This correspondence is in reference to NGO Monitor’s report, Update on New Israel Fund (NIF) – April 2012
New Israel Fund (NIF)
We appreciate NIF’s largely substantive response to NGO Monitor’s recent analysis of NIF activities, and see this as an important first step towards long overdue constructive dialogue.
We also welcome the expression of regret for the major error regarding NGO Monitor in the op-ed published under the name of an NIF International Council member, and your admission that NIF “advised the author of the piece regarding that issue.” This is a step in the right direction towards focusing on substance and not on empty labels.
However, your response to our recent analysis again includes highly misleading characterizations of NGO Monitor. As opposed to viewing Israeli society through the simplistic narrative of Left vs. Right, we see a more complex and less polarized spectrum. While the NIF defines itself as part of the progressive Zionist Left, this does not mean criticism of NIF’s funding practices must automatically come from the Right, or that it represents opposing “values and assumptions.” In providing an independent analysis of NIF and other groups, we focus precisely of those activities and grants that are inconsistent with – to quote NIF’s website – “a vision of Israel as both the Jewish homeland and a shared society at peace with itself and its neighbors.”
Regarding NIF’s responses on grantee funding, some points were relevant. But on many issues, you ignored key questions, mischaracterized others, or shifted the focus to unrelated matters. Perhaps in reviewing the questions and contradictions on NIF funding for NGOs such as Adalah, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJMJ), and +972mag, you will be able to provide more a substantive answer.
In particular, we note that:
On Adalah, the evidence clearly demonstrates that the content of their High Court petition alleging war crimes in Gaza is part of the delegitimization campaign. In our report, NGO Monitor specifically referred to Adalah’s threats to use universal jurisdiction if the Israeli Court did not find in its favor. NIF’s response did not address Adalah’s ongoing and related activities that clearly contradict NIF’s guidelines prohibiting involvement in “lawfare.” Your answer also ignores additional dimensions of this case:
- As a result of Adalah’s repeated references to universal jurisdiction, the HCJ (including Chief Justice Beinish) concluded, “for reasons known only to the petitioners, they chose in their arguments to present a detailed address on the topic of universal jurisdiction. This topic has no relevance to the hearing in front of this court, or any relevance whatsoever to the case at hand, and these claims and the way they were stated had the character of a veiled ‘threat’ on the respondents and even on the court, and it would have been better had the petitioner chosen not to voice them” (emphasis added).
- One of Adalah’s partners in the petition, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), had already attempted to initiate foreign “lawfare” proceedings in the UK and Switzerland against Israeli officials for similar allegations. This and similar Adalah NGO partnerships are not consistent with NIF’s guidelines.
Discrimination against Arab Israeli citizens of Israel: NIF’s allegation that NGO Monitor denies that there is any discrimination against Israeli-Arabs is false and defamatory, and a diversion from the substantive questions on NIF funding for Adalah. The point that NIF has repeatedly failed to address is that actions to eradicate discrimination in no way offset or justify Adalah’s rhetoric and participation in frameworks that delegitimize and demonize Israel.
Moreover, such activities promote the view that “Israel cannot and will not change itself.” But, as you note, this attitude is “inflammatory and counter-productive… it would be easy to give up on Israel’s ability to reform itself from within.”
In light of Adalah’s repeated rejection of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, its calls for activists to “portray Israel as an inherent undemocratic state” and to “use that as part of campaigning internationally,” and cooperation with “lawfare” cases, NIF’s continued support for this NGO is clearly inconsistent with its funding guidelines and principles.
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM) poster: In our report, we describe one offensive poster, not two, and your response on this point was irrelevant. Additionally, NIF was absent from the outcry by feminist groups in response to the use of rape imagery to describe settlers and settlements. Instead, NIF’s role was to circulate a (defamatory) statement on behalf of SJSM, attacking NGO Monitor. We hope that such uncivil behavior will not be repeated.
The evidence also indicates that the issue of assaults against women at left-wing protests, including those taking place near the security barrier, has not been on the agenda of NIF or its grantees. It appears that the approach of human rights organizations to violence and harassment of women is selective. As noted in our report and in Ha’aretz, SJSM responded to harassment of women at its rallies by further segregating women from the public sphere by “requesting that the female activists arrive to the protests dressed in a manner that is considerate toward the residents.” This is the opposite of NIF’s in-your-face, antagonistic campaign, conducted less than two miles away, in response to the efforts to exclude women from public spaces in Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
We urge you to respond to this important issue.
SJSM’s amuta status: Your claims regarding the relationship between SJSM and Democracy Defense Fund require verification. Nowhere on its website or Facebook page does SJSM identify itself as the alter ego of the Democracy Defense Fund. If SJSM is indeed the same entity as the Democracy Defense Fund, Israeli law requires that this declaration appear on the organization’s website and all publications. This is part of the wider absence of transparency related to SJSM. SJSM’s website also does not include names of board members, leaders, staff, or financial information.
Funding for +972mag: Your response fails to address the key question raised in our report: in what manner is funding for +972mag consistent with the specific criteria of NIF’s “Social Justice Fund” as delineated on your website?
New York Times ad: After we had sent you our draft report, NIF-Israel’s version of the campaign appeared in Ha’aretz. As we noted in our published report, “The NIF-Israel version of this campaign is radically different, primarily focusing on NIF’s positive contributions.” The sharp distinction in substance and tone reinforces our analysis of the negativity of the American version. It is a shame that the NIF did not choose to run the positive version, which promotes NIF without being divisive, in The New York Times.
We welcome NIF response’s to these points and hope to continue and expand our exchange on these critical issues – before or at the time that NIF’s 2011 financial statements are released, when we plan to issue our next analysis.
cc: Gerald Steinberg, President, NGO Monitor
Daniel Sokatch, CEO, New Israel Fund