The leaders of the New Israel Fund have demonstrated many instances of very poor judgment, as the detailed analyses published in Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor reports clearly show. Many NIF grants are influenced by radicals whose private agendas have been overwhelmingly rejected by Israeli voters, and for good reason. As a result, Israelis are alienated, view the NIF as an attempt to manipulate the fragile social fabric, and the impact is often negligible or counter-productive.
For example, the large scale NIF support for what are often termed "civil rights" groups seeks to imposes the American experience on the very different reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Adalah, Mossawa, the Arab Human Rights Association (HRA), Hamoked, and others campaign against Israel in the United Nations and around the world using terms such as "racist" and "apartheid" -- this is not in any sense a "civil rights" movement, but rather the Durban strategy of demonization, including boycotts and sanctions. And ongoing funding for the political activities of "Machsom Watch" furthers erase the context of terror and Israel's right to self-defense. Similarly, NIF provided funding for Jeff Halper -- a fringe Israeli who accompanies Naim Ateek, the leader of the radical Palestinian group known as Sabeel, at conferences promoting the one-state solution and boycotts. NIF has halted support for Halper and his ICAHD group, but the damage has been done.
Although NIF belatedly halted the fellowship award to Shamai Leibowitz following statements on boycotts and use of demonization rhetoric, this record shows a fundamental failure in the NIF decision making process and leadership. And instead of admitting mistakes and learning from them by opening up the process to debate and constructive informed criticism, NIF leaders have employed witch hunts against imagined enemies through alliances with "Muzzlewatch"-- a particularly scurrilous blog. In the process, the good that NIF-funded projects accomplish for Israelis in areas outside the radical political agenda is often invisible.
The NIForum is a timid response to the growing dissatisfaction and criticism from NIF donors -- the Forum pretends to provide the missing transparency, accountability, and public debate, but the lineup of speakers is "the same old same old" who are part of the NIF power structure. If they were serious, NIF leaders would hold a really open Forum, and welcome the long-overdue public debate.