New Israel Fund creates Furor Down Under

November 30, 2011 by Isi Leibler
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In June 2010, amidst considerable controversy, an Australian branch of the New Israel Fund (NIF) was launched by its president, former MK Naomi Chazan, who a few months earlier had been disinvited from an Australian Zionist speaking engagement because of controversies associated with the NIF…writes Isi Leibler.

Isi Leibler

In September last year, I wrote a critical review of the NIF, observing that whilst the majority of the organisations who were beneficiaries  of over $200 million of funds dispersed by the NIF were engaged in worthy welfare and developmental projects, vast funds were also being provided to groups engaged in campaigns to delegitimise Israel.

Foremost amongst these groups, I referred to Adala which, in addition to promoting the Goldstone Report, urged foreign governments “to reevaluate their relationship with Israel”, described Israel as “a colonial enterprise promoting apartheid”, called for implementing the Palestinian right of return to Israel, provided affidavits to Spanish courts to charge Israeli officials with war crimes and defended a Hezbollah spy as a “human rights defender”.

I also related to NIF-sponsored “Breaking the Silence” another organisation which had paved the way for the Goldstone Report.

Presumably in order to improve their image, Australian NIF invited a prominent Israeli to promote their case to the Jewish community and Australian media.

They made the disastrous blunder of selecting David Landau, a talented and articulate writer who has published a number of influential books, including the recent biography of Ben-Gurion based on interviews with President Shimon Peres. The NIF also highlighted the fact that he was orthodox and a former yeshiva student.

However, Landau, former editor of Haaretz is renowned for promoting far left views which the majority of Israelis would consider contemptible. He is the Israeli correspondent of The Economist which, to put it mildly, is unfriendly to Israel. He is also highly regarded by the BBC, which frequently interviews him.

Many Israelis still recollect that in September 2007 in the course of an intimate gathering at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, he informed the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that  “it has always been my wet dream to address the Secretary of State” and suggest how to act in relation to Israel. He then went on to describe Israel as a politically “failed state” and urged the US impose a solution on Israel, telling Rice “I implore you to intervene” adding that the government of Israel “wished to be raped”. His remarks appeared in the media and created a considerable furor.

Last year, in the course of condemning the Knesset for its current controversial NGO legislation, Landau stated “I call on parliaments throughout the democratic world and inter-parliamentary associations, to boycott Israel’s parliament, once the pride of the Jewish people, until it buries the bill and recovers its democratic heritage”.

Australian Jews, a largely post-Holocaust community, are passionately Zionist and strongly committed to pro Israel advocacy. Over the decades, they have succeeded in cultivating a climate of political bipartisanship and friendship towards Israel which is probably unique in the Western world. Their leaders have also maintained a tradition of avoiding public criticism of security policies adopted by the democratically elected government of Israel.

Many Jewish leaders were apprehensive that Landau would articulate his anti-government views to the Australian media. Danny Lamm, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, refused to meet or endorse him and subsequently bitterly criticised some of his remarks to the media.

However, president of NIF Australia, Robin Margo, seemed unconcerned that linking his organisation with a person espousing such views would be counterproductive. In fact when the West Australian Jewish community’s Director of Public Affairs, Steve Lieblich, circulated my article on the NIF and background information about Landau to his colleagues on the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Margo declined to refute the information and instead sought to intimidate him by threatening that he could be subject to legal action for “distributing grossly defamatory material”. “I suggest you take legal advice” he told him.

In such an environment, one might have expected Landau to be cautious about expressing his more radical views. But in fact, he told the media that McCarthyism in Israel was rife and that “the poison of the occupation is seeping back and corroding our democracy… local Jews needed to speak out instead of blindly toeing the government line”.

He castigated settlers, alleging that they “resort to subterfuge to make life difficult for the Palestinians”. As an example he claimed that “little settler boys” scattered drawing pins on the carpets of mosques. In a subsequent ABC interview he conceded that his grandchildren lived over the Green Line, claiming that they were being brainwashed to discriminate against Arabs.

He also stated that Goldstein’s murderous rampage in Hebron in February 1994 was not the act of a man who had lost his senses but a calculated operation to “derail the Oslo Peace Process”.

At a breakfast meeting in Sydney, prefacing remarks endorsing the actions of the NIF- sponsored “Breaking the Silence”(BTS), Landau defamed the IDF.

He recounted how 25 years ago whilst on reserve duty in Hebron, he had witnessed a fellow soldier committing an unspecified act of “bestiality” which tortured him to this day and which he had not yet confided to anyone, including his wife. One could of course ask him to explain why after witnessing “bestial” acts committed by a fellow IDF soldier, he failed to immediately report the incident to his commanding officer.  And why he should raise this issue now in such a vague and tortuous manner, in Australia of all places?

In fact, this vague charge of IDF “bestiality” was a prelude to Landau lauding the NIF- sponsored organisation.

BTS, created in 2004, paved the way for the Goldstone Report by releasing unsubstantiated anonymous “testimony” from former Israeli soldiers accusing the IDF of war crimes which were plastered on the front pages of the global media. When subsequently proven to be without substance the damage was irreversible and Israel became imbedded in many countries as a criminal state.

When the Goldstone commission compiled the despicable report – from which Goldstone has now distanced himself, BTS provided them with “evidence” of alleged Israeli war crimes.

In March this year, BTS hosted an exhibit in Sweden introducing it with the statement:  “we are the oppressors, we are the ones that are violating human rights on a daily basis. We are basically creating terror against us”.

This is the organisation whose budget the NIF tripled last year and whose spokesman told the Australian media and Jews that it represents the “conscience of our people”.

The NIF is entitled to sponsor enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. But they should do so transparently so that naive charitable donors are not duped into believing that their contributions are being utilised to transform Israel into a better society.

It is surely also unconscionable for the local affiliate of the NIF to host an Israeli emissary, who undermines the long-standing efforts of Australian community leaders to maintain strong bipartisan support for Israel.

Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

 

Comments

22 Responses to “New Israel Fund creates Furor Down Under”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    Mandi Katz !

    I undertake to stop at once the attacks ad hominem as soon as you and your ilk will stop praise ad hominem !!!
    Once you cease elevating Naomi Chazan to some groisse Moishe, not to mention some other shlemils once honest Zionists now relegated to bitter redundants, I shall abstain from refering to your role models the way I know best….

    One other thing, politics and the science thereof cannot be practiced publicly as one gets bored with knitting a cosy for the teapot, not even after one finished cooking the tea and she has a few minutes to kill by trying to be oberchuchem simply because she got an “A” in English in year 5 at Doever Heights High. This goes for all your mates efusive in creating stunning theories, derivates of the best of Vogue, Marrie Clare etc.
    This is serious business and it is hard to tolerate the intolerable.

  2. Michael Burd says:

    Mandi what makes you think what ever you say is gospal, you are welcome to your views which I suspect the far majority of main stream Jewish community doesn’t agree with .
    It would be nice to to be so patronizing in the way you express your worldly views.

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    Falacies, non sequitur, disjoint association and, generally speaking, lamentable attemps at glossing respectability over a clearly compromised entity, NIF, are disturbingly prevalent in Gael Kennedy’s and tandem little contribution. All that can be concluded is that Australia has been too good for certain Jews who seem to have benefited to a fault ( or a dozen to be sure ) from the comforts of errant concepts of universal rights, of misconstrued “philosophies”. The obvious result of amateurish pursuits. We are in dire straits if Chazan and Landau have been deemed as real Zionists.
    I only had once the displeasure to assist, at Limud Oz 2011, at the obsecene presentation made by Naomi Chazan in front of a full house of a mainly brain dormant audience. In her obnoxious speach your heroine , Naomi, refered to Zionists pioneers as ” little Polish chicken farmers “, , developed the theory of an Israel dominated by ” schizophrenics ” , unreliable headless chicken ( remember their “origins ), all responsible singularly for their predicament by….. their inner condition. NOT ONE SINGLE WORD about any palestinians or any kind of neighbouring arabs “possible” causal presence.
    Just like with that kind of “rationale”, Kennedy and co. focus on the disfuncional rationale of enlighted detractors of Israel, spruiking deranged counter Zionism as the real stuff. I see in their intervention nothing but absurd rhetorical structures evolving from baseless dilettantism.
    I also posted further down a reply to sister Gabrielle’s profound thoughts. It is also relevant and makes reference to Ms Kennedy and friend.

    • Mandi Katz says:

      JWire provides a valuable news service but the ad hominem comments by a few commentators make it very difficult to have serious discussion on JWire.

      Gael, Janet, Gabrielle – your supportive comments on NIF are truly appreciated – NIF knows it has a real constituency and we aren’t going away because people from one end of the political spectrum believe they have exclusive rights to define what constitutes support of Israel.

      But I believe we should all use our energy in talking about NIF to people who will listen with an open mind (And there are plenty) rather than arguing with people who on the one hand insist that NIF is evasive and dishonest , and on the other point to NIF’s materials and leadership as evidence of our true agenda.

      NIF Australia was established to support NIF globally. We support the funding guidelines in place for NIF globally . There are organisations that operate in a very complex and grey zone and NIF relies on the guidance of its officers and board (see membership here — http://www.nif.org/about/board-of-directors) for governance of how guidelines are implemented. The board includes Yitzchak Galnoor, a former chief of staff of Rabin’s government, and Naomi Chazan whose commitment to Israel and the Jewish people is extraordinary.

      Most of the people commenting here will never accept that it acceptable to support organisations actively working for civil rights in Israel, if that work also supports Arabs. That of course is their prerogative. Regrettably they also maintain whenever an answer is unacceptable to them, that NIF hasn’t answered their questions.

      We are speaking different languages, we see it differently.

      Don’t worry about the haters and the bashers – we all need to maintain focus on the good NIF does.

      • Paul Winter says:

        Ms Katz starts her post by inveighing against ad hominem comments by some people and concludes it by advising people who support her to not worry “about the haters and the bashers”. Oh dear!

        Ms Katz claims that NIF has a real constituency. Sadly, that constituency steadfastly ignores reality as repeatedly stated in these comments.

        It is very disturbing to see Ms Katz resorting to classical totalitarian distortions: that the elite to which they belong possess the revealed truth; that they heroicly battle evil forces which try to suppress the liberating truth; that any means are legitimate retaliations in the battle against evil, dark, powerful deniers of the truth because those deniers use hidden methods to prevent the liberating truth from emerging. A part of that elite’s method is to ignore counter arguments because answering them would require them to examine their own positions and analysing their dogma would create cognitive dissonance. And so, they preach to the convertible, who through prejudice or ignorance will not consider the reality situation.

        Ms Katz contends that there are many ways of supporting Israel and that the left will bravely support Israel in its own way. But she ignores and would have us ignore that NIF supports gangs that are anti-Israel, anti-Zionistic and antisemitic. It is dishonest to contend that NIF is a worthwhile organisation because it supports good works in Israel and NIF’s enemies will oppose any NIF activity if it benefits Arabs. It is thus a disgraceful slur to portray NIF opponents as racists.

        Finally, Ms Katz’s appeal to authority – the NIF’s governing body – must be rejected. NIF is ciritised because of its policies. On cannot swallow the nonsense that the NIF is kosher because its kashrut authority – the NIF board – gives it its hachsher. Sadly, Ms Katz’s arguments in support of the NIF are no more worthy of respect than is her logic.

  4. Gael Kennedy and Janet Kossy says:

    The Jewish community of Sydney’s inner west strongly rejected the Marrickville Council boycott of Israel. The Council BDS policy was divisive, was enacted without consultation and it undermined local multicultural harmony. We worked hard to defeat it.

    By the same token, the inner west Jewish community welcomed two speakers brought out by NIF Australia this year: Naomi Chazan and David Landau. Whether or not they agreed with every word of what was said, many of the audience, like the speakers, are concerned about erosion of democracy in Israel and about the lack of progress towards peace and a negotiated two state solution. To hear about these topics from the point of view of Israeli experts who are committed Zionists, not outsiders or enemies, was very important. So was the ability to put opposing points of view, ask questions and hear responses. We thank NIF Australia for enabling us to engage in this important dialogue.

    • david singer says:

      Why are you concerned about the erosion of democracy in Israel?

      You should be concerned at organizations like NIF and foreign governments funding organizations with anti-Zionist objectives.

      The organizations are free to say what they like in Israel or elsewhere.

      Funding them to pursue their insidious objectives is another matter.

    • Paul Winter says:

      Opposing Marrickville BDS action is fine, and so is concern for democracy everywhere. It is however naïve to accept NIF’s and Landau’s statements of Zionist commitment. Their actions give their claims the lie. For example Ha’aretz has been a consistent and deceitful subversive voice against Israel in international fora. Just recently NIF’s lawyer, Michael Sfard was an invited guest to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s anti-Zionist, antisemitic show trial in Durban. Sfard was also hired out to B’tzelem’s actions against the JNF’s land reclamation activity opposed by Bedouin who make false claims, as is their wont. NIF also funds Breaking the Silence which spreads seditious lies not in Israel, but in Europe; BtS was much praised by Landau as he revealed mysteries unto the faithful. If inner West Jews are truly concerned for democracy, they must first tune up their BS detectors. NIF and its guests pose as one thing to get idealists to support other things, their real agenda.

  5. Emes says:

    I often dislike Mr Leibler’s articles for their right-of-centre approach to the Israeli political sphere. However, on this occasion I must congratulate him for a well-presented and cogent expose of the NIF.

  6. Paul Winter says:

    Congratulations to all commentators, except Gabrielle.

    Nothing more can be said apart from:
    1. as a lawyer, Senior Counsel to boot, Margo should consider and explain the term sedition to Landau
    2. Margo should not copy the lawfare tactics of his Palestinian Arab constituency in attempting to stifle free speech in Australia
    3. the NIF places itself outside the local community by shilling in support of the Negev Coexistence Forum’s manupulations against the JNF and, in doing so, displaying its contempt for fund raising guidelines of the NSWJBD

  7. Michael Burd says:

    The very vocal left In Australia which includes extremist groups like the NIF have a Conga- Line of Israel Critics like Chazan , Landau waiting to come to Australia to be interviewed by the SBS, ABC and Fairfax media to add fuel to the Fire.

    If it is ever so’ Zionist’ to make statements like wishing Israel should be raped and to repeat accusations that connect racism and Apartheid with Israel… who needs friends.

  8. Yosi Tal says:

    Robin Margo and NIF have achieved what they set out to do and thats for everyone to know about them.For better or worse they became the centre of attention.

    • david singer says:

      To Yosi Tal

      They do say that any publicity is good publicity. Yet there are always exceptions to any rule.

      Perhaps an exception applies in the case of the exposure of NIF and its funding of some organizations in israel with anti-Zionist objectives.

      Beneath the slick and apparently humanitarian NIF surface there lurks something very nasty and insidious – which NIF can readily alter at the stroke of a pen – yet refuses for reasons unexplained to do so.

      The adverse publicity NIF received for funding anti-Zionist organisations will at least have alerted potential Australian donors to beware when they are approached to donate to NIF.

  9. Otto Waldmann says:

    Among its chief achievements and “moral” sponsorship NIF is responsible for attempting at the cohesion of the Australian Jewish community.
    So far its record seems satisfying to NIF’s calculations. In today’s AJN a plethora of Landau supporters have inched their way into our quest for stability. This is good management, one that utilises an effective command centre replete with ethical codes, moral rhetoric, God terms, a comprehensive farcical gallery of tactics. Avoiding known facts about its pernicious nature, as only partly listed by Leibler’s article above, NIF is on a quest of abducting and using everything that sounds morally acceptable only to embelish with it a highly dangerous organisation bent on destroying Jewish values. Chester and Lamm have reacted strongly albeit on singular occasions without developing their convictions into executive measures. NSW Board of Deputies are,once again, getting away with the occasional admonission in the public arena,NOTHING at the ECAJ level. Margo flaunts his executive privileges with impunity while an assumed reliable majority on the ECAJ timidly allows itself to be bullied. Individually they confess disgust and objection, colectively they are stumm.
    David Landau has emerged as the consumate selfcentred advocate of political nihilism,ideological empty vessel, the conduit of destruction,the thrill seeker of personal acclaim within the texture of an exhacerbated anti Jewish world. NIF have found in him the perfect symbol, ideal fit for their own profile. Right now NIFAu is on the crest of a very prifitable controversy, manipulated with the propaganda skills of a rat colony advancing with applomb towards wrestling the very leadership of a generally dormant Australian Jewish community. NSWBoard of Deps. is all but fallen while it is all quiet on the Down Under front………….

    • Gabrielle says:

      I wish to remind Otto that there is free speech in this country. And sooner or later you will have to get used to it.

      NIF did not divide the Jews of Australia, it allowed a different viewpoint to be heard from the loud right wing.

      • david singer says:

        Gabrielle

        Are you suggesting a difference of opinion between the ECAJ and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies on officially hosting Landau does not amount to a division?

        Landau’s visit and his sponsorship by NIF has managed to do just that.

        Seems wherever NIF goes – controversy is set to follow – even at the highest levels of organized Jewish leadership.

        The answer to avoiding such division is simple – NIF needs to stop funding organizations with anti-Zionist objectives. That NIF refuses to do so is a disgrace. That anyone would contibute to them whilst they continue to do so is the height of stupidity – unless the donor is anti-Zionist.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Yeah, Yeah, whatever. Listen Gabrielle, Brad and Ange have just “adopted”the cutest mini Chihuaha and have been seen on Wilshire introducing it to their hairdresser who gave it an adorable little perm.Speaking of which, Sarah Jessica Parker has just fired her hairdo guru, Mr. Fernando (Kovacs)for unknown reasons. If you find out what happened in this frothy affair I beg you to tell.
        Incidentally, the pooches name is Pipi, how awesome is that !!!
        I appologise for the second “Yeah” at the top starting with a capital “Y”. It was totally unintentional. This message is also valid for Gael & Janet who fully deserve it.

      • Shirlee says:

        Gabrielle , never mind reminding Otto there is ‘free speech in this country’ I will remind you there isn’t . There is Freedom of Expression only.

        http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/2001-02/02rn42.htm

  10. david singer says:

    Isi Liebler hits the nail squarely on the head when he states:

    “The NIF is entitled to sponsor enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. But they should do so transparently so that naive charitable donors are not duped into believing that their contributions are being utilised to transform Israel into a better society.”

    Whilst NIF continues to sponsor Israel’s enemies you can be sure that NIF will not receive much support in Australia.

  11. Peter Hersh says:

    It appears that a congratulation is in order for NIF. One of its star grantees B’Tselem has just been awarded a Danish Human Rights Award.

    I understand its the equivalent of the Sydney Peace Price – need I say more !

    Well yes

    They won it together with the Palestinian group Al-Haq which is headed by Shawan Jabarin a man banned from travelling to get his award because both Israel and Jordan say he was a member of the PFLP the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

    B’Tselem are so proud of the award they have issued a press release.

    NIF and NIF Aus should be so proud – NOT.

  12. Danny Ginges says:

    Robin Margo’s threat of legal action, if true, is hardly in the spirit of liberty and democracy the NIF so proudly espouses. Or is freedom of speech reserved only to those who support the NIF’s point of view?

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