NIF Funds Groups Attempting to Erase Israel’s Jewish Framework
NIF Funds Groups Campaigning to Equate Israel with Apartheid
NIF Funds Groups Aiding Goldstone and UN Demonization
NIF Funds Groups Promoting Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions
NIF Funds Groups Helping to Prosecute Israeli Officials Abroad
The Jewish character of Israel is enshrined in its Declaration of Independence as a fundamental element of its existence. NIF claims that its mission is to “actualize the vision of Israel’s Founders, that of a Jewish and democratic state.”
In stark contrast, some of NIF’s grantees advocate for dismantling the Jewish framework of the state, including replacing Jewish symbols such as the flag and the national anthem. This is accompanied by calls for the Palestinian “right of return,” intended to demographically eliminate Jewish self-determination.
Non-governmental organizations such as Adalah and Mossawa are not problematic because they are located in the Israeli-Arab sector or because they advocate for Arab rights. Rather, their activities related to opposing the Jewish character of Israel violate NIF’s own standards and vision.
“If… [an NGO] denies Jews the right to self determination, that organization would not receive a grant from us.” – Executive Director NIF-Israel Rachel Liel in an April 2010 interview with Yediot Acharonot.
“The New Israel Fund was founded more than 30 years ago to actualize the vision of Israel’s Founders, that of a Jewish and democratic state.” – NIF website, Frequently Asked Questions
“NIF works to strengthen Israel’s democracy and to promote freedom, justice and equality for all Israel’s citizens… Not only are these principles guaranteed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, they are central elements of the Jewish tradition.” – NIF website, Mission Statement
“We are a Zionist organization. We love Israel.” – Communications Director Naomi Paiss quoted in “New Israel Fund Stands by its Message,” JTA, October 24, 2007
“Our organization is pro-Israeli and establishes democratic institutions that are [based on the principles] of the Israeli declaration of independence.” – Daniel Sokatch in an April 2010 interview with Ynetnews.com
NIF grantee Mada al-Carmel ($450,000 in 2006-2008) calls for a “change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state,” and the implementation of the Palestinian “right of return,” meaning the end of Jewish self-determination.
Mada al-Carmel was instrumental in composing the Haifa Declaration, “a consensual statement of a collective vision that Palestinian citizens in Israel articulate about themselves.” The document calls for a “change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state,” and concludes that “We believe that exploiting [the Holocaust] and its consequences in order to legitimize the right of the Jews to establish a state at the expense of the Palestinian people serves to belittle universal, human, and moral lessons…”
The authors “look with pride on the resistance to the military regime put up by our people and its national leadership,” and refer to “massacres” committed by the “Zionist movement” and Israel’s “policies of subjugation and oppression in excess of those of the apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen was on the Executive Committee for the Declaration.
In 2007, Adalah proposed a “Democratic Constitution” for Israel that calls for replacing the Jewish framework of the state with a “democratic, bilingual and multicultural” framework. This constitution appears to abolish the Law of Return and would limit Jewish immigration to “humanitarian reasons,” and calls for a redefinition of the “symbols of the state.”
The constitution also seeks to impose a disproportionate Arab veto on the country via one of two models. In the first model, a “parliamentary committee on bilingual and multicultural affairs” would be established to approve legislation. Although Israeli-Arabs only comprise 20% of Israel’s population, Adalah demands that half of the membership be “members of parliament from parties that by definition and character are Arab parties or Arab-Jewish parties.” The decisions of this committee could only be overturned by a “special majority of no less than two-thirds of the members of the Knesset.”
The second model would forbid the Knesset from approving any bill if “75% of the members of the Knesset who belong to parties which by their definition or character are Arab parties or Arab-Jewish parties vote against it under the reasoning that the bill
violates the fundamental rights of the Arab minority.” Currently, Arab and Arab-Jewish parties hold 11 Knesset seats. Under Adalah’s proposal, just seven of these members could continually block the passage of all legislation, effectively rendering the country ungovernable. (Article 20)
The document also calls for “the right of return of the Palestinian refugees” and demands that: “All of the Arab citizens of the State of Israel who were uprooted… during and after 1948… are entitled to return to their villages and original places of residence; a mechanism will be formulated in law to provide appropriate compensation for personal damages suffered by these individuals and their families since being uprooted…” (Article 40)
Mossawa’s November 2006 position paper, “An Equal Constitution for All?,” proposed a constitution for Israel. The paper considers state symbols of Israel to constitute “formal discrimination in law” because they have “links to the Jewish majority,” and calls for the eradication of the Israeli flag and national anthem.
The document is premised on the “uniqueness” of the “Arab-Palestinian minority as an indigenous population” and “collective rights to which the Arab minority is entitled,” and suggests “granting a veto right to the Arab representatives…on those matters that have a profound effect on the Arab population.”
Labeling Israel an apartheid state is part of a larger strategy of political warfare that seeks to delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel. Many NGOs falsely portray the Arab-Israeli conflict as a dispute motivated by alleged Jewish race-hatred of Arabs, rather than one based on competing national and territorial claims.
Although these groups are aware that the apartheid-Israel paradigm is inaccurate, they employ this rhetoric to condemn and isolate Israel, and associate it with the pariah state of apartheid South Africa. This is the latest manifestation of the 1975 UN “Zionism is racism” resolution.
“We deeply disagree with the use of ‘apartheid’ in the Israeli context. It is a historically inaccurate and inflammatory term that serves only to demonize Israel and alienate a majority of Jews around the world…” – CEO Daniel Sokatch, Executive Director’s Message: “Say No to Smears. And No to “Apartheid Week”
NIF grantees Aswat and Al-Qaws (combined $111,000 in 2008) refer to “Israel’s stifling Apartheid” and “[o]ur 62-year struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation and Apartheid.”
Aswat- Palestinian Gay Women and Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society published a letter supporting Queers against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA). QuAIA, a Canada-based group, is involved in a controversy over Toronto’s July 2010 Pride Parade. Aswat and Al-Qaws, whose stated aims deal solely with gender and sexuality issues, wrote that “Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are struggling for their basic human rights under Israel’s stifling Apartheid.” They also delegitimized the existence of the State of Israel, discussing “[o]ur 62-year struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation and Apartheid.”
In April 2010, the two groups publicly called on LGBT communities to protest an “Out in Israel” event in the San Francisco Bay area that “uses the name and the cause of queers to whitewash the image of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and to transform the focus from its human rights violations, occupation and war crimes, to the ‘liberal’ and ‘gay friendly haven’ of the Middle East.”
NIF grantee B’Tselem’s ($785,285 in 2006-2008) Jessica Montell: “I think the word apartheid is useful for mobilizing people because of its emotional power. In some cases, the situation in the West Bank is worse than apartheid in South Africa.”
In a September 2003 interview, B’Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell said: “I think the word apartheid is useful for mobilizing people because of its emotional power. In some cases, the situation in the West Bank is worse than apartheid in South Africa.”
Former South African dissident Benjamin Pogrund has remarked that the term “apartheid” is used “because it comes easily to hand: it is a lazy label for the complexities of the Middle East conflict.” Many NGO activists use apartheid rhetoric to create an association between the Jewish state and the apartheid regime in South Africa, in order to promote their ideological agendas.
In May 2009, in conjunction with radical Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, officials from Adalah wrote and edited “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel´s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.” The publication refers to Israeli occupation as a “colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid” and declares Israel guilty of placing Palestinians in “reserves and ghettoes.”
Israeli self-defense measures are criminalized as “inhumane act[s] of apartheid…perpetrated in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another.” According to the authors, therefore, Palestinians have a “right to resist.”
Adalah’s petition against the Jerusalem Eastern Ring Road, describes it as “designed to create an Apartheid road and turn the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem into cantons, in violation of international and Israeli law.”
In December 2008, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) issued its annual “State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories” report. In the report, ACRI employs language that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel, comparing it to apartheid South Africa. ACRI states-
In ACRI’s 2007 Supreme Court petition to have Road 443 reopened to Palestinian traffic, ACRI wrote, “as an accepted and systematic policy, separation and discrimination against the Palestinian population would amount to a clear example of Apartheid practice.” Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch, described the use of the term apartheid as “so extreme and far-fetched that that it should not have been raised at all.”
She wrote “…we must be careful and cautious about using definitions which characterize security measures taken for the purposes of protecting travelers on the roads as being based on illegitimate racial and ethno-national foundations. The comparison which the applicants made between the use of separate roads for security purposes and the policy and practices of Apartheid South Africa is inappropriate…The great difference between the security measures which the state of Israel is taking as protection from terror attacks, and the illegitimate practices of Apartheid, requires that all comparison or usage of the grave term [Apartheid] be avoided…Therefore the comparison between the prevention of Palestinians traffic on route 443 to the crime of apartheid is so extreme and far-fetched that it should not have been raised at all.”
Adalah ($1,045,292 in 2006-2008) was scheduled to speak (March 9, 2010) at Al Quds University on “Apartheid as it is experienced by Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
The founder and president of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I; $503,537 in 2006-2008) co-led the event that kicked off London’s 2008 Israel Apartheid Week (Feb. 11, 2008), giving a lecture on “Introducing Israel” at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
A Breaking the Silence ($200,855) video was shown as part of Connecticut’s 2010 Israel Apartheid Week (March 4, 2010.)
Throughout the UN Goldstone Mission, from the appointment of Richard Goldstone to the publication and adoption of his report, NIF-funded organizations consistently backed the mission claiming it to be an independent and credible process. The many biases, prejudices, and short-comings of the mission members and the final report have been ignored. The mission’s creation, planned by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and its financing by the Arab League were similarly obscured. For more information on these issues, see NGO Monitor’s “Goldstone and NGOs” page.
Simultaneously, these groups depict Israel as incapable of conducting credible investigations without “an international monitoring mechanism.”
“None of our organizations appeared before the U.N. (Goldstone) commission.” -Rachel Liel, NIF Executive Director, April 2010 interview with Yediot Acharonot.
NIF grantees the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Adalah, Bimkom, Gisha, HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Yesh Din submitted a written statement to the Goldstone Commission on June 30, 2009.
The groups do not address alleged Hamas war crimes, “but rather offer our own distinct perspective – human rights violations for which Israel must be held accountable.” Alleged “violations” include “a deliberate new strategy for the ‘disproportionate use of firepower,’” “deliberately and knowingly shell[ing] civilian institutions” and rescue services, and holding prisoners in “harsh, inhuman and degrading conditions.”
The NGO document also makes entirely speculative assertions about the motivation for the IDF operation against Hamas, claiming that “[t]o the extent that this was planned as a punitive operation which main purpose was not the achievement of actual military objectives, but the inflicting of deliberate damage as a deterrent and punitive measure” – despite their lacking adequate information to make such an assertion.
All of these accusations were incorporated by Goldstone into his report, echoing the agenda of the NIF-funded organizations.
In contradiction to NIF’s claims, Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) testified in Geneva before the UN’s Goldstone inquiry on the Gaza war. PCATI’s representative referred to Israel’s “unacceptable collective punishment” and to Palestinian “martyrs.”
PCATI also participated, along with two other NIF grantees (Adalah, PHR-I) and other NGOs, in a May 2009 town hall meeting with Goldstone urging him to adopt certain themes pertaining to alleged Israeli crimes. After the publication of Goldstone’s report, which cited PCATI five times, the NGO lobbied in support of the report’s biased conclusions.
B’Tselem “provided assistance to the investigative staff of the Goldstone mission from the beginning to the end of its research” and condemned the Israeli government for not cooperating with the Goldstone mission.
B’Tselem, which is cited 56 times by Goldstone, praised the report as “the result of a serious, professional investigation, reflecting a deep and genuine commitment to ensure that justice is done.”
Since its publication, NIF grantees have lobbied foreign governments, including the United States and the European Union, to adopt Goldstone’s report and its recommendations.
B’Tselem, Gisha, Hamoked, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), and Yesh Din wrote a letter to Congress criticizing U.S. House Resolution 867, which condemned Goldstone’s report as “biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.” B’Tselem’s U.S. office circulated this letter and encouraged supporters to lobby Representatives to vote against the resolution. Despite this lobbying campaign, the resolution passed 344-36.
PCATI and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) signed letters to the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Presidency of the European Union, complaining that the Netherlands and EU, respectively, did not endorse the Goldstone report in the UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly.
NIF-funded groups have also lobbied on behalf of Goldstone in UN bodies. Adalah, PHR-I, and PCATI joined radical Palestinian NGOs in a letter to the President of the UN General Assembly, urging him “to use all means at your disposal to hasten the process of accountability indicated in the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.”
On October 15-16, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council held a special session to debate the adoption of the Goldstone Report. At the meeting, Adalah’s representative urged the HRC to adopt the report, claiming that “the Israeli legal and judicial systems have consistently failed in providing any legal remedies for the Palestinian people.”
In fact, the Israeli Supreme Court has judged thousands of petitions (many of which were brought by NGOs) relating to Palestinian rights: examining the authority of the military commander according to the standards of proportionality; restrictions on place of residence; checkpoint positioning; harm to Palestinian property due to army operations; the safeguarding of freedom of worship and the right to access to holy places; the demolition of houses; the laying of siege; the powers of the army during combat pursuant to international humanitarian law; the rights of Palestinians to food, medicine, and similar needs during combat operations; the rights of Palestinians during the arrest of terrorists; and detention and interrogation procedures. In more than one hundred petitions, the Israeli Supreme Court “has examined the rights of [Palestinians] according to international humanitarian law as a result of the erection of the separation fence.” And Adalah fails to mention that many of the dozens of cases it files with the court each year have been successful.
Adalah also attempted prove its allegation by referencing the targeted killing of leading Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh: “Seven years after the killings no criminal investigations have yet been conducted by Israel – with the stamp of approval of the Israeli Supreme Court, which rejected a petition on this regard.” However, as noted below, the Spanish Supreme Court independently confirmed that the Israeli investigation was “substantive and genuine.”
The BDS movement is an international campaign that
- promotes boycotts of Israeli academics, cultural institutions, and products;
- seeks to end investments in Israeli corporations and in companies that conduct business in Israel;
- pressures governments and the UN to implement international sanctions against Israel.
One of the campaign’s goals is the “rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.”
The Palestinian Call for Boycotts and other BDS documents make it clear that “occupation and colonialization of all Arab lands” began in 1948 and earlier, not in 1967. BDS, then, challenges the very idea of Israel’s existence. But, NIF mistakenly claims that BDS “tactics…are designed to pressure Israel to end the occupation.”
NIF’s problematic and inconsistent approach to BDS extends to its funding policy. On the one hand, NIF recognizes that BDS is “inflammatory,” and officials claim that NIF has never funded BDS. On the other, NIF states that it “does not support BDS as a strategy or tactic, [but] we will not reduce or eliminate our funding for grantees that differ with us on a tactical matter.” In other words, NIF considers BDS merely a “strategy or tactic,” and not an inherently immoral attempt to single out Israel as a pariah state.
“NIF opposes the BDS movement.” – CEO Daniel Sokatch, Executive Director’s Message: “Say No to Smears. And No to “Apartheid Week”
“NIF has never funded groups that call for divestment.” – Communications Director Naomi Paiss, August 2006
“No amount of our money is permitted for use of projects that promote BDS.” – NIF Twitter account, April 15, 2010
“NIF believes these tactics (‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’) to be unproductive, inflammatory and ineffective… NIF will not fund BDS activities nor support organizations for which BDS is a substantial element of their activities, but will support organizations that conform to our grant requirements if their support for BDS is incidental or subsidiary to their significant programs…” – NIF website, “Frequently Asked Questions”
“Although we will continue to communicate publicly and privately to our allies and grantees that NIF does not support BDS as a strategy or tactic, we will not reduce or eliminate our funding for grantees that differ with us on a tactical matter. NIF website, “Frequently Asked Questions”
On May 14, 2009, Israel Social TV, Mossawa, Machsom Watch, Women against Violence, and Coalition of Women for Peace sent a letter to the Council on Ethics of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, petitioning the Fund to divest from Israeli corporations that allegedly “provide specifically designed equipment for the surveillance and repression of Palestinian population through restrictions of movement and collective punishments; or take part in the illegal exploitation of Palestinian nonrenewable natural resources for the needs of the Israeli market.”
The NGO petition was successful. In September 2009, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance announced its decision “to exclude the Israeli company Elbit Systems Ltd. from the Government Pension Fund – Global.”
BDS is an integral and major part of CWP’s work. In November 2009, Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) endorsed the Palestinian call for BDS and sees itself “as part of this international movement.” In a newsletter, CWP marked “mark the second Global BDS Day of Action on March 30 2010, in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” recommended that activists target corporations such as Carmel Agrexco and Ahava, and encouraged support for the UC Berkeley and UC San Diego divestment campaigns.
In direct contradiction, NIF signed a joint letter opposing the Berkeley divestment efforts as “unfairly target[ing] the State of Israel.”
CWP’s WhoProfits? anti-Israel divestment website tracks Israeli and international corporations that allegedly “are directly involved in the occupation.” Who Profits? influenced the anti-Israel divestment campaign in Norway and a similar project in the UK.
Donors for WhoProfits? are instructed to “Make out a check to ‘New Israel Fund’, write in the memo line ‘for the Coalition of Women for Peace – Who Profits Project’” in order to contribute a tax deductable donation in the United States, the UK, or Switzerland, This expressly contradicts NIF’s assertions that “NIF has never funded groups that call for divestment” and that “no amount of our money is permitted for use of projects that promote BDS.”
Some non-governmental organizations exploit courts in democratic countries in order to harass Israeli officials with civil lawsuits and criminal investigations for “war crimes.” These cases are ostensibly to seek “justice” for Palestinian victims, but, the goals are actually part of a larger public relations campaign against Israel:
- to create an image of Israel as a foremost violator of international law and human rights;
- to interfere in diplomatic and foreign policy relations between Israel and other states, including the US, England, Canada, Belgium, and Spain;
- to hamper Israeli counterterrorism operations and to brand them as international crimes.
NIF-funded groups also appear before the UN Human Rights Council and other international bodies, and question the legitimacy of the Israeli legal system. By falsely claiming that Israel does not provide justice, NGOs justify attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign and international courts.
“We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts as an inherent principle of our dedication to Israeli democracy.”- NIF Website: “Frequently Asked Questions”
“The truth is that this issue of universal jurisdiction is so remote from the NIF and the work we do that we never even formulated a policy on it…We firmly oppose any attempt to try Israeli leaders in foreign courts.”- Naomi Paiss, NIF Communications Director, quoted in Jerusalem Post, April 19, 2010.
In 2009 Adalah participated in a conference in Madrid organized by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). Participants planned and coordinated strategies of pursuing legal actions against Israeli officials in foreign courts.
Following the conference, Adalah Director General Hassan Jabareen submitted an expert legal opinion to the Spanish National Court in support of a case to try seven senior Israeli officials as “war criminals” because of their alleged involvement in the assassination of senior Hamas terrorist, Salah Shehadeh.
In June 2009 the Spanish National Court dismissed the case on the grounds that Israel was already investigating the incident, and, therefore, there was no justification for the Spanish court to do so. In April 2010, the Spanish Supreme Court upheld this decision and closed the case permanently, remarking that the Israeli investigation over the operations was “substantive and genuine.”
In December 2009 Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) organized a petition to the British government, signed by 99 “feminist peace organizations.” The petition criticized proposed changes to the UK’s universal jurisdiction law, which would have prevented NGOs from obtaining arrest warrants against foreign officials without the knowledge of the British government. NGOs have exploited the UK law to have arrest warrants issued for Israeli government officials visiting the country.
CWP’s petition claims that “the international community is obligated to act in order to ensure that Israel will comply with international human rights and humanitarian law. Issuing arrest warrants against Israeli officials responsible for war crimes against the Palestinian people, among them Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, is an important means to this end. The right of national courts to prosecute foreign war criminals for atrocities committed abroad is a central enforcement mechanism in international law.”
NIF grantees B’Tselem, PCATI, Adalah, and PHR-I (combined $2,383,000 in 2006-2008) participated in conference in Brussels entitled “Palestine/Israel: Making Monitoring Work: (Re-) Enforcing International Law in Europe”
In September 2008, several NIF grantees — including B’Tselem, PCATI, PHR-I, and Adalah — participated in a conference sporsored by Diakonia, Sweden’s largest humanitarian NGO, entitled, “Palestine/Israel: Making Monitoring Work: (Re-) Enforcing International Law in Europe.” Other NGO participants included officials from ICAHD, Badil, Avocats Sans Frontiers, FIDH, PCHR, Al Haq, Yesh Gevul, and CCR.
Participants accused Israel of “war crimes,” and called for boycotts and lawfare against Israel. Jessica Montell of B’Tselem declared that “most violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are the result of government policy, not the actions of a particular individual, so holding the army and state accountable on a broader level is crucial.” Many participants discussed finding “ways to get more out of the ICJ’s Advisory Opinion,” including targeting “charities in the UK” and “financial institutions and banks.” Hassan Jabareen, Adalah’s general director, claimed that the Israeli Supreme Court “is not amenable to hearing  cases that deal with acts amounting to potential war crimes,” noting that activists “should try to portray Israel as an inherent undemocratic state” and to “use that as part of campaigning internationally.”
PCATI signed a petition submitted to the Spanish government opposing the “resolution that limits the exercise of universal jurisdiction of the Spanish courts.” The resolution was introduced in the Spanish parliament following lawfare cases against Chinese, Israeli, and American officials.
CEO Dr. Ishai Menuchin wrote in Maariv, “if war crimes suspicions are not investigated in Israel, it is appropriate that they be investigated and that justice be served with their perpetrators in different courts…any defender of human rights, anyone who believes in democratic values, and anyone who holds positions based on the centrality of the rule of law, should hold a similar position” (translation from the Hebrew).
Israel does investigate allegations of war crimes, but Menuchin delegitmizes the investigations because he disagrees with their conclusions. Additionally, he ignores the highly politicized nature of the lawfare cases against Israeli officials. These cases are not pursued based on evidence or guilt or justice; they are the opposite of human rights, democratic values, and the rule of law.
NIF grantees PCATI and Adalah met with officials of the International Criminal Court to discuss prosecution options relating to the Gaza War
On November 2-3, 2009, representatives of PCATI and Adalah joined the NGO leaders of the anti-Israel lawfare campaign (PCHR, Al Haq, FIDH) in a series of meetings with officials at the International Criminal Court to “explor[e] different avenues to bring justice to the victims of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” relating to the Gaza War.