On July 29, 2015, a group of anti-Israel NGOs held an event in a congressional office building.  One of the speakers was Nadia Ben-Youssef, the US representative of the Israeli Arab NGO Adalah 1 (which is a core member of the New Israel Fund network).  Regarding her role in Washington, she explained, “[The UN Commission of Inquiry Report on the 2014 Gaza War] which was very powerful, and damning and calling for an end to the systemic impunity that prevails and we’re here for that purpose.  Adalah is now establishing a US presence because this is where change needs to happen.”

The event was organized by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, one of the main BDS groups in the United States, with an additional speaker from Defense for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI-PS).  Co-sponsors included global BDS activists: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), United Methodist Kairos Response, US Palestinian Community Network, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Just World Books.

In 2008-2014, New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $1,874,656 to Adalah (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).2

Adalah’s participation in this event and its establishment of a “US representative” position violate basic NIF principles: “the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability and ensure that those who break or circumvent Israeli laws are brought to justice in Israel” (emphasis added).  Moreover, its partnership with some of the most virulent global BDS and anti-Israel groups is also a violation of NIF Guidelines which forbid funding to organizations that “engage in activities at odds with the positions, principles, or vision of the New Israel Fund.”

Excerpts from Adalah’s presentation and analysis (emphasis added throughout)

Systemic Impunity

Ben-Youssef alleged that there was “systemic impunity” for Israeli soldiers in the Israeli legal system. She explained that Adalah lodges formal complaints with the IDF Military Advocate General and other legal bodies in Israel is to show that these mechanisms are ineffective – an abuse of Israeli democratic mechanisms.

  • “That’s our work, how do you use, or can you use Israeli legal channels to hold Israelis accountable for these acts, knowing of course that that’s not possible.”
  • “Why do we continue to use those channels and I’ll say that in many ways it’s to tell the story.  It’s to tell the story that the channels available do not work, that impunity indeed is systemic, it prevails across the board and as Brad [Parker of DCI-PS] said, impunity is the trigger for the next offensive.”
  • “So what’s the only indictment to happen from this war? Looting.  The only indictment, 1 indictment is for looting 2240 Shekels- this is $600- from a house in Shujaya.  Shujaya, was the site of a massive, massive military incursion, ground operation. [It] was flattened, devastated, devastated.  The UN Commission of Inquiry dedicated pages to this operation and said in fact, the entire operation looks like a war crime.”

Criticisms of Israeli Investigations

Ben-Youssef stated that of the 22 complaints submitted by Adalah to the MAG, only 6 investigations were opened. She also complained that the MAG did not provide to Adalah corroborating evidence for its claims that Israel attacked a legitimate military target.

Neither of these criticisms in any way undermines the legitimacy or thoroughness of Israeli investigations. There is no such standard that the legitimacy of investigations is measured by how many investigations are opened as a proportion to the number of complaints. Moreover, the MAG does not owe Adalah or any other NGO details, explanations, or corroboration on its findings.

Nevertheless, the Israeli army has publicly released information on a number of the incidents introduced by Adalah, but Ben-Youssef ignores the findings.

For instance, in reference to the bombing of the Kaware residence on July 8, 2014, Ben-Youssef cited the UN Commission of Inquiry, which “investigated the Kaware case and they said as they were investigating, exactly as we said, this is a civilian object, war crime- this may involve war crimes.” Yet, she noted that “Obviously they’re not investigating properly; they [UN Commissioners] didn’t have access to the Gaza Strip” (emphasis added).

Ben-Youssef did not mention the evidence that the strike targeted Islamic Jihad member Mohammed Ibrahim Oudah Kaware, who had embedded himself among civilians. Indeed, in deciding not to open an investigation, the MAG described how the residence was being used for military purposes.