The pseudo-poll and headline published by Haaretz on Oct. 23 is now generally acknowledged as a major mistake. The poll’s manipulative methodology and shallow questions have been dissected in newspaper columns and talk shows across the Israeli spectrum. Haaretz was forced to publish a correction, which was largely hidden, and Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote a minimal retraction.
However, a great deal of damage has been done outside Israel, where this farce was used to further the campaign of anti-Israel political warfare and demonization. The British Guardian and Independent, the Canadian Globe and Mail and Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald ran the story accompanied by headlines as misleading as the headline on the original Haaretz piece: “Many Israelis support apartheid-style state, poll suggests,” and “The new Israeli apartheid.”
The poll that generated such attention was flawed in many dimensions. In Maariv, Ben-Dror Yemini details many of the false claims and absurd statements it contains. And in Haaretz, former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Yehuda Ben-Meir emphasized that the actual conclusion to be drawn from the poll results was “exactly the opposite of what’s written in the article’s headline” and that the majority of Israelis were “unwilling to live in a country with an apartheid regime.” As a “push” poll used for crude political manipulation, and involving only 503 people, this survey was driven by clear political objectives.
These activities are an integral part of an ongoing campaign that began in the NGO Forum of the U.N.’s 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The crudely anti-Semitic event was described by the late Congressman Tom Lantos as “an anti-American and anti-Israel circus.” In alliance with the Arab League and Iran, 5,000 officials from 1,500 “civil society organizations” that use the banner of human rights, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, adopted a declaration accusing Israel of “apartheid and ethnic cleansing” and adopted a strategy of “complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state … the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links.” It is in this context that the poll, the headlines that followed (based on an equally misleading press release) and those responsible for it must be understood.
The pseudo-poll is another form of attack in this political war to demonize Israel. Responsibility for the attack, beyond Haaretz, lies with Amiram Goldblum, a founder of Peace Now, who runs the Yisraela Goldblum Fund (named after his late wife), which paid for costs, under the wider framework of the non-profit group known as “Signing Anew.” This funding, in turn, was provided by the New Israel Fund, and Goldblum is a member of NIF’s International Council.
In addition, according to Goldblum’s press release, the “questions” used in this transparent political stunt were formulated by individuals closely connected to the NIF, the Durban Strategy and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Attorney Michael Sfard is legal counsel for a number of Israeli politicized civil society groups involved in this immoral campaign, and Alon Liel (married to NIF’s Executive Director in Israel, Rachel Liel) has expressed his support for so-called “targeted” boycotts in the Guardian and in the South African media. Mordechai Bar-On and Ilan Baruch are also members of the NIF’s International Council.
Everyone connected with this travesty shares responsibility for the immense political damage that has been caused. Goldblum, in particular, owes the Israeli public an apology. And just as the NIF takes credit when its grantees impact positively on Israel, so too, must they take responsibility when its grantees like this do serious damage.
Gerald M. Steinberg is president of Jerusalem-based research institution NGO Monitor and is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.