Unclear Whether Organization Changing Policy Towards Groups that De-legitimize Israel

Jerusalem – Retractions, multiple messages, and overall confusion followed reports yesterday that the New Israel Fund (NIF) had adopted new grant guidelines stipulating that grantees will no longer be able to “deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel,” notes NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution.

In response to the initial report of new guidelines, NGO Monitor said that “NIF leadership is taking an important step by agreeing to adopt the substance of NGO Monitor’s ethical guidelines for funding political NGOs.”

“NIF is now sending mixed signals regarding these reported new guidelines,” says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor.  “We do not know whether these are old or new guidelines, or how they will be implemented. NIF clearly is having an internal debate about whether to continue funding groups that de-legitimize and demonize Israel.  This is an important debate, but it is muddied with unclear messages.”

JTA reported that NIF director Daniel Sokatch last week said that the guidelines’ language “would prohibit proposals for a binational constitution of the kind that two NIF grantees submitted several years ago.” The grantees in question, Adalah and Mossawa, co-wrote a manifesto in 2007 calling for Israel to abandon its definition as a Jewish state. Mada al-Carmel’s Haifa Declaration is similar. However, Itzik Shanan, the NIF’s director of communications, said that no changes to grant guidelines will be implemented. This was followed by Israeli NIF head Rachel Liel today on Israeli radio station “Reshet Bet” saying that NIF will not fund groups that act against Israel’s existence as a Jewish democratic state.

“If NIF is serious about funding transparency and severing ties with groups that de-legitimize Israel, then it is on the same page as NGO Monitor,” Steinberg added. “We expect NIF to implement these changes, and to clarify how and when the new grant guidelines will be enforced. NGO Monitor is prepared to work with NIF and its donors in the implementation of guidelines.”

NGO Monitor’s report on NIF grantees: NIF Has Crossed the Line, May 14, 2010