NIF 2011 Funding: One Step Forward, One Step Back
August 31, 2012
- In late August 2012, the New Israel Fund (NIF), which supports numerous politicized Israeli NGOs, published its 2011 financial report with details of 2011 grants.
- NIF authorized grants worth approximately $17.1 million in 2011, a 4.3% increase from 2010. (See NGO Monitor’s report on 2010 grants [September 2011] and update [April/May 2012].)
- In 2011, 20% of funding (about $3.35 million – see chart below) went to Israeli groups involved in polarizing political advocacy, much of which is directed to non-Israeli audiences, in contrast to the stated objectives of influencing the internal Israeli debate.
- In 2011, Brian Lurie was selected to replace Naomi Chazan as president of NIF, effective July 2012. In an August 2 interview in Ha’aretz, Lurie stated that “NIF is anchored in Jewish values. Not extreme values, but central Jewish values.”
- However, the implementation of NIF’s advocacy guidelines (September 2010) is incomplete and inconsistent. The guidelines reject support for groups that seek “to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel, or to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel.”
- The 2011 report demonstrates an end to NIF funding for three NGOs that violated these guidelines – Mada al-Carmel, Al-Qaws, and Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) . NIF did not explain these changes or indicate what - if any - institutional measures have been taken to prevent a recurrence of funding in violation of NIF’s guidelines.
- New funding in 2011 includes three highly politicized and divisive NGOs: +972 Magazine, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (via Democracy Defense Fund), and Human Rights Defenders Fund. See below for more details on these organizations. Also, funding for Molad, headed by Avraham Burg and listed on NIF’s website among its 2011 grants, does not appear in the 2011 financial report.
- On August 19, 2012, +972 posted a pro-BDS report by CWP, calling for a boycott of the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava. The nature of the relationship between +972 and CWP, whose funding was cut off by NIF, is unclear.
- In addition, a number of NGOs involved in political activities, many related to demonization of Israel, continue to be funded by NIF.
NGO Monitor Recommendations
- NIF guidelines prohibiting grantees from engaging in BDS and other forms of demonization, particularly in non-Israeli frameworks, should be implemented consistently.
- Due to its major social and political impacts in Israel, and in accordance with the principles of democracy, accountability, and transparency, NIF should publish the details of grants to Israeli NGOs at the time these decisions are made, and not 18 months or more after the fact.
- Details of the NIF grant-making and evaluation processes should be subject to independent review, in order to learn lessons and correct errors that have led to funding for BDS-related organizations. This review should also consider the role of current and former board members who become grant recipients, as in the cases of Molad, Agenda, and Human Rights Defenders Fund, raising the potential for conflicts of interest.
- When funding is ended due to a violation of NIF guidelines regarding demonization, the details should be made public immediately in order to provide information for other funders, such as European governments, that often provide support based on the NIF’s endorsement. In the cases of CWP, Mada al Carmel, as well as earlier examples such as ICAHD, NIF ended funding suddenly and without explanation.
|NIF authorized grants for political advocacy NGOs in 2010-2011
For detailed analysis of the activities and agendas of each group, see http://www.ngo-monitor.org/ngo_index.php?letter=A
Blue = Newly Funded NGOs | Green = Funding Ended
||NIF Grants 2010
||NIF Grants 2011
|Breaking the Silence
|Coalition of Women for Peace
|Human Rights Defenders Fund
|Israel Social TV (Syncopa Community)
|Machsom Watch (Women's Fund for Human Rights)
|Negev Coexistence Forum
|Nine Seven Two (+972)
|Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
|Rabbis for Human Rights
|Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (via Democracy Defense Fund)
|The Arab center of Alternative Planning
New Polarizing NGO Funding in 2011
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (via Democracy Defense Fund) – authorized $162,430 in 2011.
- Democracy Defense Fund LTD is the legal entity for channeling funds to Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM), which is neither registered as a non- profit (amuta) nor transparent in its funding. Its website contains no financial information (budget, donors, etc.), but claims that “All donations go directly into on-the-ground activity,” including legal expenses.
- “Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity is an Israeli- Palestinian grassroots movement...[in a] struggle against the gross injustice and folly that has forced a number of Sheikh Jarrah’s Palestinian residents out of their homes and many others to live under the shadow of imminent eviction.”
- According to the organization, “The struggle in Sheikh Jarrah is a political one in which an Israeli settlement organizations [sic], with the support of the Israeli authorities, are trying to expel the Palestinian residents and replace them with Jewish settlers. However, the framework that is being used most frequently to further this goal is the Israeli legal system….”
- The movement is involved in protests in Al-Araqib, East Jerusalem, and in Area C of the West Bank.
- Sara Benninga, a central SJSM activist, accuses Israel of “fascism,” “ethnic discrimination against its residents,” “dispossess[ion] of individuals from one ethnic affiliation and privileges those of another,” “blatant injustice and discrimination,” and “national and racial prejudices.”
- 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 SJSM. 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 know that you want it.” SJSM 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.
– authorized $10,000 in 2011 (and $60,000 in 2012, according to +972)
- +972 is a blog with a narrow spectrum of contributors from the fringe of Israeli discourse. NIF funding for +972 originates with its “Social Justice Fund” (formerly 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.”
- On its website, NIF claims that it funds this site because of its “progressive view of domestic issues and Israel’s foreign relations”; in an email to NGO Monitor, NIF stated that “+972 obviously fulfills the criteria of promoting broad public discussion and constituencies.”
- On August 19, 2012, +972 posted a report by former NIF grantee Coalition of Women for Peace, calling for a boycott of the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava. Originally published in April 2012, the report explains that “Who Profits,” a project of Coalition of Women for Peace, was “Initiated with relation to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.” 
- +972 published a cartoon (“The hater in the sky,” Eli Valley, May 14, 2012) depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raping President Barack Obama and eating his limbs.
- A number of +972’s bloggers have invoked the immoral and false “apartheid” analogy. In a February 2012 interview in The Nation, Noam Sheizaf, +972’s editor-in-chief, referred to Jerusalem as an “apartheid city.”
Human Rights Defenders Fund – authorized $224,340 in 2011.
- The Human Rights Defenders Fund is a new NGO, claiming to “support non-violent activists working for democracy, liberty and equality, in Israel and the territory it occupies…deliver legal aid to those who need it most and provide donors with the confidence that their funds are disbursed legally, responsibly and efficiently.”
- HRDF’s sole employee is Lizi Sagie, who is administrator of the fund. In April 2010 she resigned from B’Tselem after the organization came under pressure for statements made on her personal blog, including: “The IDF Memorial Day is a pornographic circus of glorifying grief and silencing voices,” “Israel is committing Humanity’s worst atrocities...Israel is proving its devotion to Nazi values...Israel exploits the Holocaust to reap international benefits.”
- Legal Counsel is Michael Sfard, who “Advises Board of Directors on (a) application of Aid Criteria when reviewing aid requests; and (b) contracts” and “Monitors and assesses performance of attorneys receiving aid.” In what appears to be a conflict of interest, Sfard is the attorney for a group of defendants receiving funds through HRDF.
- HRDF advisory board, board of directors and shareholders, are composed of the co-founders of Yesh Din, which retains Michael Sfard Law Office as legal counsel, and also former members of Bimkom, ACRI and PHR-I – all NIF major grantees.
- The HRDF website lists three instances in which its funds were used, including for legal expenses for the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (in addition to funding via the Democracy Defense Fund, see above). This, then, represents another channel for NIF funding for SJSM.
- In addition, according to news reports, HRDF attempted to raise 100,000 NIS to defend a number of individuals in a libel suit filed after they created a Facebook page titled “Im Tirzu – Fascists.” It is unclear what a private libel lawsuit has to do with “non-violent activists working for democracy, liberty and equality.”
 In May 2011, NIF ended its funding relationship with CWP, announcing that CWP was “no longer on the list of approved donor-advised organizations.” NIF’s financial report reveals that, in 2011, NIF transferred $6,000 to CWP that had been authorized in 2010, as well as an additional $125 from 2011.
 In correspondence with NGO Monitor, NIF Communications Director Naomi Paiss detailed the flow of funds to +972: “the Social Justice Fund is what used to be known as the Ford Israel Fund and is funded solely by Ford. The 2011 grant to +972 came via the Institute for International Education (IIE), which administers a small travel grants program on behalf of the Social Justice Fund.”
 In May 2011, NIF ended its funding relationship with CWP, announcing that CWP was “no longer on the list of approved donor-advised organizations.” CWP’s support for and involvement in BDS activism was the primary cause for the criticism of NIF’s affiliation with CWP. Yet, +972 posted a CWP-BDS report, which was originally published months earlier, two days after NIF posted its financials that confirm NIF’s funding for +972.