The Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah Movement, a centrist religious Zionist organization, is under pressure to severe its relationship with the New Israel Fund (NIF). The Movement is a NIF grantee, and it has been criticized as a “fig leaf” for NIF’s problematic funding of groups that delegitimize Israel. In response, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah issued a press release and a notice to members, highlighting consultations with Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor.

The Movement’s position regarding grants from the New Israel Fund (NIF)
Translated from the original Hebrew by NGO Monitor (emphasis added)

Press release

Issue: Donations

As a religious Zionist organization, the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah Movement again expresses its objection to any activity that might negate our right to a Jewish state in the land of Israel and our ability to defend it. The Movement functions independently and according to the Torah. We consulted the most senior experts in this field, including Professor Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO Monitor, which for many years has analyzed the foreign funding of social service organizations. In light of this, we were unequivocally convinced that the Movement’s activities do not, in any manner, constitute a “fig leaf” for [the NIF’s] fundraising efforts for organizations whose activities we object to.

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is a large organization whose branches fund a variety of areas and support hundreds of NGOs with differing goals. It is appropriate for us to focus our objection against the support of problematic organizations, which represent a quarter of the NIF’s total activities, rather than against the majority of other organizations that act in a legitimate manner…

Information for members:

We have been receiving many calls regarding the support that the NIF provides us with (in 2011, this support constitutes 11% of our budget, with a further 13% coming from other sources, via NIF).

Discourse on this very sensitive issue has been stained by significant demagoguery and half truths, and that is why I wish to speak clearly and directly on this matter:

First, the Movement’s activities are determined totally independently by its managing board, and the donating bodies do not have any influence on our priorities and activities. All of our actions are directed towards strengthening the Torah Va’Avodah values in Israeli public life, believing that these will (in turn) strengthen the Jewish and democratic identity of the State of Israel.

Second, the NIF donates to the Movement in the framework of its broader activity in the field of “Jewish pluralism,” and this support has been ongoing since the 1980s. As stated, we were never asked by NIF, even with a hint, to change the character of our activity, by any means.

Third, after we conducted an in-depth check by consulting experts in the field, including Professor Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO Monitor – which for many years has analyzed the foreign funding of social service organizations – we discovered that the NIF supports a long list of organizations and bodies, the majority of which are in the Israeli consensus. Some of the organizations are supported by the NIF together with the government of Israel and the local authorities. However, we are aware that the NIF has other branches, and that it assists bodies whose goals are different and even in opposition to ours and, needless to say, as a Zionist body we strongly object to any activity that undermines that status of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or its right to defend itself and the lives of its citizens. Nonetheless, we are opposed to “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” by staining all organizations and activities that are supported by the NIF.

In closing, I refer to the claim that is sometimes made, according to which the funding NIF grants organizations like ours constitutes a “fig leaf” for the funds it gives to other bodies, for the donors from which it obtains its funding, and also for the public. As I mentioned, the majority of the NIF’s support is directed to organizations that are within the Israeli consensus, therefore it is hard to agree with the claim that all of those organizations are a “fig leaf” for the support given to the small minority of other organizations. Second, our investigation showed that, in general, NIF donors are not misled into thinking that they donate to us while their money actually goes to other organizations. Third, it will not do us any harm if we will think of ourselves with the proper proportions: Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah Movement is an active and important movement in our eyes, and we strive to make it even more important and active, but it is not known to the majority of NIF’s donors, who are not Israeli or Orthodox, and therefore it cannot be considered a “fig leaf” for fundraising.

In general, we respect every substantive criticism against our activities and priorities as a movement, but at the same time we strongly refrain from any attempt to silence the religious-Zionist public and the general public by using non-substantive claims, and by the use of a threatening and aggressive discourse, as has occurred in this case.

Tehila Nachalon