Organizations that pursue moral agendas have a particular obligation to operate according to ethical principles, such as transparency, accountability, tolerance, and civility, including responses to criticism. However, analysis of the activities of powerful “political advocacy” NGOs involved in human rights and humanitarian aid issues demonstrates the frequent absence of these ethical principles.

These issues are relevant to the New Israel Fund (NIF), which has supported groups that clearly violate NIF’s declaratory “red lines” regarding demonizing attacks against Zionism and Israel. Additionally, NIF responses to differing views and criticism have been characterized by incivility and intolerance (Appendix 1). While NIF officials and publications often refer to the importance of Jewish ethical values, such as Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), these are not always reflected by NIF officials.

Therefore, NGO Monitor is proposing the following ethical guidelines, based on existing models, designed to convert the declaratory “red lines” into substantive policy, and to address the incivility.

    1. The NIF should debate and adopt binding funding guidelines at the board of directors level, specifying advocacy activities related to demonization that are not permitted for organizations funded directly or indirectly by the NIF. These guidelines should be stated clearly and published to ensure transparency.

Existing guidelines and definitions include the 2005 European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s “Working Definition of Antisemitism” and the 2010 San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s “Policy on Israel-Related Programming by its Grantees” (Appendix 2).

  1. Based on these standards, NIF’s guidelines should prohibit grantees from involvement in:
    • Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)
    • 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. These tactics emerged from the 2001 Durban NGO Forum Declaration, which called for the “complete and total isolation of Israel” through sanctions, boycotts, and legal processes.
    • “Lawfare” − legal threats or actions against Israeli officials abroad.
    • UN-related activities that promote lawfare and demonization, including the Goldstone report.
    • 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.
    • Antisemitic statements or activities.
  2.      Funding for NGOs found to have violated the guidelines should end immediately.
  3.      The same guidelines should apply to all donor-advised funding.

B) NIF should create an independent ombudsman’s office, staffed and operated without involvement of the main NIF leadership.

  1. Based on the number of grants provided, the number of personnel required and their qualifications, and other factors, a percentage of the total NIF budget should be allocated to staff this office.
  2. The ombudsman’s office should prepare biannual reports on advocacy activities of funded organizations, to determine compliance with the guidelines. The summary information and analysis should be made available to the board, and afterwards, sent to donors and made public.
  3. The ombudsman’s office should also serve as an independent investigative body for complaints resulting from intolerance and uncivil statements or remarks from NIF officials and employees.