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    New Israel Fund Op-Eds 2010 New Israel Fund Op-Eds 2010 Document Transcript

    • Democracy in the Balance – Forward.com http://www.forward.com/articles/125428/ Opinion By Naomi Chazan Published February 10, 2010, issue of February 19, 2010. The New Israel Fund is only the latest target in a series of outrageous assaults on Israel’s democratic foundations. The apparently coordinated attempt this past year to intimidate, de-fund and possibly shut down Israel’s human rights community, culminating in this latest direct attack on NIF — and on me personally, as its president — is an alarming symptom of a deeply troubled society that is lurching toward authoritarianism and the undermining of basic civil freedoms. Last month, Israeli police took action against the leaders of two of Israel’s most prominent civil rights groups: The head of the Israel Religious Action Center was questioned and fingerprinted for her work in asserting women’s prayer rights at the Western Wall, and the executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel was arrested during a peaceful demonstration. Meanwhile, we have seen a series of attempts to compromise the Israeli Supreme Court’s independence and its status as the last line of defense for Israeli civil rights. These developments are very worrisome indeed. Today we see efforts to deny Israelis their basic democratic rights, including freedom of speech, association and dissent. For many people, what took the campaign against NIF beyond the realm of legitimate debate was the decision by its organizers to vilify the NIF by targeting me, personally. A widely distributed poster and ad with a rather unflattering caricature of me reached new lows by portraying me with a horn on my head — a play on the Hebrew word keren, which means both “fund” and “horn.” (I wonder if these nasty caricatures would ever be used against a man.) I was dubbed “Naomi Goldstone-Chazan.” A demonstration was held outside my home, billboards appeared throughout the country, and banners were posted on major Israeli Internet news sites. Although I was in New York for NIF’s board meeting when the campaign debuted, the outrage of my family, my friends and my former colleagues in the Knesset — even people who disagree with my politics — overloaded my e-mail and cell phone from across the Atlantic. As a former deputy speaker of the Knesset and a lifelong activist for peace, women’s rights and human rights, it takes a lot to upset me. And the personalized attack didn’t upset me, exactly. It did make me feel that Israel’s right wing would stoop to anything to discredit anyone, including the New Israel Fund and its affiliated organizations, for daring to voice a dissenting opinion — an elementary right in any democratic society. And it is worth pondering why that is. The original attack on NIF stemmed from a new group, Im Tirtzu, which is funded by the same sources supporting Jewish extremists, including the ministry of American evangelical leader John Hagee. Im Tirtzu had conducted a “study” of the Goldstone Report, and concluded that the Israeli human rights groups that NIF supports were chiefly responsible for that report’s negative conclusions about the actions of the Israel Defense Forces during the Gaza war. The Im Tirtzu report is a series of vicious distortions of the record of the New Israel Fund and its allied organizations. The report represents the antithesis of the values of Zionism that Im Tirtzu claims to espouse. The human rights groups whose reports are cited in the Goldstone Report are the canary in the coal mine of Israeli democracy. These organizations did their job, recording and reporting, and their findings were used primarily as background material; the most significant quotes used in the Goldstone Report came from military personnel and political leaders. NIF took no position on Goldstone, nor do we on other political matters. The human rights organizations we support are also not monolithic and have differing views regarding Goldstone’s conclusions.1 of 2 2/17/2010 1:43 PM
    • Democracy in the Balance – Forward.com http://www.forward.com/articles/125428/ One thing most of these Israeli human rights groups do have in common: They were among the first to call for an independent Israeli inquiry into the Gaza operation. Had that happened last year, the groups’ reports would have been placed in context with reports from soldiers and others, so that a clear picture of the IDF’s activities could have emerged. And the Goldstone Report itself would have been rendered redundant, since its key recommendation is the establishment of precisely such a commission of inquiry. As funders with a rigorous and exacting grant-making process, we know it is not our job to agree with everything our groups say and do, but rather to defend their right to fulfill their missions. And that goes to the heart of why NIF exists, and its dedication to debate and open airing of opinion not only among groups affiliated with our own “big tent” organization, but also in Israeli society at large. I have been president of NIF for two years and twice previously served as a member of its board. For 30 years, NIF has been founding and funding progressive civil society in Israel — our human and civil rights groups, our social justice groups and, particularly important to me, the groups that fight for tolerance and religious pluralism. Anyone who loves Israel — and I am completely and without reservation one of those people — should understand that NIF almost single-handedly built a sector without which a democracy cannot function. As someone who has dissented from conventional wisdom over the course of a long political and academic career, and as someone who believes that critical thinking builds a better society, I am proud to serve NIF as its volunteer leader because its values are the values enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Fortunately, thousands of ordinary people, and leaders in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world — from across the political spectrum — have spoken out against the attempt to shut us down. The immediate threat of a Knesset investigation into NIF has been stymied, but we know there will be more assaults. In the end, I am not the real victim of this particularly ugly attack. Even NIF, important as it is, is not the real victim. Should these trends continue, should Israel turn a deaf ear to self-examination and dissent, should an extremist minority continue to hold my country hostage to hatred and incitement, the real victim will be Israeli democracy. Naomi Chazan is president of the New Israel Fund. Copyright © 2010, Forward Association, Inc. All Rights Reserved.2 of 2 2/17/2010 1:43 PM
    • The Real Anti-NIF Agendaby Daniel SokatchSpecial To The Jewish WeekIn recent weeks, some very angry — and wildly inaccurate — accusations have been leveledagainst the New Israel Fund, the philanthropic partnership largely responsible for theestablishment of Israel’s progressive civil society. Not only have we been accused of enablingthe hated Goldstone report, but the NIF’s president, former Knesset Deputy Speaker NaomiChazan, has been grossly defamed and publicly caricatured in an incendiary and disgustingpublicity campaign.False arguments and dangerous demonization must not be allowed to stand, and the NIF hasalready acted to refute both. Israelis and the Jewish community worldwide remember how easilydelegitimization led to political violence when Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated, and itmust be rejected quickly, in all its forms.But it’s also true that in engaging in this battle, we risk missing a larger point: The existence of arobust civil society that wrestles honestly with vital social matters is a crucial element of anyhealthy democracy. As an organization committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, it isthis vision that NIF has worked to fulfill since 1979.For 30 years, we have supported hundreds of organizations and thousands of activists strugglingfor human and civil rights, religious pluralism, and social and economic justice. Our fundingstandards are high and rigorous, and we constantly review the work of each grantee and insist onaccountability and accomplishment on the ground. We support organizations that haveaccomplished Israel’s most significant victories for equality and justice, from High Courtdecisions to local endeavors by grassroots activists.All NIF grantees are registered NGOs meeting the legal requirements of the Israeli government.Our organizations must respect and support the democratic nature of the state of Israel. Theymust refrain from partisan political activity. Organizations cannot advocate violence or thedestruction of the state of Israel, or use racist or derogatory designations about any group.With more than 100 grantees at any given time, the NIF family comprises a broad range oforganizations and viewpoints, and we value our own spirited debate on Israel’s mostcontroversial issues. We do not demand that every grantee march in lockstep with NIF on everyissue of concern to Israeli society. Since Israel’s strength depends as much on its commitment todemocratic principles as on its military security, this means that while we don’t always supporteverything these organizations say, we support their right to say it. 1
    • This is where our detractors disagree, in particular regarding the citation of several NIF granteesin the Goldstone report examining last year’s war in Gaza. Less than 14 percent of the report’scitations were attributed to groups funded by NIF, and the vast majority of Goldstone’s mostcontroversial conclusions originated in official statements by the Israeli military and politicalleadership. And our funding for these organizations comprises less than 10 percent of our overallgrant making. But because these human rights groups work on the most complicated andsensitive issues in Israel, they attract more than their share of controversy.The New Israel Fund does support Israel’s most reputable and internationally respected humanrights groups. These groups fulfilled their mission by carefully monitoring and reporting on theGaza operation, and providing reports then used by the IDF, the Goldstone Commission, andothers. In turn, it is the task of an independent inquiry to assess these reports and put them incontext. Indeed, these human rights groups were also among the first to declare the need for anindependent Israeli inquiry into the events of Gaza, an inquiry that has not yet taken place andwhich would have properly contextualized the eyewitness accounts relied on by the human rightsgroups.We think that the accusations about NIF relating to Goldstone, incendiary and overstated as theyare, are a red herring. For all the hue and cry surrounding our grantees, our procedures, and theintent of those who criticize the IDF, it’s become increasingly clear that is not what this battle isreally about. Rather, it is all a part of a broader effort to stifle the voices of dissent and criticismwithin Israel.Leaders of Israel’s largest and most respected civil rights organizations, such as the ReformMovement’s Israel Religious Action Center and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, havebeen detained or arrested over the past year. The issue of the independence of the High Court,under attack for years, has taken a frightening turn with two recent violent attacks on Israelijudges. The delegitimizing of those who criticize Israel, and lumping them with those who trulyhate Israel — and unfortunately there are enough of the latter — fills the pundit pages of Israelinewspapers. While Israel’s defenders refer to it as the only democracy in the Middle East, someright-wing extremists are jeopardizing the very accomplishments and institutions that make thisso.This is the heart of the matter, and the NIF believes that such anti-democratic activity iscountenanced only at great peril to Israel’s future, and with utter disregard for the vision thatguided Israel’s founders.It is never easy to defend the civil liberties that undergird democracy, most particularly when thedemocracy in question is struggling against external threats. Yet the loss of those liberties isitself a threat. A strong civil society not only ties individuals to their fellow citizens, it alsoserves to create an electorate that will act to keep government representative and accountable.That Israel has always guarded its citizens’ freedom of expression is one of the most importantways in which it has guarded its own nature — and one of the greatest differences between it andthe authoritarian governments that characterize its neighbors.Politically motivated smear campaigns against activists struggling to advance Israeli democracydo not serve or befit the Jewish state. The American Jewish community, intimately involved in 2
    • the defense of that state, is now called upon to defend the bedrock ideals upon which it wasfounded. If we want to see Israel continue to thrive as a strong democratic and Jewish state, wemust defend the rights of a vital civil society within its borders — even when it’s difficult tohear.Daniel Sokatch is CEO of the New Israel Fund. 3
    • PressDisplay.com - The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition - 12... http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/services/OnlinePrintHandler....1 of 1 3/15/2010 10:19 AM
    • Published on The Jewish Week (BETA) (http://www.thejewishweek.com)Home > Needed: Nuance and Balance in Gaza Flotilla DebateNeeded: Nuance and Balance in Gaza FlotillaDebateFriday, June 4, 2010Daniel SokatchSpecial to the Jewish WeekWhen the New Israel Fund sent an action alert to protest gender-segregated buses in Israel, wegot an enthusiastic response.When we and the human rights groups we fund were attacked in Israel, viciously anddishonestly, we asked for signatures to a petition to Prime Minister Netanyahu in support ofdemocratic dissent, and we got a very enthusiastic response.But the immediate reaction we got to a brief, carefully-balanced letter we sent about the...well,lets call it the disastrous incident of the Gaza flotilla... now that was a response."I think that Daniels letter is the best statement that Ive read about the flotilla.""Why should the Israeli government conduct an inquiry when its own continuing policies ofunmitigated aggression and human rights abuses caused the attack and deaths in the first place?""Were you not shocked and dismayed by the deliberate and provocative effort by anti-Israelactivists - and ships sponsored by a recognized terrorist organization - to defy a legitimate navalblockade, despite Israels offer to transfer the aid directly to Gaza?""Living up to our ideals is the best answer to these unfortunate events. Thank you for keeping upthe hope for a better future through dialogue. The extremes thrive only on silence.""Daniel: You are out of your mind."Let me make one thing clear from the outset. We are neither foreign policy nor militaryspecialists, nor are we a "peace group." Our letter was written to express our fundamentalconcern for Israel. We are a proudly progressive organization that has built and supported Israelicivil society -- the human rights, social justice and religious pluralism organizations that are somuch of the reason Israel considers itself a vibrant democracy. As the leading supporter of 1
    • cutting-edge causes that advance Israeli democracy, we are used to controversy and to diverseviews within our own big tent, both in the U.S. and in Israel.But as accustomed as we are to argument, the nerve touched by the flotilla letter seems to us tobe raw, and frightening, and possibly predictive of some very hard times ahead for AmericanJews who love and are connected to Israel.We do empathize with the passions aroused by the flotilla action and the larger issues at stakehere. Whether they called the flotilla participants armed militants or peaceful activists, ourrespondents care about Israel. Whether our respondents faulted the IDF or Turkey, theNetanyahu government or Hamas, defended Israels action to the hilt or attacked it vociferously,our supporters reflect a connection to Israel that was once assumed to be one of the strongest tiesbinding the American Jewish community together.But those ties are fraying. More and more, we who work day in and out for Israel, whether fromthe left or right, know that every program we fund, every project we sponsor, is a potential targetfor ideological attack. The community events that should reflect the diverse opinions ofAmerican Jews about Israel too frequently deteriorate into controversy about this film or thatspeaker -- the argument being that those with whom one disagrees do not deserve the attention ofa thoughtful audience. Some American Jewish organizations apparently wait for their talkingpoints from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, while others jump to criminalize Israels actions in utterisolation from the existential threats it has endured since its founding.If we as a community leap to defend every action and policy of the Israeli government, we areoutsourcing our consciences, our values and our own responsibility. If we likewise forget thatIsraelis live next door to enemies who have sworn to eradicate them, we are transposing our ownAmerican comfort and security to a place that knows neither. And if we shrug our shoulders atIsraels lost ideals, silently thank our own American forbearers for settling here rather than there,and give up, we have abandoned what must remain the fulfillment of the collective dream of theJewish people.Having worked for Jewish organizations my entire career, I am alarmed and saddened. Not justby the outcome of the Gaza flotilla, but by the black-and-white character of too much of thecommunal response. A people who created the Talmud should not be so deaf to nuance, tobalance, to contextualizing a rational argument. A people who knew suffering for millenniashould not be indifferent to the suffering of others, and a people who were defenseless for almost2000 years should not be dismissive of the security concerns of its homeland.Six boats in the Mediterranean are sailing through the holes in the fabric of the Jewishcommunity. We need to be careful to ensure that our communitys conversation is open, honestand respectful of criticism and self-examination. We can and will disagree about what happenedlast week and about what it means for Israeli policy and Israel itself.But we must do so with some sense of connection and mutual care, for each other and for Israel.Daniel Sokatch is the CEO of the New Israel Fund. 2
    • Haaretz.Com http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/now-is-not-the-time-to-s... Home Print Edition News Published 12:48 18.06.10 Latest update 12:48 18.06.10 Now is not the time to scapegoat Israelis who are critical of Israel It is perhaps understandable that many seek a person or organization on whom blame can be placed, so that they may be sent into the political wilderness, cast out of the community, no longer allowed to contribute to the conversation. Understandable, perhaps, but woefully mistaken. By Daniel Sokatch and Rachel Liel In the aftermath of the flotilla incident off Gaza, Israelis and supporters of Israel are even more anxious and apprehensive than usual - worried about the implications of those events, and searching for the best way forward. Some of Israels leading lights - politicians, former military brass, intellectuals - have questioned the wisdom of Israels raid on the MV Marmara, and are struggling publicly with love for their country, and fears for its future. Others chose to immediately close ranks and throw up defenses. It is perhaps understandable that many seek a person or organization on whom blame can be placed, so that they may be sent into the political wilderness, cast out of the community, no longer allowed to contribute to the conversation. Understandable, perhaps, but woefully mistaken. As easy as it may be to attempt to scapegoat those who voice opposition to official Israeli policy, it is neither helpful nor wise. The former members of Knesset who have decried the loss of life; the Israeli naval reserve commanders who wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge an independent inquiry; the Israeli novelists and commentary writers and professors and nonprofits and ordinary people who have questioned the Gaza blockade itself - all have Israels best interests at heart. All seek a solution that will leave Israel stronger and safer. Their efforts are not to undermine Israel, but to build a better Israel. This in stark contrast to some on the world stage who would, indeed, delegitimize Israel and wish it removed from history. We do not question that there are nations, international NGOs and demagogues who wish to see Israel disappear. On one hand, we have those who would see Israel strengthened; on the other, those would happily see it destroyed. Never, perhaps, has it been more important to see the difference between the two. This is the real red line, the line between the loyal opposition and Israels real enemies. As the new leaders of the New Israel Fund, we have the tremendous good fortune to work with many Israeli organizations that act on the promise in Israels Declaration of Independence to "uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex." Some of these nonprofits advocate for new immigrants; some work with the poor of the periphery, others focus on civil rights. We have seen these organizations buoyed by success, and watched them face down angry opposition. Advocating for social justice in Israel, we watch the ebb and flow of political discourse and have, at times, worried for the State of Israels democracy. In a country that so often lives in fear, the temptation to simply shut down those with whom we disagree is particularly powerful. Yet for all our experience in Israel and in the Jewish world at large, we have never seen the impulse to muzzle the opposition expressed as bluntly as it is today. We cant help but be reminded of the backlash, which led, ultimately, to the assassination of a prime minister. Scapegoating the loyal opposition, smearing the good names of people dedicated to advancing Israels democracy, and demonizing those who seek genuine pluralism is not what Israel needs right now. Pushing away those who love Israel enough to engage honestly with its mistakes will not make Israel stronger, but will in fact delegitimize its standing as a democracy in the eyes of the world. In our positions with the New Israel Fund, we often come into contact with individuals or organizations with whom we do not entirely agree. Love of Israel and dedication to its survival, weve found, takes many and varied forms, and democracy works best when all are given a chance to speak. A word here or a phrase there may make some uncomfortable, but what is most important is to look at the body of an organizations work, rather than don blinders and focus narrowly on any disagreements we might have. There are limits, of course, in any democracy, and were not required to open the conversation to include those who would see the democratic state of Israel destroyed. But neither are we served by shrinking Israels democracy to include only those who support governmental policies at all costs. Indeed, thats not democracy by anyones definition, not at all. Now is not the time to shut down discourse and seek scapegoats from among those Israelis and supporters of Israel who take issue with some of the policies of the Netanyahu government. Now is the time to listen closely to all the voices that Israels democracy offers, and work together to find real solutions that will lead to equality for all, a lasting peace, and true security.1 of 1 6/18/2010 12:23 PM
    • Jpost | Print Article http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=179603 June 28, 110 Monday 24 Tammuz 3870 10:07 IST By DANIEL SOKATCH AND RACHEL LIEL 26/06/2010 Rather than ‘delegitimizing’ Israel, hundreds of groups supported by New Israel Fund emphatically legitimize Israel’s claim to its place among Western liberal democracies On Sunday, the board of directors of the New Israel Fund will gather in Tel Aviv to chart the course for an increasingly visible organization that has worked to advance equality and justice for every Israeli for almost 32 years. NIF’s core mission is to strengthen Israel’s democracy. A vibrant democracy demands openness, not just in dialogue, but also in practices and policies. A strong Israel, an Israel with the security to withstand external enemies and internal divisions, also requires a civil society sector that advances the interests of those whose voices are not often heard in the corridors of power. RELATED: A code of conduct for the New Israel Fund AS THE founder and first funder of dozens of Israel’s most internationally respected organizations, the New Israel Fund is accustomed to controversy. Many causes that were cutting-edge when we first took them on are now supported by the mainstream, from the first battles for women’s rights to the passage of legislation protecting the disabled from discrimination and exclusion. Our support for organizations advancing human rights, and for those advancing civil rights for the Israeli Arab sector, has been a particular lightening rod. It has always provoked attacks from those who perpetrate the increasingly hollow myths that Israel can do no wrong, and that almost any criticism, however loving, of Israeli policy or actions is somehow disloyal. In a democracy, of course, one is free to express any opinion, and the latest publicity stunt from NGO Monitor is just that, an opinion – and a partisan one at that. Those familiar with NGO Monitor know it as a mouthpiece for a right-wing ideology, a “monitor” that never monitors settler, haredi or ultra-nationalist groups but only those with progressive values. And, of course, NGO Monitor is itself entirely unmonitored. It does not appear to meet accepted standards for transparency or accountability, and provides little information on its governance or funding. NIF, by contrast, is a responsible funder that regularly reviews its principles, policies and funding decisions and receives excellent ratings for transparency from Guidestar and other philanthropic oversight organizations. Our donors understand and support a vision of Israel in which ideas and ideologies contend in an open space. Rather than “delegitimizing” Israel, as the current buzzword has it, the hundreds of groups and thousands of activists NIF supports emphatically legitimize Israel’s claim to its place among Western, liberal democracies. But that claim is fraying. As much as NIF must focus on its own strategies and the increasing demands on its resources, we are even more concerned with the diminishing tolerance of dissent in Israeli society. The recent survey by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University showing that more than half of Jewish Israelis think there is “too much freedom of speech” is only the tip of the iceberg. As1 of 2 6/28/2010 10:07 AM
    • Jpost | Print Article http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=179603 peaceful demonstrations are disrupted or forbidden by the police, as the rights of Israeli Arab citizens are called into question, as some members of Knesset brazenly attempt to shut down progressive civil society, we have a lot more to worry about than sniping from organizations that exist primarily to send out press releases. THERE IS no question that Israel is facing an increasingly hostile international environment. And some of that hostility is rooted in antagonism to Israel’s very existence, an antagonism we combat as fiercely as any organization that is rooted in a love for Israel and in the belief in the best of Jewish values. But Israel must ask itself whether some of its own policies – policies that the NIF family of organizations critique and question – are contributing to Israel’s increasing isolation from its friends and supporters. Israelis must recognize as well that the drift toward authoritarian and anti-democratic sentiment is a profound threat to the cohesion of Israeli society. Silencing opposition voices serves no one but those who would see the Jewish and democratic state we support disintegrate into an ultranationalist, extremist parody of the dreams of its founders. The tens of thousands of Israeli activists who participate in the social change organizations supported by NIF are patriots in the best sense of the word. They call on their country, every day, to live up to its ideals, to promote freedom, justice and equality for all its citizens, and to refuse to settle for an Israel in which civil rights are subject to political whim. They are a critical component of what makes Israeli society strong and resilient. When these difficult days pass – and we have no doubt that Israel has what it takes to get past them – it will be in part because Israeli civil society didn’t give up or give in. The naysayers of the world, those for whom conformity of thought is a greater source of comfort than democratic freedoms, may continue to seek headlines and attention at the expense of Israel’s democracy. We will continue to take responsibility for our work, our choices, and our dedication to the Israel we know to be possible. To do anything less would be to turn our back on the country we love. Daniel Sokatch is CEO, and Rachel Liel the executive director in Israel, of the New Israel Fund. About Us | Advertise with Us | Subscribe | RSS All rights reserved © 1995 - 2009 The Jerusalem Post. ʮ”ʲʡ ʤʩʣʮ ʸʨʰʩʠ ʺʸʥʹʷʺ ʩʷʩʴʠ ʨʰ 2009- © ʺʥʸʥʮʹ ʺʥʩʥʫʦʤ ʬʫ2 of 2 6/28/2010 10:07 AM
    • The battle for Israel | Opinion | Jewish Journal http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/print/the_battle_for_israel_2010... August 31, 2010 The battle for Israel BY DANIEL SOKATCH http://www.jewishjournal.com/ opinion/article/the_battle_for_israel_20100831/ As experts rush to predict the outcome of the upcoming round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, all the familiar issues are resurfacing for discussion. Borders, right-of-return, Jerusalem, settlements. The world waits, and hopes, that this time the outcome will be different. But while all eyesare on the peace pro-cess, another, little-known process is unfolding within Israel, where a debate rages over the nature and definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It is, in other words, a battle for the soul of Israel, and its outcome is no less crucial to the future of the State of Israel than the results of the negotiations in Washington. At present, there are no fewer than 14 bills pending in the Knesset that would de-fund or penalize civil society, curtail freedom of speech or dissent, or in some way diminish democratic freedom. Extremist settlers, with the tacit assent of the government, are taking over East Jerusalem’s historic Palestinian neighborhoods, based on land claims that pre-date 1948. So-called “student groups” with millions of dollars in opaque funding are attacking the universities, the media and my own organization, the New Israel Fund (NIF), and the many human rights and social justice groups we fund, as anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and treasonous. Americans may remember a similar atmosphere in our own country after 9/11. But what is happening in Israel is different and more ominous. Not even the most enthusiastic backers of the Patriot Act suggested closing down the ACLU, requiring loyalty oaths from all Americans or forbidding Native Americans, African Americans or Japanese Americans from commemorating their historic tragedies in this country — but parallel demands are escalating in Israel. When L.A.’s Progressive Jewish Alliance, which I used to lead, opposed the war in Iraq and came to the defense of moderate Muslim leaders, many argued with us but no one suggested shutting us down. The drift toward authoritarianism and McCarthyism in some sectors of Israeli society actually doesn’t have much to do with physical security. The number of terrorist incidents is way down, and despitethe looming threat from Iran, the borders are quiet. But Israelis do not feel secure. The memory of the horrific suicide bombings earlier in the decade is still sharp. And the buzzword of this year, the great fear among Israelis, is the “delegitimization” of Israel. Some on the Israeli right — and their supporters abroad — have cynically labeled every critic and every criticism of Israeli policy or actions, no matter how valid the criticism or how loving the critic, as delegitimization. In the international reaction to the flotilla, to the Goldstone Report and to the Gaza action, many Israelis see uncompromising hostility to the Jewish state itself, not to its actions or policies. Israel has real adversaries who deny its right to exist. But while it may be understandable, the indiscriminate rejection of all criticism is creating the very zero-sum game that many Israelis fear. If Israelis believe that every gain for Palestinians — whether in peace talks or in civil rights for Arab citizens inside Israel — is a loss for Jewish Israelis, there will be no progress. If progressive organizations report on human-rights violations, the widening gap between rich and poor and the ever-growing power of the ultra-Orthodox hierarchy, and the reaction of Israeli leadership is to shoot the messenger, the message of a deteriorating democracy will not be lost on the international community. And if the forces of ultra-nationalist reaction gain even more traction, the caricature of Israel drawn by its real enemies will, tragically, come closer to reality. But there is good news. Those who cherish the Israel envisioned by its founders are fighting back. The Israel Defense Forces has changed its operational protocol to better protect civilian lives and infrastructure, and actually credited human rights groups’ reports on the Gaza war for their information and observations. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein refused to “investigate” NIF and the human rights community, citing the duties of civil society in a democracy. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decried the divisiveness of pending anti-democratic legislation, and scores of Israeli leaders defended academic freedom against extremist attacks. Israel needs this kind of courage to confront both itself and its adversaries, because securing a vibrant and functioning Israeli democracy is as critical for Israel’s future as is securing peace with its neighbors. The factions resisting a settlement freeze and real progress toward peace are the same ones attempting to dismantle freedom of speech and conscience, restrict minority rights and reverse equality for women. The more they intimidate and bamboozle their countrymen with the canard that only they are the guardians of Zionism, the more likely it becomes that the Jewish-1 of 2 9/1/2010 11:20 AM
    • The battle for Israel | Opinion | Jewish Journal http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/print/the_battle_for_israel_2010... and-democratic state will, eventually, be neither. The two-state solution may be the obvious answer, but it is by no means assured. The answer to the despotism of Hamas is not anti-democratic measures in Jerusalem. As Israel confronts its adversaries, it must reject the temptation to mimic those whose repressive and theocratic regimes are rightfully condemned. Shutting down dissent and democracy will not keep Israel safe. A commitment to justice for all its citizens and to a fair and equitable solution of two states for two peoples, will. Daniel Sokatch is CEO of the New Israel Fund. © Copyright 2010 Tribe Media Corp. All rights reserved. JewishJournal.com is hosted by Nexcess.net. Homepage design by Koret Communications. Widgets by Mijits. Site construction by Hop Studios.2 of 2 9/1/2010 11:20 AM
    • Naomi Chazan: Owning Our Identity http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-chazan/owning-our-identity_b_76... October 14, 2010 This is the print preview: Back to normal view » Naomi Chazan Fmr. Deputy Speaker, Israeli Knesset; President, New Israel Fund Posted: October 14, 2010 10:12 AM As the future of the newest round of peace talks hangs in the balance, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has reiterated what seemed to some to be a logical demand. Recognize Israel as the Jewish state, he said to the Palestinians, as a condition for extending the moratorium on settlement expansion and thus keeping the Palestinians at the table. The notion that the legitimacy of Israels Jewish character somehow hinges on others recognition has become a convenient and often used political billy club for the Prime Minister. Just last week, he announced his support for what amounts to a loyalty oath, an amendment to the Citizenship Act, which would require new Israeli citizens to pledge loyalty to a "Jewish, democratic state." The proposal was passed by his cabinet on Sunday. The Prime Ministers demands, simple and straightforward as they may seem, are the long fuse to a tinderbox of complex issues involving our identity as Israelis and as Jews, the nature of Israels democracy, and the rights of minorities not just in Israel but in an eventual Palestinian state. Instituting a loyalty oath and demanding external recognition of a "Jewish state" is the next dangerous step in allowing the ruling coalition of ultra-nationalists and ultra-Orthodox to define who is Jewish, who is Israeli, and who is "loyal." As a political scientist by training and as the president of the New Israel Fund, I am all too aware that a word or phrase can touch off a new set of controversies on issues where many seem willfully determined to misunderstand each other. Careful analysis and historical sensitivity, on the other hand, can defuse seemingly intransigent demands and irreconcilable narratives, and provide the insight we so badly need in order to go forward. Lets start with that simple phrase, "the Jewish state." It is a phrase no longer used by most progressive Israelis, and for good reason: Using "Jewish" as modifier for a state means defining "Jewish" to at least the satisfaction of a majority of Jews. And as any Jew in Israel or abroad knows, thats a centuries-old conundrum.1 of 3 10/14/2010 10:58 AM
    • Naomi Chazan: Owning Our Identity http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-chazan/owning-our-identity_b_76... Define Jews as a people -- which we are -- and you are immediately entangled in the extra- national definition of people related by blood and heritage, across national boundaries. Is Israel the state of American or Australian Jews, for example? Clearly not, although they have a continued stake in its well-being. Define Jews as a religion -- which we are -- and you relinquish self-definition to theocracy and, in Israels case, to the harshest and most exclusionary ultra-Orthodox strictures on who is a Jew. Define Jews as a nation and you have a tautology, whereby Israel is the national expression of a nation - explaining and defining nothing. Past the intricacies of Jewish self-definition is the problematic concept of a state that uses its majority population as the defining element of its political system. Although Jewish self-determination is the raison detre for Israel, in a democracy the state itself must be the neutral arbiter of its peoples interests. And in Israel, more than twenty percent of the population are not Jewish; they are Palestinian Muslims and Christians, Bedouins, Armenians, Druze and others who, often for centuries, have inhabited the land. Additionally, more than 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union are not considered legally Jewish by the state because of their exclusion by the rabbinical establishment. The fact that Israel has no straightforward route to citizenship for non-Jews and no viable immigration policy mirrors the contradictions and inequities of a "Jewish state," in which the machinery of government is geared to the well-being primarily of the majority population. The internal contradictions of the identity of "the Jewish state" are, of course, rooted in its tangled history. The land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river is the homeland for two peoples, Jewish and Palestinian. The United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 acknowledged that reality, and is the legal foundation for Israels existence and for the demand for Palestinian statehood. Indeed, war, occupation and the wrongheaded policies of two sets of leaders for too many years have prevented Israels natural neighbor and geopolitical partner, Palestine, from attaining its own national self-determination. Peoples, in the universal language of human rights, deserve the right to self-determination, and in most cases insist on sovereign control over their own destiny. In Israel and in what will someday be the independent state of Palestine, the correct description for these democracies should be the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish -- or Palestinian -- people. This definition diminishes the danger inherent in an ethnocentric definition of the state, and mandates an Israel that is responsible for the equality of all its citizens, as promised by its Declaration of Independence. A sovereign expression of the right of self-determination is also the description that is consistent with a multicultural and diverse democracy, which is the real nature of Israeli society. Within that framework is the possibility -- and I would argue the necessity -- of recognizing the collective rights of national minorities. An Israel with a substantial indigenous minority can and should acknowledge the freedom of its Palestinian citizens to determine their education, culture and other aspects of their communal life. In a parallel manner, a Palestinian state could and should reserve collective rights and protections for a Jewish minority, if some of the settlers now living on the West Bank choose to remain in what will become an independent Palestine. These reciprocal sets of rights and responsibilities can provide self-determination for two peoples within geographically segmented homelands, while mutually guaranteeing the rights of each others minority cohort. But there are other requirements as well. Most Israelis, and I am one, accept that a negotiated version of the 1967 borders should represent the boundary between Israel and Palestine. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility to confront an earlier outcome -- that of 1948. This does not mean questioning the legitimacy of Israel, as some on the right fear. It simply means acknowledging that our independence came at the price of what Palestinians call the nakba (catastrophe). Understanding two narratives, even when they appear to be mutually exclusive,2 of 3 10/14/2010 10:58 AM
    • Naomi Chazan: Owning Our Identity http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-chazan/owning-our-identity_b_76... means that the victors acknowledge some responsibility for the refugee issue that has been a major impediment to peace for many years. Seventeen years ago, the PLO acknowledged Israels right to exist in peace and security, without even exacting Israels recognition of its natural concomitant, a Palestinian state. Now, Prime Minister Netanyahu asks Palestinians, as well as all those who would become Israeli, to recognize a Jewish state as if that would somehow confer legitimacy or provide an answer to the conflict, ignoring the complexities that make such recognition both useless and impossible. Even if the Palestinian Authority were willing to make this absurd concession, it has no right to deny the rights of Israels Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens, and it has no responsibility to define what Israel is. That responsibility belongs to us, to Israelis. We must bring the right of self-determination of Jews to a balancing point with Israels absolute obligation to remain an open, egalitarian and just democracy. Asking others to define us by our Jewishness will not make us more Jewish or more secure. It will not give us more legitimacy. Only we can decide who we are as a people. Only we can determine the nature of our multicultural and diverse society. Only we can mold our state, and our democracy. Naomi Chazan is the former Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, and currently the Dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo and the President of the New Israel Fund.3 of 3 10/14/2010 10:58 AM
    • Dont Divest; Invest x Email x Print x ShareBy Naomi PaissEditor’s Note: This article was written for Zeek in response to an essay by Jewish Voice forPeace advocating that Jews join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The twoessays appeared on Zeek’s website simultaneously, and benefit from being read together. Pleasecomment on either piece, keeping in mind Zeek’s comment policy: all comments should addressideas in the articles. Comments that feature ad hominem attacks, or that use racist, sexist,homophobic, or language that attacks a religion or people qua religion or people (i.e. anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-Islamic language), will be deleted at the editor’s discretion.Since 1979, the New Israel Fund has dedicated itself to a vision of Israel that lives up to itsfounders’ vision, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence, of a Jewish homeland and ashared society that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. Now, the New Israel Fund is theleading organization committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis. NIF strengthensorganizations and leaders that work to achieve equality for all the citizens of the state; realize thecivil and human rights of all, including Palestinian citizens of Israel; recognize and reinforce theessential pluralism of Israeli society; and empower groups on the economic margins of Israelisociety.We are not a “peace” group and are not directly involved with negotiations. We don’t lobby theAmerican government and we don’t opine on eventual borders or other final status issues. Wedo, however, oppose the occupation and the post-1967 settlement enterprise. We only supportorganizations registered with the Israeli government as non-profits in the state of Israel, and thatincludes Israeli organizations working for human and civil rights on both sides of the GreenLine.At a time when the atmosphere in Israel is rapidly polarizing, it can be challenging to be pro-Israel, pro-peace and pro-democracy. The international anti-Israel forces on both the hard leftand right are doing their best to make that characterization an oxymoron. But we are not going torelinquish the character of Israel to the extremists. We will not condemn Israel for its lifelongstruggle for legitimacy and security in a neighborhood that often denies it both. Nor will we giveup on the objective of a two-state solution – the solution we believe is the only viable answer tothe need for two homelands for two peoples. 1
    • Facts on the GroundThose who only see Israel through the lens of the conflict are missing too much about a vibrant,argumentative and intensely emotional society, one in which civil society organizations – theorganizations NIF seed-funded or founded - are playing a key role in preserving and expandingprogressive values.Having survived direct, vicious and dishonest attacks for much of the past year, NIF wellunderstands the serious challenges to Israel’s democratic character. The recent Cabinet passageof the “loyalty oath” is only the latest in a series of outrageous attempts by ultra-nationalists tostifle dissent and ensure that Israel’s Palestinian minority is permanently relegated to second-class citizenship. Our family of organizations has been falsely attacked for complicity with theGoldstone report, assailed for our support of civil rights and freedom of conscience for thePalestinian community, and even labeled treasonous for our support of an increase in royaltypayments to the government for new natural gas discoveries. Even the Likud Finance Ministersupports that last one!In such an atmosphere, it would be easy to give up on Israel’s ability to reform itself from withinand re-assert the values of liberal democracy. But we are not giving up, and that is precisely whywe object to the tactics of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.The BDS MessageThose who assert that boycotts, divestment and sanctions are the only remaining route towardsinfluencing a recalcitrant Israeli government misunderstand much about the effect of thesetactics. For some time now, some Israeli leaders have described any criticism of Israeligovernment policy as part of a plot to “delegitimize” Israel. Obviously, we couldn’t disagreemore, and we think healthy debate over every aspect of Israel’s society, and the existence of afree and vocal civil society, does more to legitimize Israel than any amount of cynical hasbaracan accomplish.But it’s important to understand what lies behind that ‘delegitimizing’ message. Many if notmost Israelis favor a two-state solution and a withdrawal to some negotiated version of the 1967lines. Most oppose the settlement enterprise. But most also feel besieged and singled out bythose outside Israel who hold it to a standard not applied to truly authoritarian and repressiveregimes, from Russia to China to Sudan. From the equation of Zionism with racism more thanforty years ago, to the current contortions of some international institutions that single out Israelfor pariah status, many Israelis see uncompromising hostility to the entire endeavor of a Jewishhomeland, not only to its actions or policies.We see global BDS as a tactic that embodies the message that Israel cannot and will not changeitself, and for that reason, we think it is inflammatory and counter-productive. We see proposalsthat would ban Israeli academics, no matter what their personal and political views may be, fromparticipation in the free exchange of ideas in international conferences. We see artists andmusicians, who often come bearing badly-needed messages of peace and tolerance, being urged 2
    • to take Israel off their tour itineraries. We see a message that says that Israel is beyond hope ofredemption, that it must be held behind a cordon sanitaire of contempt and disengagement.And we disagree. The way to change Israel is not to divest, but to invest in Israelis andPalestinians who are struggling every day to change the status quo. From J Street and Americansfor Peace Now in the U.S., to NIF and the hundreds of organizations we fund in Israel, to newNGOs working to build civil society in the occupied territories, there are hundreds oforganizations and thousands of people who deserve financial support and a megaphone for theirideas and causes.For example, NIF supports a successful weaving micro-enterprise for Bedouin women in theNegev. We seed-funded a program that allows underprivileged immigrant women to turn theircooking talents into catering businesses. After the Second Lebanon War, we funded an artists’co-operative in the North - in a former kibbutz chicken house! – to better publicize their workand products. Our action arm SHATIL is working with an innovative program to trainunderemployed Palestinian Israelis for work in the high-tech sector. These are just a fewprograms that provide support for tangible products and employment by Israelis who desperatelyneed economic empowerment – the list of organizations successfully engendering social changein every sector is diverse and long.Anyone who is truly interested in a peaceful, multicultural and just Israel should realize thatglobal BDS condemns these Israelis, and millions like them, to isolation and vilification. In asmall and interconnected society like Israel, the blunt force of global BDS penalizes the innocentalong with the guilty, pushes moderates towards right-wing nationalism, and spurs rejection ofprogressive and humanist values.And the key issue here is this: Israel has a history of self-correction. The reaction to the Sabraand Shatila massacres, the eventual support even on the center-right for a Palestinian state, themany High Court decisions expanding rights for Arabs, women, the LGBT community and othermarginalized Israelis – these are not the mark of a society that does not question itself or evolve.Israel is not an ‘apartheid state’; that is a historically inaccurate and inflammatory term thatserves only to demonize Israel and alienate a majority of Jews around the world, including thosewho care deeply about issues of democracy, human rights, social justice and peace. Israel is notSouth Africa; it is a country where thousands upon thousands of activists are busy with actionsaimed at making their lives - and those of their fellow citizens - better. They have not capitulatedto despair and to the abandonment of the goal of a just and egalitarian society. They will notforgive us if we do.The Exception to the RuleAs is our way, we look for a more nuanced approach to the BDS issue.It is clear to us that products and services that come from the settlements are in a differentcategory. It is also clear that Israelis who boycott the settlements, as did the artists who refusedto perform in Ariel, are expressing their heartfelt opposition to Israel’s most misguided anddamaging policy. As Israelis and Palestinians begin to organize themselves into non-violent 3
    • protest of the settlements, including holding those settlements economically accountable, it iscritically important to find ways to support those efforts productively and pro-actively.The settlements are not in Israel. They represent not “just” a blot on Israel as a just and decentnation, and a terrible danger to its survival, but also the waste of billions of shekels for security,expensive bypass roads, government-subsidized construction and mortgages, and more. Thoseare shekels that could be used to build a more prosperous and socially just Israel. Refusingproducts and services made in the settlements, and opposing government expenditures there, iswell within the rights of every organization and individual who intends to influence the Israeligovernment to finally abandon the quixotic and immoral settlement enterprise.Not a Dead ArmadilloRecently, an NIF board member was invited to speak at a panel in a community whose food co-op was considering a boycott of all Israeli products. Literally positioned between Stand With Usand Code Pink, she described our work and the alternatives to global BDS offered by the NewIsrael Fund and other pro-Israel, progressive organizations. At the end of the night, she wasliterally embraced by several audience members, who were urgently looking for ways to livetheir progressive values without shunning Israel as a pariah state, beyond redemption.A Texas populist once said the only things found in the middle of the road were yellow stripesand dead armadillos. Nope. Where Israel is concerned, there are too many on both the left andright whose intransigent insistence on a narrow and self-righteous narrative is hampering effortsto build a better and more open society. We at the New Israel Fund will continue to look forpositive solutions to desperately difficult issues. We’ll continue to debate our friends andadversaries on these complicated issues, and listen to other points of view. And we’ll continue toensure that there are means for engagement with Israel that really contribute to the long andarduous search for equality, justice and peace.Naomi Paiss is the Director of Communications of the New Israel Fund. 4
    • Op-Ed: Fire’s devastation can lead to positive change | Israels Carmel Fire... http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/print/op-ed_fires_devastation_can... December 7, 2010 Fires devastation can lead to positive change BY RACHEL LIEL AND DANIEL SOKATCH http://www.jewishjournal.com/ israels_carmel_fire/article /op-ed_fires_devastation_can_lead_to_positive_change_20101207/ Op-Ed: Fire’s devastation can lead to positive change By Rachel Liel and Daniel Sokatch SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)—It is hard to explain just how devastated Israelis are by the Carmel fire. But it is easier to explain how that devastation can become a positive force for positive change, right now, in Israel. The fire consumed at least 42 lives, thousands of forested acres and millions of shekels in property. With the assistance of a dozen foreign nations, the beleaguered firefighters finally got the resources they needed to battle a blaze that consumed more than its obvious victims. What may have perished in the fire is Israel’s sense of self-reliance, and the confidence of ordinary people that they can rely on their government and society to meet their needs. Just as the Second Lebanon War provoked questions about Israel’s readiness to withstand a bombing campaign, the Carmel fire illuminates issues that have been too readily subsumed in the endless attention to the conflict. We at the New Israel Fund are painfully aware that Israel is often seen two-dimensionally, even by its own government. It is of course a priority for Israel to pursue peace and security, but an exclusive focus on these issues skews attention and resources away from an equally critical task. We, the organization that founded and funded Israel’s civil society and that works every day on intractable social issues, know what that task is. It is building a society founded on equity and social justice, where every person has the opportunity to live a decent life, and building the infrastructure and the institutions that provide this opportunity to all. It is security, yes, but in a sense that extends far beyond fighter planes and a separation fence. What Israel discovered last week is that while it prides itself on its strength, it is in some ways far, far too weak. There wasn’t the proper equipment for fighting fires, and the supply of fire-retardant chemicals was exhausted even before the Carmel ignited. Just a few weeks ago, when the 40-story Shalom Tower in Tel Aviv was burning, it turned out that the Tel Aviv Fire Department does not have a hook-and-ladder truck that extends beyond 10 stories. Israel sits on an earthquake fault and has done little to plan for that eventuality, while in a drought-stricken region water and development policies are enmeshed in money interests and politics, not in sustainable growth. For too long, under successive governments, Israeli society has polarized between the center and the periphery, the Jews and the Arabs, the religious and the secular, the haves and the have-nots. The current government, paying attention to the demands of its political coalition, is channeling even more money into stipends for non-working yeshiva students and radical settler incursions into Palestinian neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem. But every government has been held hostage to the demands of specific constituencies, the inequalities persist, and now poverty in Israel is more widespread than in any of the 30 European Union nations. Income inequality in Israel is second only to the United States among developed nations, and Israeli schools, public lands and infrastructure are deteriorating quickly. This situation can and must change. The Carmel fire may have been Israel’s Katrina, but we and many people like us will insist on a faster recovery than New Orleans experienced. We know the real strength of Israel is not only in its military but in its people—the thousands of ordinary people we work with every day. The day the fire started, grass-roots organizations of the North began mobilizing. A day after it ended, our Haifa office was already gearing up with our grantees and partners for the huge tasks of long-term recovery. We will work to ensure that there is compensation for the victims and the homeless, and that it is distributed fairly. Environmental groups are too infrequently consulted in Israel; we will make sure they are at the table when the future of the Carmel Forest is considered. The fire re-ignited anti-Arab invective in some segments of society; our longstanding leadership of Arab and Jewish groups in the North will substantiate efforts to eradicate racism and build a truly shared society. Israel’s beautiful Carmel Forest is burnt and black. Its people’s faith in their government is shaken. But Israel does have a civil society, which means that there is a force that enables ordinary people to change their circumstances, even if they are not wealthy or politically connected. Civil society empowers and ennobles and, yes, sometimes enrages the powers- that-be.1 of 2 12/8/2010 9:59 AM
    • Op-Ed: Fire’s devastation can lead to positive change | Israels Carmel Fire... http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/print/op-ed_fires_devastation_can... Now is the time for ordinary Israelis to insist on leadership that is accountable and fair, and on a society that plans for peace and prosperity, not just for defense and war. It is time for all of us, Israeli and American, to see Israel in all its dimensions, in all its needs and in all its possibilities. Rachel Liel is the executive director in Israel and Daniel Sokatch the CEO of the New Israel Fund. © Copyright 2010 Tribe Media Corp. All rights reserved. JewishJournal.com is hosted by Nexcess.net. Homepage design by Koret Communications. Widgets by Mijits. Site construction by Hop Studios.2 of 2 12/8/2010 9:59 AM
    • C O U N T E R I N G R E S I S TA N C ENEW ISRAEL FUND attacks on NIF for what they were, not being shy in asking our friends to speak out for us, and doing theA liberal funder analysis necessary to understand the charges levelled at us and the way our own words and actions had been misrepresented. It also meant working closely with ourunder attack Daniel Sokatch and Rachel LielLast winter, a so-called Israeli ‘student group’ launched an attack more controversial grantees to present a united front that still allowed institutional autonomy for all of us. Finally, it meant accelerating a process already un-on the New Israel Fund (NIF). Despite NIF’s 32-year track record der way, of better defining NIF and our goals. NIF hasof building and sustaining progressive civil society, we found long been a ‘big tent’ – the first funder of civil soci-ourselves in the fight of our lives to protect our organization, in ety groups representing women and gays, RussiansIsrael and worldwide. and Ethiopians, single mothers and the disabled, and Israel’s most marginalized minority, its Palestinian The attack was triggered by NIF’s human rights grant- citizens. But we are associated with the left. Our val- ees providing eyewitness accounts of Israeli Defence ues are progressive. We are not a neutral funder, and Force (IDF) misbehaviour during the 2009 Gaza war we have specific positions, including opposing the to the investigating UN commission, some of which occupation and the settlement enterprise. found their way into the controversial Goldstone As we are the leading organization advancing Israeli report. The ‘student group’ produced a well-funded democracy, our self-examination needed to exemplify report attacking us for disloyalty. Their report was the kind of society we ourselves would like to see in eventually debunked, but other groups associated Israel. We started a process of dialogue that included with the hard right continued the assault. They at- our staff, board, friends, grantees and clients, and even tempted to associate NIF with global BDS (boycott, some of our critics. We clarified and codified principles sanctions and divestment), universal jurisdiction cas- that we believe characterize our values and work, but es against Israeli officials, and rejection of the Jewish which in a highly charged atmosphere involved care- character of Israel. The accusations were dishonest: we ful thinking through intent and language. We appliedDaniel Sokatch isthe CEO of NIF and oppose all of these positions. But, at a time when the those principles to the creation of more specific fund-Rachel Liel is its Israeli public is highly sensitive to what is termed the ing guidelines, institutionalized a policy mechanism,Executive Director inIsrael. Email info@ ‘de-legitimization’ of Israel, they were still damaging. and more clearly defined NIF to our stakeholders andnif.org Almost immediately, the many supporters of NIF to the public at large. worldwide recognized these attacks as part of a cal- The outcome of the attacks on NIF, and on progressive culated assault on the principles of Israeli democracy.civil society in Israel, is still in doubt. On the posi- (More than a dozen bills have now been introduced in tive side, the Attorney General of Israel has found no the Knesset, threatening to defund, penalize or even grounds to investigate NIF. The IDF has changed the criminalize civil society or otherwise restrict demo- way it operates, crediting the reports of human rights cratic freedoms.) We were symbolic of everything that groups for information it needed to improve itself.Chanukah outrages the ultra-nationalist Israeli right. When our ‘student group’ attackers went after academ-candle-lightingevent at the With our entire Israeli board and staff leadership in ic freedom at a leading Israeli university, hundreds ofWestern Wallprotesting gender New York for our winter board meeting, our initial Israeli leaders and academics protested and the groupsegregation. response was, to put it plainly, improvised. Our in- lost its largest source of funding. vestment in communications and marketing, both in We are continuing to expand our advocacy efforts, Israel and in the US, Canada and the UK, has always understanding that it is now as important a line of been small. But our senior staff, our board leadership work for NIF as grantmaking or capacity-building. and we ourselves had many years’ experience of ad- Thousands of new supporters have joined us in Israel vocacy and we learned, under fire, to become better and worldwide. Our notoriety has made us a better, advocates for ourselves. That meant reaffirming our stronger and more visible organization. Certainly not commitment to our values, to our mission and to the what our attackers planned. conviction that what we do is valuable and necessary. But we’ll take it. In practical terms, it meant creating a crisis commu- nications team in both Israel and the US, exposing the For more information www.nif.org Alliance Volume 15 Number 4 December 2010 www.alliancemagazine.org