The New Israel Fund (NIF) is the largest and most powerful non-governmental source of support for Israeli civil society organizations, providing funding and organizational/political assistance. In 2012 (the latest available information), NIF authorized $17.6 million in grants for Israeli NGOs (non-governmental organizations).
In keeping with NGO Monitor’s mandate, we focus on the approximately 22% of NIF funding that goes to political advocacy NGOs that are active in international and divisive campaigns, including Breaking the Silence, Adalah, Yesh Din, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, Human Rights Defenders Fund, +972 Magazine, Negev Coexistence Forum, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I).
Within Israel, NIF is widely perceived as a negative, ideological, and sectarian organization. This is a result of the involvement of NIF grantees in campaigns that delegitimize Israel, such as the Goldstone process and other activity directed to non-Israeli audiences. In some cases, NIF-funded groups use language and sponsor activities that stand in sharp contrast to the principles of tolerance and the progressive liberal agenda that the organization claims to support, as documented by NGO Monitor.
Additionally, allegations by NIF-funded groups are frequently used to advance anti-Israel BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) activism – the claims of these groups are used to justify demonization. For instance, the UC Berkeley divestment campaign (April 2013) referenced B’Tselem, Adalah, and PHR-I as documenting “ongoing human rights violations systematically committed by the Israeli government.” We also note that previous NIF funding for radical anti-Israel groups (ICAHD, Coalition of Women for Peace, Mada al-Carmel, Al-Qaws, etc.), which has ended, continued for years and caused significant damage, including, for example, the decision by Dutch pension funds to divest from Israeli banks (January 2014).
NGO Monitor’s reports are a source of independent analysis, presented for the consideration of NIF officials and supporters. Based on this problematic track record, NGO Monitor’s Proposed Ethical Guidelines for NIF call for prohibiting grantees from involvement in: (a) BDS; (b) accusations of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and similar terms of demonization against Israel or Israelis, and “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity” based on gross distortions of international law; (c) “Lawfare” − legal threats or actions against Israeli officials abroad; (d) UN-related activities that promote lawfare and demonization; and (e) opposition to Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state, including calling for the elimination of the Jewish framework of the state, a ”one-state solution,” Palestinian “right of return” claims, or the revocation of the Law of Return for Jews.
NIF should also conduct thorough reviews, to be made public, which examine the advocacy activities of NIF-funded organizations and their compliance with NIF guidelines.
Examples of grantees that violate NIF guidelines and principles
- +972, an English-language web magazine that targets audiences outside of Israel, serves as a platform for anti-Zionist advocacy. This includes numerous articles rejecting “the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel” (as stated in NIF’s funding guidelines). Specific examples are provided below.
- Grantees such as Yesh Din and Adalah often portray the Israeli justice system as lacking due process and accountability – as part of wider efforts to press “war crimes” cases in international courts. This is inconsistent with NIF’s stated commitment to strengthening the internal Israel institutions that “hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law.”
- On April 23-24, 2013, four NIF grantees (Adalah [$680,225 in 2010-11], B’Tselem [$472,251], Physicians for Human Rights-Israel [$436,811], Public Committee Against Torture Israel [$58,000]) participated in a lawfare strategy conference organized by Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).1
- The conference, “Pursuing justice and redress for Palestinian victims: developing strategies for advocacy and litigation,” focused on the Israeli civil legal system and the allegation that “The cumulative effect of Israeli substantive and procedural legal barriers bars Palestinian victims from access to and effective remedy from the Israeli civil judiciary for compensation claims.”
- This parallels efforts by PCHR, Adalah, and other NGOs to discredit the Israeli justice system and paint Israel as an anti-democratic state. According to PCHR, the express purpose of the conference was to drive attacks against Israel in international legal forums: “If it is concluded that the domestic legal system is blocked, this means international legal mechanisms for justice are the only available alternatives available to victims, such as the International Criminal Court.”
- NIF funds the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF), whose “Director of Operations” is Alma Biblash, an activist in Sheikh Jarakh Solidarity (also funded by NIF) and involved with Coalition of Women for Peace. Biblash has referred to Israel as “Jewish, racist, and murderous,” a “temporary Jewish apartheid state,” and a “Jewish and racist state for the glory of colonialism,” and supports a Palestinian “right of return.”
International Political Campaigns
A number of NIF-funded political advocacy NGOs are primarily active outside of Israel, often using the rhetoric of demonization.
- Breaking the Silence (BtS), which describes its mission as “expos[ing] the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories….pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled” (emphasis added). In fact, BtS is marginal in Israel, while focusing significant lobbying and media advocacy to target international audiences, including numerous presentations in Europe and the United States.
- These one-sided events generate significant tensions on university campuses and in the community. NIF was criticized for cooperating with the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) to co-sponsor a BtS event at a northern California synagogue. JVP’s Executive Director has described JVP as “the Jewish wing of the [Palestinian] solidarity movement” that seeks to create “a wedge” in the Jewish community over support for Israel.
- In November 2013, Avram Burg (founder of Molad and member of NIF’s International Council) spoke at an event at Harvard, co-sponsored by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, a pro-BDS group behind Harvard Israeli Apartheid Week.
- BtS made an October 21, 2013 presentation to the virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (covered by Iranian regime’s Press TV), at which the Palestinian deputy representative to the UN asked BtS “to do more speaking engagements, particularly in the United States.”
- On June 20, 2013, a representative from the Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF) spoke in a session of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, regarding an agenda item “Exchange of views on the human rights situation of the Bedouin and other minorities in Israel.” During his speech, Shadha Ibn Bari of NCF referred to the policy in the Negev as “apartheid.” MEP David Martin of the Socialists and Democrats group responded, “I would go further than our guests describe it as apartheid….[it] is ethnic cleansing…under any definition.”
Other Examples of Problematic Activities by NIF Grantees
- +972 is an English-language blog with a narrow spectrum of contributors on the fringe of Israeli discourse. NIF funding for +972 is allocated under the “Social Justice Fund” (formerly the Ford Israel Fund). Justification for support of an English-language publication targeting an international audience that promotes shrill anti-Israel rhetoric is entirely inconsistent with the stated aims of this funding mechanism: “Supporting activities designed to get the peace process back on track, advance unresolved final status issues; promote broad public discussion and constituencies within Israel for these options; and enhance Israeli’s [sic] knowledge of Palestinian society.”
- Writers and contributors for +972 regularly invoke the rhetoric of demonization (“Durban strategy”), accusing Israel of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “racism,” “land confiscation,” “discrimination,” “displacement,” “fail[ing] to prosecute violence against Palestinians,” and “perpetrating another Nakba,” as well as deriding “American Jewish hypocrisy.” (Full quotes and sources are provided in the links.)
- In a June 24, 2013 article, “The fall of the house of Herzl: Israel as a horror flick,” regular +972 contributor Yuval Ben-Ami compared Israel to horror films in which a house first “appears as a safe haven, an outpost of normality, where threatened characters may seek refuge from strange forces,” but later “turns out to be the perfect hiding place also for the monsters, or even a monster in and of itself.”
- On August 19, 2012, +972 posted a report by former NIF grantee Coalition of Women for Peace, calling for a boycott of the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava. Originally published in April 2012, the report explains that “Who Profits,” a project of Coalition of Women for Peace, was “Initiated with relation to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.”
- +972 published a cartoon (“The hater in the sky,” Eli Valley, May 14, 2012) depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raping President Barack Obama and eating his limbs.
- Writer Itamar Mann wrote glowingly of the 2012 “One State Conference” at Harvard, calling it “one of the most informed, nuanced, creative, and responsible discussions on Israel-Palestine.”
- On its website, the NIF claims that it funds +972 because of its “progressive view of domestic issues and Israel’s foreign relations”; in an email to NGO Monitor, NIF stated that “+972 obviously fulfill the criteria of promoting broad public discussion and constituencies.” This claim is inconsistent with the evidence.
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement
- “Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity is an Israeli- Palestinian grassroots movement…[in a] struggle against the gross injustice and folly that has forced a number of Sheikh Jarrah’s Palestinian residents out of their homes and many others to live under the shadow of imminent eviction.”
- In March 2013, Alma Biblash (see HRDF section above) noted the decrease of SJSM activity, saying that “the many mistakes that were made are one of the reasons that Solidarity is almost inactive today. Another reason is the legal mess we got sucked into due to the many indictments, libel suits and more…” The rapid collapse of SJSM raises questions about NIF’s decision to provide it financial backing and other support, and whether a feasible long-term strategic plan was ever developed.
- Sara Benninga, a central SJSM activist, accuses Israel of “fascism,” “ethnic discrimination against its residents,” “dispossess[ion] of individuals from one ethnic affiliation and privileges those of another,” “blatant injustice and discrimination,” and “national and racial prejudices.”
- In March 2012, a poster depicting a jar of Vaseline, as a crude metaphor for Israel allegedly being “raped” by “settlers,” was published on the official Facebook page of SJSM. The text of the poster reads, “If they were residents of Haifa, Beer Sheva or Ashdod they would be in jail. But they are settlers. So shut up, bend over, swallow, you know that you want it.” SJSM removed the poster after harsh criticism from some of its members.
- This poster generated major controversy in Israel, and Ha’aretz published an exposé on sexual harassment within “leftist organizations.” The article detailed assaults against participants in Sheikh Jarrah rallies. The article also discussed a feminist “outcry” after “Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity issued a message requesting that the female activists arrive to the protests dressed in a manner that is considerate toward the residents.
Adalah’s “Discriminatory Laws in Israel” Database
- In March 2013, Adalah launched a database ostensibly compiling “more than 50 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life.”2
- Contrary to Adalah’s ongoing attempts to portray Israel as anti-democratic and racist, including frequent events in the UN and other international platforms, many of the laws listed have nothing to do with Israeli Arabs nor could they be described as “discriminatory”.
- For instance, Adalah opposes conditioning child allowances on vaccinations because “This provision mainly affects Arab Bedouin children living in the Naqab (Negev), since most of the children who do not receive the vaccinations come from this group due to the inaccessibility of health care.” In fact, as noted by the Israeli Health Ministry, “Arab families are more likely than their Jewish counterparts to take their infants for vaccinations…98.5 percent of Arab babies were protected compared to 93.5% of Jewish ones.”
- Adalah also continues to condemn the 2011 NGO Funding Transparency Law, claiming that the “provisions are superfluous since every NGO in Israel is already required under Israeli law to list its donors and other financial information on its website and to report annually to the government.” However, in the past, Adalah’s financial reports were not publically available from the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, and information about its foreign government funding in 2012 did not appear on the Registrar of Non-Profits’ website until after NGO Monitor’s report on this topic.
- Emily Schaeffer, an attorney from Michael Sfard Law Offices, which represents a number of NIF grantees, also participated.
- The original version of this webpage used different language, claiming that “There are over 60 laws in Israel that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in participation in political life, resource distribution, land allocation and other crucial parts of democratic and equal life” and singled out Israel’s “most important immigration laws, The Law of Return (1950) and The Citizenship Law (1952).”