BDS IN THE PEWS
Update on New Israel Fund (NIF) – April 2012
April 30, 2012
Updated on May 15, 2012
What is hiding behind the legal, scholarly disguise..., is it not that its real purpose is de-legitimizing the state of Israel, while threatening...to employ ‘universal jurisdiction’” – High Court of Justice decision rejecting case brought by NIF-grantee Adalah
NGO Monitor’s previous report on the New Israel Fund (NIF) was published in September 2011 and examined NIF’s financial report for 2010 (see Appendix 1 for more details). Key developments in the activities and rhetoric of NIF and its grantees since that time are analyzed below.
NIF has still not published financial reports for 2011. Partial information includes:
- In 2012, NIF is providing $60,000 to +972mag, a website that publishes bloggers that use apartheid rhetoric (details below).
- Incoming NIF president Brian Lurie wrote an op-ed stating that NIF had ended funding for Mada al-Carmel (see Appendix 2). No details on this reversal are available, including the failure to act for two years after NGO Monitor’s analysis showed the core contradiction between Mada al-Carmel’s activities and NIF guidelines. NIF has also not revealed what, if any, changes have been made to prevent similar cases.
Polarizing Rhetoric, Hypocritical Behavior
NIF’s rhetoric, activities, and publications regarding Israel are often divisive and destructive, including stereotyping of minorities and critics, in contrast to NIF’s claimed progressive objectives.
- On April 18, 2012, NIF launched a campaign, alleging widespread gender discrimination and headlined “What Happens When Extremism Crowds Out Equality and Democracy in Israel?,” with a full page ad in the New York Times. The rhetoric and imagery regarding Israel were entirely negative, including the tendentious allegation that “Israel may be changing into a place many of us would no longer recognize.”
- In parallel, NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch wrote, “some of what [a long-time NIF donor] saw in Tehran was also happening in Jerusalem: gender segregated buses, the removal of women’s images from the public sphere, laws designed to limit freedom of expression.”
- While NIF’s campaign targets “religious extremists,” NIF does not mention documented sexual harassment and assault of women during left-wing protests (see Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement below). This raises issues of moral inconsistency and hypocrisy.
- The NIF-Israel version of this campaign is radically different, primarily focusing on NIF’s positive contributions – in sharp contrast to the negativity, divisiveness, and tendentious allegations of the American version. The images used in the Israeli campaign feature social protest and coexistence themes.
NIF Grantee Updates
Adalah (see Appendix 2 for more details)
- A December 2011 High Court of Justice decision (HCJ 3292/07) rejected a petition by Adalah (and Palestinian NGO Al-Haq), which alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza in 2004. Judge Dorit Beinish wrote, “The comprehensive petition, and the severe allegations in it, do not lay out a factual or legal basis appropriate for a practical and concrete review… It appears to be an attempt to use the court…” Judge Elyakim Rubinstein added, “What is hiding behind the legal, scholarly disguise..., is it not that its real purpose is de-legitimizing the state of Israel, while threatening...to employ ‘universal jurisdiction’” (emphasis added). The threats in the petition clearly contradict NIF’s policy in opposition to “lawfare.”
- On April 5, 2012, as part of events in advance of the London “Palestine Film Festival 2012”, Adalah’s Suhad Bishara reportedly discussed “threats faced by the Palestinian population today with Amnesty UK campaign manager Kristyan Benedict.” During Bishara’s talk, Benedict posted Twitter messages: “Suhad giving excellent & concise overview of the #Nakba to set context for the demolitions & proposed evictions happening now” and “Suhad Bishara from Adalah says the ‘Prawer Law’ establishes a ‘new military regime in Israel’” (emphasis added). Amnesty UK and Benedict have records of extreme rhetoric and anti-Israel advocacy.
- Bishara was advertised as a speaker for a February 14, 2012 event organized by a Swiss group named “BDS Geneva” under the title “The policy of Apartheid in Israel: The new racist laws.” Following criticism of Adalah, NIF released a statement claiming that “Adalah and its representatives are not participating in the event.”
- This BDS event in Geneva coincided with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD) review of Israel. Adalah’s submission to this clearly biased international framework included allegations that Israeli laws and policies “permit and even actively promote racial discrimination.” Adalah attorney Orna Kohn appeared before the committee, accusing Israel of enacting “over 40 discriminatory laws against Palestinian citizens of Israel” (emphasis in the original) and “profound discrimination” against the “indigenous Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel.”
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement
- According to the NIF website, “The Democracy Defense Fund – Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement” is an NIF grantee, but details on funding are not provided.
- In March 2012, a poster depicting a jar of Vaseline, as a crude metaphor for Israel allegedly being “raped” by “settlers,” was published on the official Facebook page of Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity. The text of the poster reads, “If they were residents of Haifa, Beer Sheva or Ashdod they would be in jail. But they are settlers. So shut up, bend down, swallow, you probably know that you want it.” Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity removed the poster after harsh criticism from some of its members.
- This poster generated major controversy in Israel, and Ha’aretz published an exposé on sexual harassment within “leftist organizations.” The article detailed assaults against participants in Sheikh Jarrah rallies. The article also discussed a feminist “outcry” after “Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity issued a message requesting that the female activists arrive to the protests dressed in a manner that is considerate toward the residents.” This is not the NIF position for other communities with dress codes for women, and is seen as hypocritical.
- The relationship between Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity – which is neither registered as a legal non-profit (amuta) nor transparent in its funding – and the Democracy Defense Fund is unclear. Due to the non-transparent nature of this relationship, it is unclear whether this meets NIF funding guidelines.
- +972Mag, which is receiving $60,000 from NIF in 2012, is a website that publishes bloggers on the fringe of Israeli discourse. NIF claims that it funds this site because of its “progressive view of domestic issues and Israel’s foreign relations.”
- +972Mag published a cartoon (“The hater in the sky,” Eli Valley, May 14, 2012) depicting Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu raping President Barack Obama and eating his limbs.
- A number of +972Mag’s bloggers have invoked the immoral and false “apartheid” analogy. In a February 2012 interview in The Nation, Noam Sheizaf, +972Mag’s editor-in-chief, referred to Jerusalem as an “apartheid city.” Other bloggers support a one-state solution and are active in organizations such as Ta’ayush, an anarchist group that provokes violent confrontations with soldiers.
- This funding originates with NIF’s “Social Justice Fund” (also known as the Ford Israel Fund, in partnership with the Ford Foundation). Justification for support of an English language publication targeting an international audience that promotes vitriolic anti-Israel rhetoric is entirely inconsistent with the stated aims of this funding mechanism: “Supporting activities designed to get the peace process back on track, advance unresolved final status issues; promote broad public discussion and constituencies within Israel for these options; and enhance Israeli's [sic] knowledge of Palestinian society.”
- Op-ed signed by a member of the NIF International Council (March 6, 2012) referred to NGO Monitor as “ultra-nationalist ideologues [who] are really after a state without Arab citizens…” “Instead, the mouthpieces for the extreme right that attempt to preserve a veneer of respectability, like NGO Monitor, opine that it should be illegal for Adalah and other NGOs to receive funding from democracies abroad (using the same arguments that the Egyptian and Russian governments, those paragons of democracy, are using these days.)” [These claims are entirely false.]
- NIF’s press release on criticism following publication of a poster advertising Adalah’s scheduled participation in an Israel apartheid/ BDS event in Geneva (February 9, 2012): “NGO Monitor (which is apparently behind this smear campaign) seems to be seeking to stifle the exposure of racial discrimination. Their success would handicap Israel’s capacity to live up to core Jewish and democratic values.”
- In response to the Wikileaks revelation that a senior NIF official did not think that “the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic,” instead of apologizing, NIF put out a statement (September 6, 2011) libeling Professor Gerald Steinberg as having a “goal of shutting down dissenting voices in Israel.”
NIF Study Tour and Polarization
Appendix 1: NIF authorized grants for political advocacy NGOs engaged in delegitimization campaigns in 2009-2010
For detailed analysis of the activities and agendas of each group, see
||NIF Grants 2009
||NIF Grants 2010
|Arab Forum for Sexuality
|Breaking the Silence
|Coalition of Women for Peace
|Israel Social TV (Syncopa Community)
|Machsom Watch (Women's Fund for Human Rights)
|Negev Coexistence Forum
|Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
|Women Against Violence
Appendix 2: Details on 2010 NIF grants that violate stated funding guidelines and policies
Adalah – authorized $475,950 in 2010.
- Rejecting Jewish self-determination: Adalah’s “Democratic Constitution” (2007) calls for replacing the Jewish state with a “democratic, bilingual and multicultural” framework and for a redefinition of the “symbols of the state,” and would restrict Jewish immigration solely for “humanitarian reasons.”
- Lobbying for pressure against Israel: – In February 2011, lobbied the EU to “Raise its concerns regarding the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel at the highest political level, as well as in all bilateral relations with Israel...Condition the upgrade of its relations with Israel, including any new bilateral agreement, on tangible improvements in the human rights situation in the OPT and in Israel.”
- Sanctions: In lobbying for the Goldstone Report and its recommendations, particularly in UN and European frameworks, Adalah issued a press release urging governments to “re-evaluate their relationship with Israel.”
- Apartheid rhetoric - Officials wrote and edited large portions of a May 2009 pseudo-academic study that refers to “a colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid.” The report delegitimizes Israeli self-defense measures as “inhumane act[s] of apartheid...perpetrated in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another.” The publication was published in conjunction with Al Haq, a Ramallah-based NGO whose General Director, according to the Israeli Supreme Court, is a “senior activist” in the PFLP terrorist organization.
- Lawfare - In 2009, submitted an affidavit to a Spanish court, supporting the Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ attempt to have seven Israeli officials arrested and prosecuted for “war crimes.”
- Defending those convicted of security offenses: Labeled convicted Hezbollah spy Amir Makhoul “a political activist and human rights defender,” and implied that his arrest was linked to “attacks against human rights organizations in Israel working to defend Palestinian rights” (May 10, 2010). Adalah lawyer Abir Baker, who was defending another individual engaged in contacts with Hezbollah, told a reporter that the case should be seen “in the context of efforts by Israel to limit the right of Arab citizens to strengthen cultural and political ties to the rest of the Arab world. Several of Israel’s Arab political parties, including the one Mr. Said belongs to, have been trying to inform the Arab world about the minority’s campaign for democratic reforms to end Israel’s status as a Jewish state...Israel wants to make us invisible” (September 22, 2010).
Breaking the Silence – authorized $152,540 in 2010.
- Demonizing rhetoric: As part of an exhibit at the Army Museum in Stockholm in March 2011, Itamar Shapira, a member of the organization, stated: “We are the oppressors, we are the ones that are violating human rights on a daily basis. We are creating the terror against us, basically... This is a war against civilians, a war against society” (emphasis added).
- Claims that the testimonies the NGO collects “portray a…grim picture of questionable orders in many areas regarding Palestinian civilians [that] demonstrate the depth of corruption which is spreading in the Israeli military.”
- “War crimes” rhetoric: The NGO was active in promoting “war crimes” charges against Israel after the Gaza fighting in January 2009. These charges were based on anonymous and unverifiable hearsay “testimonies.”
- Flotillas: Breaking the Silence members and anti-Israel activists Yonatan and Itamar Shapira were on the “Jews for Justice for Palestinians” boat “Irene,” which sought to violate Israel’s security-based policies regarding naval traffic into Gaza (September 2010).
- Violating mandate to demonize Israel internationally: Although claiming to address Israeli society, the NGO’s lobbying and media advocacy focus on international audiences, including presentations in Europe and the United States. Yehuda Shaul, BtS co-founder, defended this practice: “Sometimes, when you want to deliver messages to the inside, you must go outside.”
Yesh Din – authorized $38,866 in 2010.
- Lawfare: In its reports, activities, and partnerships, Yesh Din attempts to portray Israel and its security forces as unaccountable to the rule of law. This is part of a wider “lawfare” strategy of pressing legal cases against Israeli officials in foreign courts and in the International Criminal Court (ICC) – as exemplified in the NGO-Goldstone process.
- “War crimes” rhetoric: In 2011-2013, Yesh Din is undertaking a €234,000 project “To change Israeli policy vis-a-vis criminal accountability of Israeli Security Forces Personnel in the occupied Palestinian Territories, in such a way that acknowledges and takes into account the severity and the different nature of War Crimes, as distinguished from regular, domestic crimes” (emphasis added).
- Goldstone Report: After the 2008-2009 Gaza War, seven Israeli NGOs (all NIF grantees) including Yesh Din submitted a joint report to the Goldstone Commission claiming that “Israel’s failure to conduct an independent investigation of the totality of events, there is also a systemic-intrinsic flaw in the investigation of concrete events.” According to the NGOs, this “failure to investigate instances in which civilians were wounded or killed has led to a sense of impunity and immunity from sanctions among soldiers and commanders.”
Mada al-Carmel – authorized $100,000 in 2010.
- Rejecting Jewish self-determination: Mada al-Carmel claims that there is a “Palestinian consensus within the Green Line against accepting the legitimacy of the Jewish State... The global spread of political discourse of two states for two peoples – a Palestinian state and a Jewish state – is regrettable” (December 2009).
- The organization co-authored the “Haifa Declaration” (2007), which calls for a “change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state” and accuses Israel of “exploiting” the Holocaust “at the expense of the Palestinian people.”
- Demonizing graphics: Mada al-Carmel, along with Women against Violence and the Arab Forum for Sexuality were part of the international “One Day One Struggle” campaign (November 2009). Publicity included a poster portraying an Israeli soldier reaching suggestively toward a Palestinian woman, alongside the caption: “Her husband needs a permit to touch her. The occupation penetrates her life everyday!”
- In contrast to Mada al-Carmel, which maintained its level of funding, the 2010 grant for Women against Violence was $88,000, down from $322,000 in 2009. Arab Forum for Sexuality did not receive funding in 2010.
Coalition Women for Peace (CWP) – authorized $20,130 in 2010