The central roles of radical non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in BDS campaigns, and the contribution of their funder-enablers, including hostile European officials and private donors, are intensely debated in Israel. With an annual budget of some $30 million, the New Israel Fund (NIF) is the largest single source of foreign money and political influence on Israeli society. As a result, criticism of NIF’s agendas, its secrecy, and its mistakes is growing among centrist Israelis who view war and peace as complex and not subject to simple ideological formulae. This criticism is reflected in the US, including over the Israel parade, although, as on many Israel-related issues, the allegations are often exaggerated and confused.
NGO Monitor is a Jerusalem-based research organization, and we do not take a position on who should march in parades, or the limits of the “big Zionist tent” in New York. And while about 80 percent of NIF’s budget goes to internal Israeli social and economic issues, the rest is problematic, and more. With the other 20 percent, the NIF has made many mistakes, providing legitimacy and funding for BDS campaigns based on the “1948 agenda”, which rejects Israel’s legitimacy regardless of borders.
Dalit Baum, a radical leader of global BDS activity (who recently wrote the divestment resolution at Loyola University of Chicago), was funded via the NIF through the Coalition of Women for Peace. Years after NGO Monitor’s documentation, the NIF quietly ended this role, and the damage was done. And while they later adopted our proposed guidelines banning BDS activities, these are not enforced consistently. Groups like Breaking the Silence, +972, Adalah and others still contribute to demonization, as documented in NGO Monitor’s most recent report and analysis. NIF-funded groups also led the attack against the Israeli compromise legislation designed to resolve the intense conflict over land ownership and the Negev Bedouin claims.
The problems are compounded by the NIF’s military secrecy (such as in the closed February board meeting in Israel) so that major mistakes are hidden for at least two years after the money starts to flow.
As a result of the growing charge-sheet, the protests and anger directed against the NIF are also increasing in Israel, and have spread to the US, where most of the money is raised. In response, the NIF has stonewalled and attacked critics, which has only fanned the flames. Instead, the NIF leadership would be well-advised to acknowledge past mistakes, open its doors to other views, and engage in a responsible discussion over the role outside funders should have on Israel’s most complex and divisive issues.