Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF)
|In their own words||“HRDF saw its calling to help human rights defenders struggling to finance legal actions” following “increasing violations of the liberties of individuals and organizations peacefully defending human rights in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories, as well as attempts to silence the voices of condemnation and protest through legislation and aggressive military and police policy.”|
- In 2021, total income was NIS 1.6 million; total expenses were NIS 1.5 million.
- Donors include: Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Spain (AECID), Cordaid (Netherlands), HEKS-EPER (Germany), New Israel Fund, and DanChurchAid (Denmark).
- Based on financial information submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, in accordance with the Israeli NGO transparency law, HRDF received NIS 5,268,908 from foreign governmental bodies in 2012-2022. (See chart below for detailed funding information.)
- According to annual reports, donations from foreign governments comprised 95.7% of total donations from 2017-2019.
- In 2017-2021, the New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $815,736 to HRDF.
- HRDF “operates a hotline for emergency assistance, and provides legal counsel and representation for all types of legal proceedings: from on-call lawyers during protest activities, assistance during arrest and detentions by the police, military or security services, to representation in court trials, and more.”
- Since 2015, HRDF has led a “project designed to assist and support activists by promoting freedom of expression and the right to protest.” The project is a collaboration between HRDF, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, The Forum for Coexistence in the Negev, Tmura- the Israeli Anti-Discrimination Legal Center, and Shatil.
- The project includes photography and other courses, an app designed to provide immediate legal assistance in urgent cases, and camera leases. Additionally, the project includes free courses that train protestors to photograph members of Israeli security forces.
- According to the British Shalom Salaam Trust, HRDF provides legal representation to East Jerusalem teenagers accused of stone throwing.
- HRDF readily admits that “[p]reference will be given in allocating resources to finance the criminal cases against community leaders who are human rights defenders and active in the struggle against human rights abuses towards the Palestinians in the West Bank.”
- HRDF has funded “legal aid and defense to HRDs who face different forms of legal persecution” including “Israeli and Palestinian HRDs who participate in nonviolent protests against the Israeli occupation in the West-Bank; HRDs fighting for the rights of indigenous Bedouins in the Negev/Naqab desert in Israel; HRDs fighting for LGBTQ rights; Israelis of Ethiopian origin faced with police brutality and racism; and many more.”
- In February 2022, HRDF signed a statement defending a report published by Amnesty International accusing Israel of apartheid. According to the statement, “The debate around the crime of apartheid of which Israel is accused, and its geographical scope, is not only legitimate, but absolutely necessary. We wholeheartedly reject the idea that Amnesty International’s report is baseless, singles out Israel or displays antisemitic animus.”
- In January 2022, HRDF was a signatory on a statement condemning the decision by the Israeli Ministry to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. The statement called on the donors of the designated NGOs to “maintain and even increase their funding…Defunding the designated NGOs based on unsubstantiated allegations and designations will cause irreparable damage to Palestinian civil society at large and would undermine decades of humanitarian and human rights work.”
- In October 2021, HRDF was a signatory on a statement referring to the designations as a “draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work.”
- On February 5, 2016, HRDF participated in “Blacklisted: Israeli Artists and NGOs for Human Rights and Peace,” a festival “to send a message that silencing, shaming and blacklisting Israelis who oppose — and speak out against — the occupation of the Palestinian territories will not work.”
- In referring to a 2014 report by Yesh Din(an NGO closely affiliated with HRDF, see below), Biblash stated, “It is time to announce MIP [Military Investigative Police] as an invalid mechanism and stop the cooperation with its false and cover-up investigations and invest in an outside, trusty investigation mechanism with a clear and broad mandate. And of course, in dismantling the Israeli apartheid regime.” (September 15, 2014).
- Omri Metzer, HRDF Executive Director, formerly served as the coordinator of the Freedom of Movement section at HaMoked and a researcher for Breaking the Silence.
- Attorney Michael Sfard provides legal counsel for HRDF, Yesh Din, and Breaking the Silence.
- Sfard “[a]dvises the Board of Directors [of HRDF] on application of Aid Criteria when reviewing aid requests and reviews contracts” and“[m]onitors and assesses performance of attorneys receiving aid.”
- Michael Sfard claims, “If war crimes are committed and an apartheid system is being deployed under our eyes, it is the moral duty of a citizen of the country responsible, to combat this, even if it means using external legal means.”
- Sfard worked with Al-Haq, a leading anti-Israel “lawfare” NGO funded by European governments, on a failed lawsuit filed in Canada seeking a judicial declaration of Israel’s guilt in committing “war crimes” and deeming the security barrier illegal.
- On May 6, 2016, Sfard presented Yesh Din’s data on “law enforcement regarding ideologically motivated crime[s]” to the UN Security Council. The representative of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) to the UN tweeted that Sfard claimed that “settlers violence is aimed at coercive demog[raphic] change by evicting Palestinians.”
- In what appears to be a conflict of interest, Sfard was the attorney for a group of defendants receiving funds through the HRDF.
- Alma Biblash, HRDF Executive Director, was also an activist in the Sheikh Jarakh Solidarity Movement and the Israeli NGO Coalition of Women for Peace, a leader of BDS campaigns against Israel.
- Biblash has referred to Israel as “racist” and “murderous,” as well as a “temporary Jewish apartheid state.” Biblash also supports BDS campaigns and promotes the Palestinian “right of return,” meaning the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. (Click here for more details).
- During the 2014 Gaza war, Biblash wrote a post on Facebook, demanding “end the occupation from Jordan to the sea.”
- In May 2014, Biblash wrote an article for +972 Magazine titled “Who’s afraid of the right of return?” stating that “Implementing the right of return is the just solution both in terms of historical and present justice for Palestinian refugees. Approximately six million Palestinian refugees live across the world. There will be no justice until Israel recognizes its responsibility for the Nakba, and allows the dispossessed to return to their homes.” Biblash furthered that “This is our positive vision. The return of the refugees to their country, from the river until the sea, and a life of cohabitation in a country that is already shared by two nations.”
- HRDF’s board of directors includes co-founders of Yesh Din and former officials of B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Amnesty International, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, American Friends Service Committee, and Human Rights Watch.
- Ron Dudai, chair of the Board of Directors, was formerly a policy advisor for Amnesty International and former researcher at B’Tselem.
- Mooky Dagan is the co-founder and former board member of Yesh Din and of Akevot – The Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research.
- Sahar Vardi is the Israel Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
- Vardi previously worked for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement.
- Vardi has described the objectives of BDS: “in terms of profit, the real losses will not come from the boycott of products, but from divestment. That’s where the big money is. The last thing I’ll say about the BDS movement is that it’s fun. They’ve started using all these flash mobs and [other] cool activities. It accesses people who normally wouldn’t care. There are huge companies being affected, and [activists] are having fun.”
- In June 2018, Vardi participated in a Churches for Middle East Peace conference in Washington, sponsored by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P). The conference also featured representatives from various BDS organizations including American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP).
- DCI-P was represented by Farah Bayadsi, who also works for Addameer. Both DCI-P and Addameer have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.
- As a member of Addameer, Bayadsi formerly represented PFLP head Ahmed Sa’adat when he was on trial.
- In May 2015, Vardi was a signatory on a statement titled “From Israeli citizens to FIFA: Show Israel the red card now!” stating that “We are Israeli citizens, active against our government’s policies of racism, occupation, and apartheid. As the FIFA Congress gets underway, we would like to state clearly: Israeli apartheid, just like South African apartheid at the time, has no place in international football!”
- Meisa Irshaid is the co-founder and legal advisor for Gun Free Kitchen Tables, a project that “works to stem and reverse small arms proliferation, to advance gun control across the board…” in Israel.
- GFKT’s English website also reveals the group’s overt political orientation, explaining that “we also subvert basic principles of the endemic, masculinized militarization dominating government policies in Israel and underpinning the continued occupation of territories conquered in 1967.”
- In November 2018, GFKT petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice against new criteria for obtaining civilian and organizational firearms licenses. The petition ignores that the criteria were eased in 2016 for defensive purposes following a sharp increase in violent stabbing attacks targeting Israeli citizens.
Partial list of foreign donations (amounts in NIS)
Amounts based on financial reports submitted to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits.
|Bread for the World - EED (Germany)||44,129||7,753|
|Kurve Wustrow (Germany)||201,538||139,738|
|Medico International (Germany)||34,610|
All Articles about Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF)
- New Israel Fund Under Renewed Scrutiny Over Funding for Israeli NGO Led by Boycott Activist Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner, October 29,2014