Two Wikileaks cables from 2010 confirm with stunning accuracy the critique of Israel’s foreign-funded NGO movement that many have been making for years — and they do so from the mouths of the NGO leaders themselves. The cables summarize meetings between U.S. officials and leaders of the New Israel Fund, B’Tselem, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, called ACRI, a flagship NIF project.
In one cable, we learn that leaders of these groups have been telling U.S. officials the Israeli legal system is incapable of investigating claims against the Israeli government and military. In fact, Israel’s judiciary, both civil and military, is among the world’s most independent, and the former president of Israel’s High Court was cited by President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, as a significant role model. Yet advancing claims of judicial indifference to war crimes has become a central ambition of the NGOs, because establishing Israel’s supposed inability to investigate itself would open the door to international prosecutions where verdicts against Israel are foreordained. The credible prospect of such prosecutions would paralyze the IDF — which is exactly the point:
Limor Yehuda of ACRI argued that military police investigations could not resolve the main issues of how Israel conducted the military operation [Operation Cast Lead], including its targeting and policy decisions…she believed only international pressure could influence the GOI [Government of Israel] to create an independent investigation that could hold senior leadership accountable for alleged violations.
And here is Jessica Montell, the head of B’Tselem:
She wanted the highest level decision-makers held accountable for the decisions they made on how to prosecute the conflict, including Military Advocate General (MAG) Mandelblit…Her aim, she said, was to make Israel weigh world opinion and consider whether it could “afford another operation like this.”
What Montell means by that last sentence is frighteningly clear: she wants to create the conditions in which “world opinion” can prevent the IDF from defending Israelis from attack.
Then there is a cable about a draft Knesset bill (since extensively modified) that seeks greater transparency for foreign-funded NGOs:
B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell…estimated her 9 million NIS ($2.4 million) budget is 95 percent funded from abroad, mostly from European countries.
Here Montell is giving credence to what B’Tselem’s critics, such as NGO Monitor, have been saying for years: that the group is essentially an arm of European foreign policy, more interested in condemning Israel than in promoting human rights.
And then there’s the bombshell:
New Israel Fund (NIF) Associate Director in Israel Hedva Radovanitz, who manages grants to 350 NGOs totaling about 18 million dollars per year, [said] that the campaign against the NGOs was due to the “disappearance of the political left wing” in Israel and the lack of domestic constituency for the NGOs. She noted that when she headed ACRI’s Tel Aviv office, ACRI had 5,000 members, while today it has less than 800, and it was only able to muster about 5,000 people to its December human rights march by relying on the active staff of the 120 NGOs that participated.
She commented 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.
The reasoning behind NIF’s multi-million dollar donations to Arab groups such as Adalah and Mada al-Carmel that seek the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State suddenly becomes clear: In the words of a high-ranking NIF official, the group believes Zionism itself — that is, Jewish national self-determination — is anti-democratic and should eventually yield to an Arab state where Jews will once again live as a minority. It seems the “New Israel” envisioned by NIF will not be a Jewish state. Has NIF made this clear to its American Jewish donors?
During the past decade, as the New Israel Fund and European governments have funded and fueled the delegitimization war on Israel, critics have argued the NGOs they support have no real constituency in Israel; that they represent foreign interests; that they are funded — all told, the sum is around $100 million per year — almost entirely by foreign foundations and European governments seeking to impose their agendas; that they seek to overturn the democratic choices of the Israeli people; that they foment external pressure and “lawfare” to prevent Israel from protecting herself from threats; and that the groups’ activism is motivated not by the claimed values of human rights and international law, but by varying degrees of anti-Zionism and solidarity with Arab interests and leftist anti-Israel activism.
At every turn, the NGOs have angrily denied these charges and smeared those who made them as being (take your pick) anti-peace, anti-human rights, anti-democracy, or extremist right-wingers attempting to silence dissent.
It is a remarkable moment in this battle to see the NGOs admit in private the same things they slander their critics for saying about them in public.
These revelations should encourage the Israeli government to finally make European funding of anti-Israel NGOs a major point of contention in bilateral relations, and they should encourage greater scrutiny of the New Israel Fund, a philanthropic giant that not only dispenses millions of dollars a year to anti-Israel groups, but creates and helps run the groups through its Shatil organization.
The pro-Israel community can expose the destructive ambitions of NIF and its European collaborators for an eternity. But ultimately, the ability of foreigners to wage a political war on Israel from within Israel’s borders will only be stopped when Israelis and their elected representatives recognize the seriousness of the problem and enact legislation to address it. America passed just such a law in 1938. It’s high time Israel followed suit.