Matan Peled, Im Tirtzu chairman
Matan Peled, Im Tirtzu chairmanIm Tirtzu

Grassroots Zionist organization Im Tirtzu has published a new report in which it alleges that as elections draw closer, there has been “a strengthening and tightening of the ties between the New Israel Fund and the Labor Party.”

The NIF has invested efforts in “embedding NIF officials into the Labor Party list,” charges Im Tirtzu, indicating that the NIF “sees the Labor Party as the means by which to assert its influence over the legislative branch.”

The group further alleges that the attempts "to insert NIF officials, who categorically support organizations that are at their core anti-Zionist and who are working to increase the delegitimization against Israel, into the Labor Party,” constitute “political whitewashing.” It explains that “whitewashing” is made possible by the fact that the Labor Party is seen by the Israeli public as a center-left Zionist party, and states: “If such a party were to promote discourse and bills which seek to undermine the state of Israel’s Jewish-democratic identity in the Knesset, then as a result, Jewish-democratic discourse would be limited to the realm of Israel’s right-wing, and consequently diminished.”

The report lists several examples of what it says are the increasingly strong connections between the NIF and the Labor Party:

  • In the 1999 elections, Yitzhak Herzog was appointed as advisor to then-chairman of Labor, Ehud Barak. Herzog and Barak “founded a series of fictitious non-governmental organizations in order to receive funds towards the elections campaign; funds which came mainly from the New Israel Fund’s headquarters in the United States." The person who raised the money for the fictitious non-governmental organizations, specifically created in order to raise the money, and who recruited the New Israel Fund into participating in the project, was Herzog himself, the report alleges. When the story eventually broke, and became known as the 'Barak NGO Scandal,' "the entire inquiry ended without significant legal proceedings, since Herzog chose to remain silent throughout the investigation.”

    In addition, in 2011, Herzog received a personal donation from Brian Lurie, president of the New Israel Fund, to the sum of 8,725 ILS.
  • The newest partner in the Labor Party, former minister Tzipi Livni, received a $1,000 personal donation from Lurie in 2012, says the report. While not a large donation, “it attests to support and partnership between Lurie and Yitzhak 'Buji' Herzog’s new partner," the report explains.
  • The report cites an investigation by the website Mida, which says that the Labor Party hired an organization called Molad in order to promote a campaign against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The founder of Molad is former Labor MK Avraham Burg, who “is one of the New Israel Fund’s senior officials, who encourages Israelis to seek a foreign passport, and claims that he is 'a proud Hellenist.'” Burg also joined the communist party on Saturday.

    Other Molad staff members include Prof. Alon Harel from Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law, whom the report calls “a radical left-wing activist," who used a filthy expression about the Bible at a protest rally in Jerusalem’s Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood. The current CEO of the organization is Michael Mannekin, one of the original founders of the NGO Breaking the Silence, it adds (NIF denies it).
  • Zuhair Bahaloul, a member of the New Israel Fund’s Public Council, declared last week that he would be contending in the Labor Party primaries.
  • Prof. Yossi Yonah, who participated in Labor's previous primary race, and is contending in the current primaries, is active “in a wide range of organizations supported by the New Israel Fund.” Among other things, the report alleges, “he is a researcher in the Adva Center, which works towards advancing social-democratic policies, and is supported by the New Israel Fund and the Ford Foundation. In addition, he was one of the founders of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition, which is also supported by the NIF, and serves as a research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, which is also supported by the NIF.
  • MK Merav Michaeli served as a Labor MK in the latest Knesset, and is contending in these elections as well. In the past, Michaeli was an activist in the Israel Women's Network, which is supported by the New Israel Fund.
  • Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Reform Movement in Israel, which is supported by the NIF, has also announced his candidacy in the Labor primaries.
  • Stav Shaffir received donations from the NIF for the “social movement” she founded. Shaffir, who served in the recent Knesset, announced her candidacy in the primaries. Shaffir received a $1,000 personal donation from Brian Lurie, president of the NIF.
  • Amir Peretz is a member of the board of the New Israel Fund, says Im Tirtzu. While the NIF denies this, Im Tirtzu replies that this information was provided by Peretz himself for the Knesset’s official website, and it still appears on Peretz’s personal profile on the Knesset website.

Naomi Paiss, Vice President of the NIF, replied:

As usual, considering the source, this report is riddled with factual inaccuracies. Just in the first two pages:

Michael Mannekin is not the CEO of Molad

Amir Peretz is not on the NIF board

And Avraham Burg has not been on the NIF board for several years now.

As important, there is no difference between the friendly connections between NIF leadership and other progressives in Israel’s center-left, than between the hard-right settler organizations and the politicians in Jewish Home or Likud. Certainly Ronan Shoval, founder of Im Tirtzu, has always had strong ties to these parties and is now a leading candidate for Jewish Home.

The New Israel Fund does not engage in partisan politics, support candidates or parties, or fund partisan activities. Some of our leadership may, as individuals, donate to primary candidates in various parties as permitted by Israeli law.

In other words, this “report” is smear politics, but considering a court has found Im Tirtzu to have “fascist attributes,” we are surprised that even Arutz Sheva would take this seriously.