The New Israel Fund’s director Eliezer Ya’ari recently denied charges that his fund, and its Shatil subsidiary, are exploiting the single mothers’ protest to promote a radical leftist and anti-Zionist political agenda, and that they have patronizingly imposed the un-elected Knafo group as “representative leadership”. He insisted that the NIF is “an a-political civic organization” assisting “social change” and human rights, providing a voice to weakened sectors.
Ya’ari never defines what kind of “social change” the NIF promotes, but the fact that almost all of the many organizations “Shatil” has spawned among immigrants and “development towns” residents espouse a radical leftist ideology, while none are centrist or right, makes it clear. Like all other NIF spokespersons, Ya’ari speaks in generalities, avoiding any concrete question that could reveal how his $ 25 million a year operation actually implements its noble goals and how cost effective it is. But the New Israel’s Fund website (www.newisraelfund.org) provides some factual answers.
In a section titled “Netanyahu’s Economic Plan” the NIF website concludes that the plan resulted in “the most regressive budget in Israel’s history…” and that it “stands to shred much of what remains of Israel’s social safety net”. It charges that the plan is “stripping the poorest Israelis of some of the last benefits they receive”.
This is sheer nonsense. Israel is spending over 25 billion dollars on transfer payments and other benefits for “the poor”, among the world’s highest and one of the budget’s biggest items.Any cut in bloated welfare costs is anathema to the NIF ideologues. Their faith is absolute, despite the fact that Israel is a prime example of the great damage excessive welfare has inflicted on the poor.
The website further charges that Netanyahu’s plan will ruin Israeli democracy, no less. It approvingly quotes Yuval Elbashan and Dr. Danny Guttwein, two academic radical leftists who charge that Netanyahu “will lead to the liquidation of the welfare state… that protects the democratic system (from becoming) a totalitarian state.”
So to protect democracy, “social change organizations…(over 1500 of them (!), many spawned or promoted by “Shatil”) are providing analysis and specific arguments against (Netanyahu’s) plan and leading the way to public mobilization and action”, the websites reports. The website’s bibliography does not list even one piece defending the plan. So much for pluralism.
Another section, devoted to “Shatil And The Coalitions”, explains that “Shatil is working closely with several “coalitions” to make their public protest, lobbying, advocacy and media activities effective, providing strategic advice and consulting to a broad spectrum of organizations, including new groups that have organized around (resistance to) the economic plan. This new set of partnerships includes work with the (parliamentary) opposition and the Histadrut. Members of Knesset opposed to the plan held an organizing conference in March… (with) social change organizations, including two Shatil coordinated coalitions”. “Many NIF grantees,” the NIF website adds, “are active in the coalition of women’s groups…” and in other similar “coalitions” that Shatil has been galvanizing to undermine the government’s plan. Most of these “coalitions” consist of NIF front organizations, often composed of a few paid “activists” that have been organized and funded by Shatil to promote its political agenda. One example is an “Unemployment Forum” that organizes anti-government demonstrations all over the country And this, the NIF would have us believe is apolitical work.
It is of course the perfect right of The NIF to try and convince the public that Netanyahu’s plan is dangerous. It is quite another matter, however, for a tax-exempt organization to organize political lobbying and advocacy groups together with the political opposition in order to defeat a plan promulgated by a democratically elected government, and force upon it by political agitation that sometimes leads to violence a radical leftist agenda which was not approved in the ballot box.
The use by NIF of vague generalities, half-truths and obfuscation to hide its particular political agenda is revealed in its website section devoted to “Arab Israelis”. “Even though the Netanyahu plan mostly makes cuts,” this website complains, “It includes NIS 56 million for a transfer program called ‘The Removal of Intruders’… It would… expedite the transfer of 70,000 Bedouins from unrecognized villages to seven ‘legal’ settlements…”
What the NIF does not reveal is that the Bedouin – who were so loyal to Israel that unlike other Israeli Arabs they volunteered to serve in the IDF – have been subjected in the last decade to intense anti-Israel indoctrination by Moslem extremists, and by radical Israeli anti-Zionist leftists from Ben-Gurion University. PLO sympathizers have incited the Bedouin to illegally seize large strategic tracts of Negev government land, and settle them with illegal “unrecognized settlements”, as the NIF euphemistically puts it.
Generous government aid to large families have made it profitable for many Bedouins, who spend very little on their children, to marry several wives, many Palestinian, and have scores of children. This has aggravated poverty and overcrowding. Israeli governments mishandling and neglect, bureaucratic heavy-handedness and the failure to impose the law made the situation so inflammatory that the government finally developed a fairly reasonable plan for the resettlement of the Bedouin living in those illegal “unrecognized settlements”. They were to be given land in what the NIF mocks as “legal” settlements, in inverted commas.
The New Israel Fund names this resettlement plan a “transfer”, a code word for the eviction of Israeli Arabs from their legally owned property that is advocated by some extreme right-wingers. Using brazen political incitement, the NIF first misrepresents a government program that tries to establish law and order and then it defames it as a “transfer”.
Worse, the NIF has organized and funded, by its own account, a new “coalition” of more than 30 Jewish and Arab organizations, the Together Forum. “The coalition is already battling a plan for the Negev proposed by Prime Minister Sharon” the website boasts. In other words, the NIF has organized and funded a political movement designed to assist Arab radicals who are illegally taking possession of government land in order to weaken Israeli sovereignty. And this it does in the name of social justice, it wants us to believe.
Such NIF aid to radical Arab causes is not an exception. Two NIF affiliated organizations, Adala and Kav La’oved went to Durban to defame Israel as a racist slave state, a calumny they keep spreading in many international fora. The putative human rights organizations spawned by The NIF, critics assert, focus on pillorying Israel for real and imagined human rights violations on the flimsiest evidence, while ignoring or whitewashing much more serious Arab violations. Vile attacks against Israel are often based on materials disseminated by these organizations.
One wonders whether NIF American and European contributors know that contributions made to ostensibly to promote equality and justice are really used to bash Israel and to advance a radical leftist and pro Palestinian agenda. One wonders what they think they have accomplished for Israel’s poor and weak by spending over $300 million on leftist political agitation, and on the promotion and perpetuation of a welfare system that for the last fifty years created in Israel a debilitating culture of poverty.
Several readers associated with the NIF have complained that my JP piece “Manipulating The Poor” was unfair. I thank them for motivating me to further explore the exploits of a fund that pretends to help the weakened strata but actually inflicts great harm on them by getting them more deeply mired in the culture of poverty while exploiting their plight in the service of the dated New Left radicalism of the sixties.