Yup, that’s about the extent of the new funding guidelines unveiled by the New Israel Fund this week after much controversy, with the right saying the group had finally seen the error of its ways and the left saying the group seemed to be renouncing the political nationalism of its Palestinian grantees. Based on my read of the new guidelines, all they say is that NIF won’t support Hamas. In other words, the NIF will not support Palestinian groups which reject the notion of Jews having the right to self-determination in Israel. That would exclude an Israeli Palestinian equivalent of Hamas if there ever were such a thing. The problem is that there is no such group and for the life of me I can’t ever see one existing. Not to mention that if it did exist it would see NIF as lackeys of the Zionist state and would spit on such funding anyway. At any rate, here is the kicker that everyone’s yelling about:
Organizations that engage in the following activities will not be eligible for NIF grants or support: Works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel…
So one has to ask the question: why did they do this? Why did they wade ever deeper into the mire spewed by the rightist smearmongers at Im Tirzu? If there is hardly any likelihood that any truly one-state anti-Zionist Palestinian group would apply for funding, why? Frankly, I think they shot themselves in the foot on this. Ron Kampeas’ new interview with NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch doesn’t do much to reassure. After Naomi Paiss, in this blog’s comment threads assured us that NIF would continue funding Adalah and that the new guidelines had nothing to do with Adalah, Sokatch contradicted her in a manner of speaking:
“Whenever anyone applies to the New Israel Fund for funding or when they apply for re-funding, that will be the lens through which we make that evaluation,” Sokatch said, referring to the entirety of the guidelines, including passages that promote equal rights. The guidelines are not retroactive, which exempts Adalah and a number of Israeli-Arab groups that submitted contributions to the Arab-Israeli constitution project. Going forward, Sokatch suggested that NIF would not be as sanguine as in the past about such activities. In the past, the NIF leadership has said it does not agree with all that its grantees say or do, but it would support their right to speak as they wish in a democratic society.
In a previous disputed statement, Sokatch had told Kampeas that any Palestinian group whose mission was to create a national constitution that threatened sovereign Jewish self-determination in Israel, NIF would defund it. In his latest “clarification,” he only slightly assuages the concern of the progressive Jewish left about his motives:
…Sokatch subsequently contacted JTA to clarify, saying that such a “mission” would have to be central to an organization’s activities in order to result in a suspension of funding…
So the way I read this is that if Adalah today were to apply to NIF for funding they would be rejected. Somehow this does not reassure. And if Adalah ever became a group, the centrality of whose mission was to advance a democratic constitution of the type formulated by Adalah, it would also be defunded
I haven’t heard from any Palestinian NIF grantee who is concerned about this. Either they’re talking away amongst themselves and want to leave me out of the conversation (which is perfectly fine) or they know something I don’t. But if I were them, I’d be hoppin’ mad. Mainly because Sokatch and Kampeas are totally misreading Adalah’s Democratic Constitution, which a source who should know, told me it was unlikely Sokatch had read (he’s only had 11 months to do so as NIF’s new CEO). As I wrote earlier, the Constitution advocates a multicultural Israel, not a binational or one-state Israel. So what’s the problem? What’s the big deal?
Again, I think this goes back to NIF’s freak-out in the face of the massive attack launched against it by Im Tirzu and their Knesset allies. Some in the organization are worried possibly that Israel’s parliament will penalize its work or signficantly hobble it. So they’re trying to do damage control by showing that they’re loyal Zionists, even if they do support Palestinians who aren’t. Frankly, I don’t think it’s going to work. The hate will continue. They’ll continue to villify Naomi Hazan. If they don’t have a Goldstone Report on which to pin NIF, it’ll be something else. NIF is the punching bag of the Israeli right. The question is how will the group react to that. In my opinion, they’re not doing a good job. They should be steadfast. Instead they waffle. They should say what they support, not what they won’t support as they do in the fateful guideline above. Bullies can smell fear. And Im Tirzu and NGO Monitor know that NIF has blinked. They battle is not over. And these guidelines will do nothing to help NIF curry favor with Israel’s powers that be.