In December, the New Israel Fund (NIF), in partnership with Ha’aretz, will hold a “Conference on Peace. On Democracy. On Social Justice” in New York. This gathering, according to NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch, is supposed to provide a platform for “a frank Israeli-American discussion” about issues relating to Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity. However, without proper introspection from NIF regarding its support for groups that contribute to the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, this gathering will be counterproductive.
NIF is a massive organization that supports multiple, varying efforts, including positive projects and initiatives that contribute to Israeli society. However, some of the NGOs backed by Jewish-American donations stray far from the NIF’s stated objectives of constructive engagement and progressive values.
NIF’s most visible grantees in Israel are fringe political groups such as Breaking the Silence, Adalah, and B’Tselem – organizations that, during the recent wave of terror attacks against Israelis, minimized the threats facing Israeli citizens and repeated Palestinian narratives of Israeli guilt.
Given all of these problems, and more, it is not surprising that many in Israel do not see the NIF as a positive force, to understate the case. For them, Sokatch’s claim that the NIF will “engage in honest debate about Israel’s most difficult issues” rings hollow while the fund’s grantees continue to demonize Israel.
The planned NIF session, with its partners, participants, and backers, has the opportunity to truly impact the future of Israel for the better. However, potential isn’t enough. For change to happen, it must start from within – and the first step is asking tough, introspective questions.