An Arab group which is backed by a American-British Jewish fund produced a video in which Israel was accused of point-blank executions of unarmed Arabs and sponsors lectures about Israeli "ethnic cleansing" of Arabs.

The group is called I’lam (‘Media’ in Arabic) and the video it produced is entitled Lama Zafouk. In it, the charge is made that Israeli security forces engaged in executions of unarmed, cowering Arabs. According to the video, “Three soldiers went down, wearing green. They went down to this area. They beat two young men who were hiding under the olive tree, and killed them in cold blood at a range of two meters.”

The version of the film that was available on the I'lam website provides no substantiation of the claim and does not even identify the person making them or the location at which he spoke.

The terminology in I’lam’s media publications abounds with terms such as “massacre” and “ethnic cleansing.” The group also employs Arabs who support Hamas and the “Right of Return” of descendants of Arab refugees into Israel.

Support for Hamas

In an press release dated March 4, 2009, I’lam Empowerment Coordinator, Zaher Boulos issued a ”cry of solidarity with the Palestinian people who hold strong to the establishment of a Palestinian state that is independent with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of the refugees to their homes” at the annual conference of the Forum of Journalists, an I’lam affiliate of which he is also coordinator.

From Lama Zafouk, produced by the courtesy of U.S. and U.K. Jewish philanthropists (screenshot).

Statements of support for Hamas, which is termed the “Palestinian resistance,” have been found on a blog belonging to I’lam’s International Relations Coordinator, Nasser Victor Rego. The blog also links to the website of Hamas’ armed wing, the Izzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, which is given as a legitimate source of information.

On May 16, 2007, the day a ‘lull’ between Israel and Hamas ended, Nasser used his online identity as the blogger Nasrawi to post a comment on in which he gives regards on behalf of the staff of I’lam. “Stay strong - regards from me and all the staff at I'lam.”

Co-founded by recently elected Balad party Arab-Israeli Knesset legislator Hanin Zoabi, I’lam does not hide its agenda: to question the legitimacy of Israel in the court of world opinion.

Under her guidance, I’lam issued press statements, engaged in lobbying over policy, led tours for foreign correspondents, provided information on Israeli-Arabs to Jewish journalists and ran Arabic language courses in journalism.

I’lam views the Hebrew press as a tool of the government.

Charges against Hebrew media

Among charges pressed against Israel in materials distributed by I’lam are accusations that the Hebrew media contains “Encouragement for killing and destruction...” and that the editors of Ma’ariv – a leading daily – “call for the destruction of cities, wiping out villages and killing children.” I’lam makes similar claims regarding Israel’s most popular daily newspaper, Yediot Acharonot, stating that the editor in chief of Yediot Acharonot issued a “call to kill civilians.” Needless to say, no such call was ever made.

In the same press release I’lam claimed, “The Israeli media should not shape public opinion that is separate from its surrounding environment [the Arab world] and from international public opinion” and called on Israeli media “to avoid the militant, patriotic performance that it adopts.”

I’lam has also made the claim that “Israeli authorities have been responsible for over 400 violations of journalists’ rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, ranging from mere bureaucratic harassment to outright killings.”

In one of her first interviews with the Israeli media as a Knesset member, Zoabi went on the record with the Jerusalem Post as saying that she supported Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons as a counterbalance to Israel. In the interview she also stated that she is not loyal to the state of Israel as currently constituted.

Kind words for armed violence

MK Zoabi, in her capacity as director of I’lam helped draft and signed the Haifa Declaration. The Declaration was a proposal, supported by a large cross section of Arab society, which called for the negation of Israel’s Jewish identity and for a “comprehensive change in Israeli policy, whereby Israel abandons its destructive role towards the peoples of the region...”

Most recently, Zoabi had kind words to say about the armed rebellion against Israel. As she said to Australian news outlet GreenLeft, “We don’t live in the territories, we cannot throw stones and we cannot participate in the legitimate resistance against occupation.”

I’lam is financed by the Washington DC based New Israel Fund, an American and British Jewish philanthropic foundation, which also sponsors Israeli-Arab NGOs Adalah and Mossawa. All these groups call for the removal of Israel’s Jewish identity and for the return of Arab refugees to the lands inside the 1948 armistice lines.

In addition to receiving funds from the NIF, I’lam is also a grantee of the organization Al-Quds: Capital of Arab Culture, a group spawned by both the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League.

At the conference the Forum resolved “Support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees.“

Attended Israel Apartheid Week

In March 2009, I’lam issued a press release stating that Israel cannot “liquidate the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Arab culture and will be the future capital of a Palestinian state, and tomorrow will be the focal point of the Arab and Islamic world and the progressive forces in the world.”

In her position as director of I’lam, Hanin Zoabi attended events such as Israel Apartheid Week. She also issued calls for Arabs to refuse any form of national service in Israel.

In 2008 the organization held a conference in Ramallah with journalists from the PA which “aimed to develop and facilitate working relationships between Palestinians journalists in Israel and in the West Bank, and to discuss the role of the Palestinian media on both sides of the Green Line” as well as “Exploring strategies for Palestinian media practitioners in addressing Israeli, European, and US-American media.” One lecture is titled "60 Years of Ethnic Cleansing."

Hired personnel

The connection of I’lam to the Palestinian Authority is reflected by its hired personnel.

The current director of I’lam, Sanaa Hammoud came to I’lam after serving as a consultant in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department.

Meanwhile, Wadea Awawdy, who served on the founding I’lam board of directors, when Ilam was founded in 2000, has worked as a correspondent for the official Palestinian Authority publication Al-Ayyam.

Nasser Victor Rego, mentioned above, also left a comment on a blog in which he said that Hamas “seems a genuinely emancipatory liberation and resistance movement” and added that “Israel is targetting civilians in the Strip to deflect and neutralise sentiment and action of a genuine liberation of Palestinians from subjugation.” 

Rego did not respond to email queries regarding his comments.

Meanwhile, I’lam board member Anton Shalhat was prevented from leaving Israel throughout 2006 and 2007 due to a recommendation from the General Security Services that stated that he may "harm the security of the state.”

NIF statement

When asked by journalist blogger Harris Phillipson whether the NIF has a problem with giving money to a group that supports the Right of Return, an NIF spokesperson wrote that “The New Israel Fund does not require ideological conformity from its grantees, and we differ with many of them on key issues."

Larry Garber, formerly of USAID, has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the New Israel Fund since 2004. NIF's website claims that its mandate is “to strengthen Israel's democracy by supporting programs that safeguard civil and human rights, bridge social and economic gaps, foster tolerance for all inhabitants, and enable different forms of religious practice to thrive” and that it distributes more than $15 million annually in grants to Israeli organizations. In addition, it allocates an additional $4 million a year for a service called Shatil, which provides technical assistance to approximately 1000 Israeli nongovernmental organizations.

The Middle East Forum recently commissioned a report on I’lam by the Center for Near East Policy Research which can be found online.