Stand Up For Democracy, Civil and Human Rights In Israel

How pernicious is the campaign against the New Israel Fund (NIF)?

The group that started this, Im Tirtzu, bills itself as a centrist group, although its founder and lead spokesperson, Ronen Shoval, was also a leading activist against the Gaza withdrawal and ran for the Knesset on the ticket of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party. As the campaign against NIF started to flag, such right-wing all-stars who never let facts get in the way of their ideological programs as Gerald Steinberg and David Bedein jumped into the media pool to try to prop it up.

Im Tirtzu demonstrating at Na'alin, where regular protests against the separation barrier often leave Palestinians injured

But indeed it would be a mistake to see this as a hardcore right-wing attack. The Im Tirtzu campaign is certainly hateful enough, but the real threat came up when a drive in the Knesset began to set up a subcommittee to investigate the NIF. This drive, which failed as well, was not led by a fanatical right-winger, but by Yisrael Hasson and Otniel Schneller of the “centrist” Kadima party (that Kadima can be called the Israeli center realistically says much about the rightward drift in the past decade of Israeli politics, but thatg is a separate matter).

It is also worth noting that there was a lot of opposition to this idea, and it came not only from the left but also from Kadima (by MK Nachman Shai, for example) and from Likud (including such leading figures as Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan).

The witch-hunters who have set their sights on NIF are not giving up, and Im Tirtzu and their supporters in the media (notably Ben Caspit of Ma’ariv, Israel’s second-leading daily newspaper) are still working to launch governmental probes of NIF and to revive Knesset legislation to prevent Israeli NGOs from receiving foreign funding (no similar action against settlements and settler organizations receiving foreign support is in the offing).

This is not an Israeli issue alone. In Israel, there is neither the sort of government support of NGOs that exists in Europe nor is there the network of foundations and philanthropies to support such organizations that we have in the United States. Given the deep concern for Israel, not to mention the country’s obvious importance in world events, it is a matter of grave concern to Jews and non-Jews around the world that support for Israeli human and civil rights and peace groups is being singled out and threatened. It is not only a threat to Israeli democracy – a horrifying enough prospect – but to global hopes for resolving the conflicts Israel is embroiled in.

And the first step to countering this effort is to be armed with the facts. Here are some key articles, all from mainstream Jewish and Israeli sources, that show just what an absurd tissue of lies Im Tirtzu is peddling:

Fact checking the anti-NIF report: Systematic omission and distortion of data, Dr. Amir Paz-Fuchs

An Examination of Im Tirtzu’s Public Relations Attach on the New Israel Fund, Keshev Center

Breaking down the Im Tirtzu report on New Israel Fund, JTA

These and the response, pasted below, from the New Israel Fund say much. You can also read it on the NIF site here.

LIES, DAMN LIES, AND THE IM TIRTZU REPORT
Analysis of the Im Tirtzu Report on the New Israel Fund

Recently the New Israel Fund became the latest target of what appears to be a coordinated effort to stifle dissent and shut down the human rights community in Israel.  A so-called research report, “The Influence of the New Israel Fund Organizations on the Goldstone Report,” accused the NIF family of being “active partners in the formation of the Goldstone Report, which slandered the IDF and the State.” Without NIF, claimed the study, there would be no Goldstone Report.

Analysis of the report demonstrates that it is a concoction of misrepresentations, sleight-of-hand with numbers, and outright lies.  The problems with the report fall into three categories:

Im Tirtzu claimed that nearly all of the negative comments cited by the Goldstone report could be sourced to NIF-funded groups. Actually, only 14% of the citations in the Goldstone Report originated with reports by organizations supported by the New Israel Fund.

  • Only by excluding the vast majority of the information submitted to the Goldstone commission can Im Tirtzu make its erroneous claim that NIF organizations are central to the Goldstone report.
  • Out of 1377 quotes in the Goldstone report, the vast majority (67%) were from foreign, UN or Palestinian sources.
  • Only 450 (33%) comments in the Goldstone report were from Israeli sources. Of these, most came from the news media, the Israeli government and organizations not affiliated with NIF in any way. Im Tirtzu targets 16 human rights groups supported by NIF because they are quoted in the Goldstone report. If these organizations were “responsible” for the Goldstone report because they are quoted, as Im Tirtzu has it, then so is the Israeli military and political leadership. Many of the most controversial sections of the Goldstone report, including the section on what it calls “disproportionate response,” rely primarily or heavily on official Israeli sources to support its contentions, including the IDF’s northern and southern commanders.  Would Im Tirtzu hold them, too, responsible for the Goldstone report?
  • The IT report authors blamed NIF-funded groups for “92 percent” of what they called negative citations in the Goldstone report. They came to this figure by counting footnotes attributed to these organizations. Had they actually read the footnoted texts, they would have realized that many of the original sources did not refer to Gaza.  Two groups accused of providing negative information about Gaza, Yesh Din and Bimkom, do not work on Gaza-related issues at all.
  • Some human rights groups’ reports attacked by Im Tirtzu were used by the IDF itself in its post-war evaluation of its performance and conduct. (http://forward.com/articles/125416/)

Some organizations criticized in the Goldstone Report have never received support from the New Israel Fund.  Others are members of coalitions that receive support for coalition work, not for the specific mission and tasks of the listed organization.

  • New Profile is not and never has been a grantee of the New Israel Fund.
  • Zochrot is not and has never been a grantee of the New Israel Fund.
  • Im Tirtzu characterizes New Israel Fund grantees as “extreme leftist groups” operating in various sectors, despite the fact that NIF supports more than 300 Israeli nonprofit organizations, including groups that work with recent immigrants, disabled-rights groups, women’s rights groups and pluralistic Orthodox organizations.  The 16 human rights groups cited in their report received less than 10% of NIF’s grants last year.  These organizations, many of them internationally respected, are far from ideologically monolithic. Branding them as extreme-left organizations is a clumsy attempt to assert that all human rights organizations should be considered as outside the Israeli political mainstream.

Im Tirtzu accuses the New Israel Fund of sparing “hardly a word” for Sderot.  The New Israel Fund and its action arm, SHATIL, have funded, sponsored and launched programs empowering the citizens of Sderot (and other underserved periphery communities) for many years.

  • SHATIL is supporting “Kol Acher” (A Different Voice) in Sderot, a group that works to promote dialogue on both sides of the border between Sderot and Gaza. This is one of the 16 organizations that Im Tirtzu accuses of “harming Israel” – and the one that actually gave testimony to the Goldstone Commission on the suffering of Sderot residents during the war!
  • SHATIL consultants work with immigrant/activist groups from both the former Soviet Union and the Ethiopian community in Sderot.
  • NIF launched its own “Active Citizenship” education program in Sderot schools, providing a pilot program on civics education that has been praised by Israel’s Education Ministry.
  • Several Sderot activists are now participating in SHATIL’s Young Leaders Forum and a leader of Sderot’s young Kavkazi (Caucasus immigrant) community is also participating in the SHATIL-led Negev Forum for Multi-Sector Leadership.
  • NIF/SHATIL invested millions of dollars building civil society in the North after the Second Lebanon war and we are now coordinating our many Negev programs into a long-term initiative.  Very few organizations work with as many underserved, periphery populations as does NIF/SHATIL, and our work in Sderot exemplifies that.
  • We challenge Im Tirtzu, NGO Monitor and other NIF critics to demonstrate the value of their contributions to Sderot.

The New Israel Fund has a thirty-year record of solid accomplishment building civil society in Israel – in human and civil rights, social justice, and religious pluralism.  These accomplishments are proudly and correctly cited by defenders of Israel as primary evidence of Israeli democracy.

NIF supports Israel’s most reputable and internationally-respected human rights groups.  These groups fulfilled their mission by carefully monitoring and reporting on the Gaza operation – and provided reports that have been utilized by the IDF, the Goldstone Commission, and others.  In turn, it is the task of an independent inquiry to assess these reports and put them in context.  Indeed, these human rights groups were also among the first to declare the need for an independent Israeli inquiry into the events of Gaza.

4 thoughts on “Stand Up For Democracy, Civil and Human Rights In Israel

  1. Why don’t smart people work to change human rights abuses in Arab and Muslim countries?
    Why do all not very clever people think Israel needs to improve human rights?
    Ask any Arab living in the area of Wadi A’ra, they were offered not to move anywhere but to have their homes belonging to the Palestinian state, not to Israel and they unequivocally refused. No Arab wants to live elsewhere, they all want to live in Israel.
    So why don’t you, Mitchell, do something positive with your time, transform Arab and Muslim countries into normal states.

  2. The answer is simple. Plitnick is a phony “Front Jew” for the Arabs who would gladly see Israel destroyed. Foir a Middle East scholar he nis woefully ignorant about Israel and can only recite Arab propaganda. Of course, he makes a living this way.

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