Response to Martin Indyk: The Truth About the New Israel Fund, The Australian Jewish Democratic Society, February 23, 2010

Dear Martin,

While I have known you for many years, and we often disagree, I did not expect you to join the campaign of personal attacks and hysteria launched in response to detailed analysis and legitimate concerns regarding the role of the New Israel Fund, on whose board you currently sit. I am also surprised by the many false claims you made under the banner of “The Truth about the New Israel Fund”.  Rather than engaging in more mud-slinging, I am drawing your attention to some of the basic errors of commission and omission in your highly emotional defense of NIF. For additional documentation, see NGO Monitor.

Indyk: NIF plays a unique role as the driving force behind positive social change in Israel and the defense of the human rights for all its citizens.  And it does so not just for Israeli Arabs but for every disadvantaged sector of Israeli society…

While NIF funds disadvantaged sectors in Israel, NIF also diverts approximately 20 percent of donor money to some 20 organizations that are primarily involved in demonization campaigns, as specified below. These NIF recipients publish attacks on Israel in English for foreign audiences; lobby the US, UK and other governments on Goldstone and related issues; actively participate in UN Human Rights Council attacks on Israel, etc.

Indyk: NIF does not support or fund divestment, boycott or sanction activities against the State of Israel.

Some of the examples of NIF recipients engaging in BDS-related campaigns:

A)    NIF grantee Coalition of Women for Peace ($285,509 in 2006-8) runs the “Who Profits?” divestment project, tracking corporations that “are directly involved in the occupation.” “Who Profits?” and therefore NIF had a major role in divestment in Norway and is pressing a similar project in the UK.
B)    NIF grantees Mossawa ($517,642 in 2006-8), Machsom Watch, and Coalition of Women for Peace signed a May 2009 letter to the Norwegian Government Pension Fund (NGPF), calling “upon the Norwegian people to join us in our efforts and to stop investing in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.” The letter accused Israeli and international corporations of “provid[ing] specifically designed equipment for the surveillance and repression of [the] Palestinian population through restrictions of movement and collective punishments.”
C)    Officials from Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I $503,537 in 2006-8) spoke at a conference held by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (Geneva, July 22-24). The focus of this conference was to formulate strategies for imposing boycotts and sanctions on Israel, as well as promoting “lawfare”.

Indyk: NIF opposes…ultra-nationalism in all its manifestations, both within Israel and among the nations and organizations that relate to Israel.

A)    Adalah’s ($1,045,292 in 2006-8) 2007 proposed constitution for Israel called for replacing the Jewish foundation with a “democratic, bilingual and multicultural” framework. This “Democratic Constitution” – based on the “a one-state solution” – would permit Jewish immigration only for “humanitarian reasons.” In other words, the Jewish state would cease to exist.
B)    Mossawa’s November 2006 position paper proposing a constitution for Israel, called for the eradication of the Israeli flag and national anthem, the right of the Arab minority to have a veto over matters of national import, and the immediate implementation of the Palestinian “Right of Return.”
C)    Mada al-Carmel ($450,000 in 2006-8) helped compose and publish the “Haifa Declaration,” a document that calls for a “change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state” and accuses Israel of “exploiting” the Holocaust “at the expense of the Palestinian people.”

Indyk: Inevitably, some of them, especially in the Arab sector, will take positions that, as an individual, I strongly oppose, since they cannot be expected to buy into every aspect of the Zionist narrative.  But I will at the same time strongly defend their right to speak out as long as it is in responsible ways.

We all agree on free speech, which, as you know, is a pillar of Israeli democracy. But the issue here is large-scale NIF funding that artificially amplifies the highly destructive voices, whose goal is to silence the “Zionist narrative”, to use your jargon. Using NIF donor money, these organizations contribute to demonization in the UN and elsewhere.

Indyk (on Im Tirtzu’s claims): The assertion that “without NIF there would be no Goldstone Report,” is based on bogus statistics. In fact, Goldstone based only 14% of his report – not 92% as claimed – on reports of Israeli human rights organization.  

The debate on the percentage of the Goldstone report based on NIF-funded NGOs is a diversion. The focus should be on wider UN-based demonization, including:

A)    Following the publication of the Goldstone Report, Adalah joined the Palestinian NGOs Al Mezan, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in a press release urging countries to “re-evaluate their relationship with Israel.”
B)    In 2009, a Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI – $48,888 in 2006-8) official testified in Geneva before the UN’s Goldstone inquiry on the Gaza war, referring to Israel’s “unacceptable collective punishment” and to Palestinian “martyrs.”

Indyk: That’s why NIF welcomes the proposed Knesset investigation into foreign sources of funding for Israeli NGOs, as long as all groups are investigated, across the spectrum, including for example, Mr. Steinberg’s NGO Monitor…

In contrast to this claim, NIF and its associated NGOs boycotted and sought to delegitimize discussion at the Knesset conference on transparency in foreign government funding of political NGOs, rather than presenting their views and engaging in civil debate. Regarding another Knesset initiative on NGO funding, the NIF website boasted of defeating this “inquiry”. (For the record, NGO Monitor has fully complied with Israeli reporting requirements for non-profit organizations, and does not receive any government funding.)

With regards,

Gerald M. Steinberg
President, NGO Monitor