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Diaspora in Turmoil over New Israel Fund’s Donations

Disclosures that the New Israel Fund aids anti-Israel groups have split Diaspora Jews, some of them defending the NIF and others castigating it.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 2/10/2010, 4:02 PM / Last Update: 2/10/2010, 4:26 PM

Israel news photo

Disclosures that the New Israel Fund aids anti-Israel groups have ripped through the Diaspora communities throughout the world, some of them defending the NIF and others castigating it.

The zionist student Im Tirtzu (If You Will It) organization recently revealed that among NIF grantees were organizations that supplied anti-Israel information for the Goldstone report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes in its war against Hamas terrorists last year.

The NIF describes itself as working “to strengthen Israel's democracy and to promote freedom, justice and equality for all Israel's citizens.”

Bar-Ilan University Professor Gerald Steinberg (pictured at left), who also is director of NGO Monitor stated Wednesday, “NIF claims to provide broad support for different groups in Israel, but many of its actions promote a very narrow and radical agenda. The most politicized NGOs – including B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel — receive about 20 percent of NIF’s budget. They use these funds to manipulate Israeli politics, while exploiting human rights rhetoric to demonize responses to terror.”

In Australia, Danny Lamm, president of the State Zionist Council of Victoria, cancelled a meeting in Melbourne at which NIF head Naomi Chazan was due to speak, according to the Jewish Australian News Service. He said several NIF-funded groups are “alleged to have actively reinforced a worldwide propaganda campaign against Israel, using the vicious rhetoric of apartheid, using ‘lawfare’ to threaten Israel’s leaders and soldiers should they travel, and using and supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns.”

Lamm pointed out the Council has no issue with the NIF’s principles. “We, too, very much want peace between Israel, the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors…. The Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) does not have a political argument with the NIF,” he said. Lamm asked, “How can the NIF support an organization like Adalah when, despite having as its mission the protection of Arab civil rights, routinely accuses Israel of implementing ‘apartheid’ and of committing war crimes?”

Knesset to investigate
In Israel, the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee has decided to establish a subcommittee for investigation of the funding of NGOs, including those that receive money from the NIF. Among those who have publicly condemned the financing of anti-Israel groups are President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.  

Knesset Member Danny Danon (Likud) told Arutz Sheva that despite Kadima's decision to oppose a proposal to investigate the New Israel Fund, "the wheel cannot be turned back," and that a parliamentary investigation will be conducted.  

Liberal Jewish leaders and media in the United States have defended the NIF while more nationalist groups have condemned it. The Jewish Telegraph Agency, whose reports are read by more than one million Jews and Christians, tried to take the heat off NIF by attacking Im Tirtzu. The JTA has, in the past several years, increasingly distanced itself from nationalism, particularly a Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.  

Its analysis on Tuesday of the NIF issue was headlined “Breaking down the Im Tirtzu report on New Israel Fund." It stated, "Im Tirtzu acknowledges that the 16 NGOs named in its report are a small portion of the more than 300 groups funded by the NIF, many of them having to do with building infrastructure, assisting immigrants, and defending the rights of women, the disabled and religious and ethnic minorities. But the distinctions seem to mean little to Im Tirtzu; its Web site, in Hebrew, lumps the groups together, describing NIF as ‘investing in and developing hundreds of extreme leftist groups operating in various sectors.’”

Writing in the generally pro-Orthodox and nationalist New York Jewish Week, investigative journalist David Bedein wrote, “The New Israel Fund, in its defense, says it does not support those who demonize Israel or call for divestment or boycott of Israel, and that it will not assist those who advocate the 'right of return' for Palestinians to reclaim land lost to them in 1948.”

Bedein then noted that NIF funds the Coalition of Women for Peace, whose keynote speaker, Naomi Klein, called for a boycott of Israel and sanctions against the Jewish State. He added that the NIF-funded Adalah group “expresses support for Sheik Raad Salah, the leader of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic movement, whose incitement against Israel is legendary. Salah claims that there was never a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount and has called for an Intifada to protect Al-Aqsa from a Jewish plot."