NIF official: “disappearance of a Jewish state would not be [a] tragedy”

JERUSALEM – A confidential cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv released by Wikileaks, contains controversial comments by a New Israel Fund (NIF) official, relating to Israel’s future as a Jewish state. The cable, which deals with NGO politics in Israel in the context of the Knesset’s Foreign Funding Transparency Bill, also highlights the anti-democratic agendas of political advocacy NGOs, according to Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor.

In the February 2010 cable, Hedva Radovanitz, speaking in the capacity as the NIF’s Associate Director in Israel, told U.S. embassy officials, “that she believed that in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.” (emphasis added)

“These comments from a high ranking NIF official reiterates the serious questions regarding NIF’s commitment to Jewish self-determination and Israel as a Jewish state,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “NIF is the most powerful non-governmental actor in Israel, and its policies affect millions of Israelis, without providing any accountability or checks and balances. When combined with NIF funding for and close cooperation with organizations that promote the political assault on Israel, this statement highlights the need for a complete change in NIF’s leadership and priorities.”

More broadly, the cable reflects the centrality of the lack of transparency regarding European government funding for Israeli political NGOs reflects, including their role in the “war crimes” accusations used in the discredited Goldstone report. NGO Monitor is quoted extensively in the analysis, demonstrating the impact on American government policy analysis. At the same time, the leaders of NGOs such as B’tselem, ACRI and Gisha (all part of the NIF network) admit that their organizations have no roots in Israeli society. On this aspect, Prof. Steinberg added that “In referring to a ‘lack of domestic constituency for the NGOs,’ NIF also highlights the democracy deficit of political advocacy NGOs – they better represent their European government funders than Israeli society.”

According to the cable, Radovanitz further stated that “NIF had no plans to build a human rights constituency within the right wing of Israeli society, though she believed politics had shifted to the right for the foreseeable future.” On this point, Prof. Steinberg added, “This reinforces extensive evidence that the current leadership of the NIF sees their primary function as a narrow political opposition group, rather promoting democratic and civic values in all sectors of Israeli society.”

NGO Monitor also notes that the cable identifies Radovanitz as a former employee of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), a recipient of nearly $1.3 million in NIF funding in 2009-10. Radovanitz was also the manager of Physicians for Human Rights–Israel (PHRI), and is on the board of Hamoked: Center for the defence of the individual, another NIF organization that promotes “war crimes” and similar allegations.