatred coming its way? Does it believe such policy changes will inoculate it from attack?
If this is what NIF’s leaders are thinking they are sadly mistaken. If they cave, the right will see this as a sign of weakness and it will crowd in for what it hopes to be the kill. And such compromise will destroy the organization’s credibility among its Arab donees. Who in the Palestinian community will want to accept money from it under such conditions?
Thus, under attack from its right flank and its left, NIF will be buffeted by the political winds and have no clear course. It will be a sad day if it happens.
The Forward mentions that there is compromise wording under consideration:
According to individuals who are involved in the process, one formulation being discussed is recognizing Israel as the “homeland” of the Jewish people — a description that falls short of the definition of Israel as a “Jewish state” but would avoid alienating Israeli-Arab not-for-profits that are on NIF’s grant list.
I should mention that this indeed is wording that I sometimes use in explaining my own Zionist philosophy with the addendum that I see Israel as the homeland of its Palestinian citizens as well. Unless this proviso is included then even the compromise wording is offensive. Besides, why should the NIF determine within its funding guidelines the nature of the Israeli state. This, it seems to me, takes NIF far afield from its core mission which is to build Israeli democracy and social justice.
This quotation from a former president of the group indicates a leadership that has become unnerved and unmoored in response to the onslaught against it:
Peter Edelman, a former president of the NIF board, said in a brief interview with the Forward that revising the guidelines was “not necessarily in response” to criticism. Edelman added, however, that “when there is unjust criticism, then you want to be as clear as possible about the issues.”
This is a clarity that is unnecessary and which will not diminish the attacks. It is a clarity that will drive away the Palestinian NGO community and render NIF less effective and less relevant in an Israeli context. It is the NIF playing by the enemy’s rules–and losing.
Finally, the headline of the Forward article is: New Israel Fund Considering Red Lines, which should have much more appropriately been, New Israel Fund Considering Blue and White Lines. If it adopts these guidelines I’d suggest it change its name to the New Jewish Israel Fund or the Not-Arab Israel Fund, unwieldy perhaps, but very descriptive.
16 thoughts on “New Israel Fund Caving to Im Tirzu Pressure? – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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As you point out, NIF has to decide whether its commitment to democracy and social justice will survive or whether it will become the latest victim of Jewish McCarthyism.
Richard, thanks for bringing this story early and in the accurate perspective.
It’s a very simple game of chicken: play by the bully’s rules – you lose. Break his rules – and you have already scored a victory before the battle technically starts.
NIF, Meretz, Peace Now, etc., play mostly by the bully’s rules. Hence they have become shadows of their former selves.
Ilana Hammerman doesn’t. So now, one woman’s eccentric personal adventure is becoming a powerful movement.
It also seems like Israel’s dissident theater professionals aren’t going to suck up to the bully. And so everyone else – from Ariel, to the cowardly theater managements, to the govt. itself whose “Brand Israel” project is now completely shattered – are already losing.
Im Tirzu has a total staff of 5.
NIF has a staff of 5 in NYC alone and that’s not even their headquarters.
A US-headquartered organisation is being ‘bullied’ by a much smaller Israel-headquartered organisation?
Somebody is spinning to get more donations.
“The New Israel Fund…is discussing the possibility of specifying in its guidelines that grants will be given only to groups that accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish homeland.”
I’m confused. I thought you very profoundly view Israel is a Jewish homeland. Wouldn’t it make sense for an Israeli organization which endroses Israel as the Jewish state (something that’s in our Declaration of Independence) not to give grants to groups which oppose this idea?
And since when is the Israeli right “the enemy”? I’d say groups that do not accept Israel as a Jewish homeland are the enemy by definition.
Viewing Israel as a Jewish homeland is one thing (I also view it this way). Demanding that everyone else view it the same way is quite another thing (thought police, anyone?). When I, for example, go to a doctor, I don’t care one wit how he views Israel; I want him to treat me the best way possible, complying with the standards of the medical profession. When an organization (NIF) gives grants to other organizations promoting the well-being of Israeli citizens, it should focus, well, on how much those organizations promote the well-being of Israeli citizens, whether those citizens be Jewish or not. I can accept refusal of funding to organizations who are actively engaged in anti-Israeli campaigns (no, the Goldstone report is not a campaign, and it is not anti-Israeli). What I consider unacceptable is demanding the grantees to declare in advance their allegiance to certain ideological principles, which are not necessarily related to promoting social justice in Israel and the well-being of Israeli citizens.
The fallacy in your analogy is that unlike a doctor, NIF is not treating a single person or a specific group of people, but the shape of the state itself. And in this case, I very much care about their ideology. Besides, what one organization may deem good for your well-being, another will entirely contradict (Im Tirtzu comes to mind); so you should care, too.
Also, there’s a great difference between demanding acceptance of Israel as a Jewish homeland and treatment of Jewish or non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Much like a state can be Islamic but give full rights to non-Muslim citizens.
I haven’t the remotest idea what this means. The NIF has nothing to do with the “shape of the state” (don’t know what this means either) & its “ideology” has nothing to do w. its mission within Israeli society. In fact, the only ideology it should have is promoting democracy and social justice within Israel. To the extent that it adheres to any specific set of ethnic definitions like the ones proposed is the extent to which it diminishes its effectiveness among its grantee constituency.
Frankly, neither I nor NIF should care whether you care about its ideology. You’re not being benefited by its grants nor do you contribute to the group.
Im Tirzu is an entirely diff. type of organization than NIF. You frankly don’t understand what NIF is. It is not a political organization.
Isn’t that contradictory? Unless you’re suggesting Israeli social justice and democracy has no effect on me. I am not being directly affected by its grants, but their ideology may result in giving grants to groups that in turn affect Israel’s democracy and social structure and thus affect me personally. So what you’re saying is that neither you nor NIF should care about me or any other Israeli citizen.
I have no idea what you’re talking about. How would you claim that aiding groups supporting abused women, the poor, promoting ethnic & religious tolerance, etc. will “affect you personally” in any way that would be harmful to you or Israel??
I didn’t say NIF shouldn’t care about you. I said NIF shouldn’t care about you if you’re attempting to define it’s mission or ideological agenda. Essentially, you’ve conceded that you neither benefit from or donate to NIF. You want a say in something where you don’t deserve to have one.
…Seriously!?!?? How many times have Israelis (and some others) told you you don’t have a say in Israeli policies because you aren’t directly affected by them. And each and every time you told them off. And you were right. God forbid we can only criticize the actions of groups we we are directly associated with.
If I think NIF supports groups that I find harmful (e.g groups that don’t recognize Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people), I can and should voice my opinion about it. I am not trying to define their agenda, I am expressing my opinion about their policies.
You have no right to determine the agenda of NIF. I have every right to have a voice in Israel’s affairs. They are 2 entirely diff. situations. One involving an NGO, another involving a major philsosophical Zionist tenet that all of world Jewry is invested in Israel. No connection whatsoever.
Express yr opinions all you want. But they’re hardly relevant. Give some money, then yr opinion is relevant.
Your comment is so sad, particularly the last paragraph, I don’t even know how to reply to it. :/
Did you not read my post, or did you miss the passage in which I very specifically noted my strong criticism of the fact that NIF was not discussing a provision which would allow groups to view Israel as a homeland for its Palestinian citizens. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. If it isn’t, then why bother?
Would you equally say Jewish groups which reject Israel as a homeland for its Palestinian citizens are the “enemy by definition?” If not, then you’re a hypocrite or simply don’t understand the logical progression of yr own beliefs.
Yes, I would say the same.
I’m glad you feel that way. But I’ve never heard you write anything remotely similar to this in any of yr comments here.
Regarding the seamantics of ‘recognition’. I think that a more agreeable formula, one which is based on the present and future, rather than the creation of Israel, would be: “We recognise the right of Jews to be born into and live in the land Israel”. It’s simple, no historic baggage, and Hamas have pretty much said the same thing but never clearly.
Not that peace making should depend on such statements, Israel uses ‘recognition’ if anything to delay peace making.