An optimistic Daniel Sokatch

May 21, 2012 Agencies
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Israel may be a “democracy in recession” but there’s a “blossoming of grassroots social justice activism” fighting on the frontline.

NIFau president Robin Margo, Daniel Sokatch and Justice Stephen Rothman

That’s the optimistic assessment of Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the New Israel Fund, who spoke to almost 100 people at Shalom College in Sydney on Sunday night.

Mr Sokatch, who has headed Israel’s leading organisation committed to equality and democracy since 2009, told the audience that Israel is experiencing a “Dickensian moment” that was “the best of times” and “the worst of times”.

He said the Jewish state has witnessed over the past two-plus years a “process of attempted de-democratisation” characterised by some 40 anti-democratic bills that “would fundamentally alter the democratic nature of the face of Israel”.

But the good news, he said, is that very few have passed and Israel is also in the midst of a period of “grassroots social justice activism,” referring to the almost 500,000 Israelis who demanded social justice on Rothschild Boulevard and elsewhere last year.

“Between the democratic recession and the social justice movement, the New Israel Fund is front and centre in the middle of the biggest tectonic shift going on right now,” Mr Sokatch said.

The current anti-democratic agenda is an attempt to “circumscribe freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” he added.

“McCarthyism is exactly what NIF and our supporters in Israel and the Diaspora stand firmly against.

“We reject the notion that you have to choose between the Israel right or wrong camp and the Israel is always wrong camp,” he said.

Mr Sokatch, 44, who hails from San Francisco, said that a group of Likud MKs are some of the strongest supporters of Israel’s democracy. He described Benny Begin MK, son of former prime minister Menachem Begin, as “one of the best friends we have in the Israeli government”.

Begin and others such as Dan Meridor and Ruby Rivlin are “conservatives of conscience” who are fighting for Israel’s democracy, Mr Sokatch said.

Asked whether the NIF has “red lines” regarding its funding guidelines, Mr Sokatch said that guidelines had been put in place as the threat of BDS became apparent and gave examples of grantees that had been dropped for being in breach of them.

However, he staunchly defended NIF’s support for Adalah, the leading Arab-Israeli civil rights organisation.

To ask Arab Israelis – some 20 percent of the population – to pledge allegiance to the Zionist ideal “seems ridiculous,” he said. “But to tell them they have no place in the conversation because we don’t agree with them seems to me the way to truly create a disastrous problem for Israel.”

He cited praise for Hassan Jabareen, the founder and director of Adalah, from three Israeli Supreme Court justices, including former chief justice Aharon Barak who said Jabareen should sit on the Supreme Court of Israel one day.

Mr Sokatch is on a whirlwind speaking tour in Sydney and Melbourne on behalf of the newly formed Australian branch of the New Israel Fund.

Led by president Robin Margo, a former president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, NIF Australia was officially launched by Naomi Chazan last year – one year after her previous visit to Australia was cancelled amid a public attack by a right-wing activist group called Im Tirzu.

Mr Margo said the Australian branch had been welcomed by a groundswell of support in its first 12 months – testimony to the need for a voice that supports both the Jewish state and social justice and human rights for all Israelis, regardless of race or religion.

The New Israel Fund was established in 1979 and has disbursed more than $US250 million to more than 850 Israeli NGOs in the last three decades.

It has branches in the UK, US, Canada, Switzerland and most recently in Australia.

Comments

11 Responses to “An optimistic Daniel Sokatch”
  1. michael says:

    Paul where is the NIF getting all their finance from who is funding all their anti- Israel activity ?

  2. Paul Winter says:

    In my previous post I forgot to mention a comment by Daniel Sokatch that supports all of my observations about the NIF. Sokatch is quoted as saying: To ask Arab Israelis – some 20 percent of the population – to pledge allegiance to the Zionist ideal “seems ridiculous,” That says it all!

    If it seems ridiculous to the NIF to ask Arab Israelis to pledge allegiance to the Zionist ideal, then it means that disloyalty by Arabs is acceptable. That it is alright for NIF to fund opponents of Israel’s democracy. That it is fine for them to not pay taxes, not do any national service, identify with Israel’s enemies, disobey Israel’s laws and to wage war on Jewish Israelis.

    Sokatch spouts slogans decrying McCarthyism, but NIF supports treason. NIF postures as a supporter of democracy, but shills for anti-democratic anti-Israel groups. It demands all the privileges of the Jewish state for people who take but give nothing in return. The NIF tries to get away with that deception by letting us infer that to be a Zionist one must be a Jew or that asking an Arab to support Israe,l is to ask him to abandon his religion. Wrong! To be a Zionist one only needs to be a person of principle, recognises justice, respects laws, is able to differentiate right from wrong, opposes totalitarian ideologies – in this case islamofascism and upholds the right of a people to self-determination (even if they are Jews).

    Citizenship is not only a privilege, but a pact between the state and the individual. If a person cannot be loyal to his country of birth he not only has a right to leave it, but an obligation to do so. Supporting NIF supports an anti-democratic group funding treacherous acties.

  3. Paul Winter says:

    Hi Michael. As you are not likely to get an answer from NIF, let me provide one: NIF does not fund Shurat HaDin. It does however fund Ir Amim and is a collector of funds for Emek Shaveh, two of the three organisations whose false reporting was incorporated in two EU policy documents critical of Israel over Jerusalem.

    NIF is a brilliantly conceived pressure group that garners support by stating that they have Israel’s interests at heart, all the better to stop that heart from beating.
    NIF’s constant refrain that it is working to return Israel to the promise of its founding is arrogant and false; what give a US based group the right to tell Israelis what Israel’s declaration of independence means.

    Giving money to anti-Israeli groups because their main focus is not BDS is mere dissembling like saying Hamas is not a terrorist organisation because it has a welfare arm. Talking about a selective BDS from occupied territories is plain deceit! Firstly, there is no occupation; lands illegally occupied by Arab armies fell into Israel’s hands as a result of a defensive war; no other nation is expected to reliquish lands so aquired. Secondly, partial BDS by Jews is a nod and a wink for full BDS by others. Thirdly, while Arabs have no title to Judea and Samaria, various treaties demand negotiations on borders, while NIF supports the illegality of Israel’s unconditional surrender to its vanquished aggressor. Fourthly, the “partrial” BDS supported by NIF is against Jews living beyond the Green Line, hence it is arguably an antisemitic position.

    By Ignoring Israel’s security needs, NIF seeks to compel Israel to accept borders that would make the continued existence of the Jewish state impossible; NIF want us to ignore the consequences of withdrawing from Lebanopn and Gaza. NIF want us to ignore the terror war from Gaza and the war by other means by the PA, which yet again broke a treaty by joining UNESCO.

    As pointed out by others, NIF hides its accounts. It is secretive and its methods are undemocratic; it tries to influence Israeli policies by undermining Israeli democracy by funding post-Zionist groups internally and by feeding false information to EU countries.

    NIF wants to ignore that the Bundists, or internationalists if you will, lost the battle decades ago in the Shoah and in the establishment of Israel.

    Abortion is an tragic issue that many debate, but none debate that infanticide is as horrible and it is criminal. It is plain murder as a child grow into adulthood. And yet, NIF and other Israel bashers work toward the destruction of Israel as the manifestation of self-determination by the Jewish people. And protesting that they are good Jews, want to blind us to the slaughter in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, etc trying to make us accept their pretense that Jews under mohammedan rule would not endure a second Shoah.

    Shame on the NIF!

  4. Michael says:

    Perhaps I shouldn’t hold my breathe waiting
    For. A response yes/ no answer from Sokatch or his
    “” comrades””

  5. Peter says:

    What a conceit, “Israel’s leading” etc etc. There are many many larger and more signifcant organisations in Israel that work to improve the lives of ALL Israelis without feeling the need to support organisations that also call for an end to Israel as we currently know it.

    The reason that NIF is now here is because it lost its main backer – the anti-Semitic Henry Ford Foundation – yes the very same Foundation that supported Durban 1 – but was forced to stop funding NIF by the United States Congress if it wanted to keep its tax deductable status.

    There are some simple things that NIF dances around – they will not “advocate” BDS and claim to be opposed to it, but not enough to stop funding organisations that actually participate in BDS.

    Perhaps they will now provide grants to the Sth African Government which has announced it will participate in BDS.

    They are in favour of the State of Israel, but want her to return to the Green Line and lose the Kottel.

    They do not provide grants to certain organisations that have had the light shined on them and now embarass NIF, but will continue to provide them with donations – apparently that is something different.

    Apparently one is in Shekels and one in US Dollars – so the difference is obvious. Not.

    I have no idea why people keep on insisting that NIF provides real money to organisations it no longer does. After all, we all know that the US Dollar is no longer real money anyway.

    That is the problem when dealing with a tricky organisation that wants to show a nice face in Australia but hide the bits that they know will be unpalatable here.

    One wonders why it is that NIF lack the guts and belief in their own organisation and hides behind tricky words rather than standing up and stating the full picture of what they believe in.

    And they claim that they are the representatives of honesty.

    Will the hypocrisy never end. No question mark required.

    Peter.

  6. Just love the photo. I can only imagine the captions:

    Daniel Sokatch (DS)
    Justice Rothman (JR)
    Robin Margo (RM)

    DS- ” NIF honours the Decla…”
    JR- “Drop it , mate !”
    RM -”……………..”
    DS- ” Yet, social justi…”
    JR – “Nonsense, buddy !”
    RM- “……………..”
    DS – “.. and our transpa…”
    JR – ” Forget it champ !”
    RM- “……………..”
    DS – ” Did you now get my points !?”
    JR – ” Crystal clear !”
    RM – “………………….”

    Later RM confessed : ” I may look in the picture a bit bewildered, but, in fact I was just utterly confused.”

    need any clarification , contact the author !

  7. It has became obvious that the strategy that dominates NIF is one of engaging acceptable ethical terms.
    NIF and its spokespeople attribute their organisation qualities which, at first glance, cannot be easily dismissed. Any society requires vigillance in terms of its formal institutions, Politicians are not a consistent mob, hence opposing groups we call “parties”. As such, the political discourse allowed to function, the ideological dialectics, will always allow the prevalence of views which will be necessarily objected to by those who did not accomplished what is casually called ” power”. Israel functions exctly this way, as many other…DEMOCRACIES. Israel also functions under such atypical circumstance as not the allow – again, within ethical normative acceptance – all considered IMPLICIT aspects of democracy to exert their entitlements. If one cares to go into those impending circumstances then the variables withinn the terms defining “democracy” will come into play WITHOUT affecting the fundamentals of democracy.
    NIF is acting within an intollerant rational, one that excludes precisely those impending atypical circumstance. The terms NIF finds immutable, non-reducible, therefore worth fighting/funding for become, thus its mantra of “righteousness”. They have immediate resonance with Jewish activists seriously impeded in their power of reckoning with reality by certain personal idiosyncratic factors. They may have to do with education, family history , emotional stresses and other such personal unresolved conflicts etc. If well articulated these factors can persuade the notions of compatibility between what is, actually a very insuficient use of known and accepted terms and cathegories with, actually, a seriously distorted variant Sokatch has, aparently, gained authority within NIF precisely due to his seemingly acceptable ability of skilfully attaching acceptable norms to well deviced fallacies.
    It must be sid that some of “lieutenants” , particularly from our local reservoir of “unhappy Manichewitz cucumbers”, are nowhere as able at putting together a song and dance show as the much better versed Californian performer with a good Hungarian stage name. One can only mention the lamentable efforts by both Margo and Getreu on our local spread, my beloved AJN ., In spite of her “stature” of a wholeheartedly devoted, globe-trotting campaigner, the diminutive lady former MK who visited us and was, finally allowed to spill her spleen against Israel at Limmud Oz last year, she did not deliver without major flaws the now tired NIF spiel. Her delivery was punctuated by offense, bile, incredibly bad “jokes” see ” Israel was founded by Polish chicken farmers Zionists. “, coupled with the elitist clarifications ” My parents were English academics”, with a pause for the muted ” So there !!”-…
    As a drastic departure, Sokatch addopted a pseudo academic approach which works with those distantly familiar withe the above-mentioned god-terms, such as “rights”, civil rights”, “deomcratic principles” ” social justice”, “Jewish ethics” etc. In addition, NIF has managed to recrute also disenchanted former politicians, now very “active” on the irrelevant side lines.
    My honest conviction is that this circus will drive through the communal corso without any lasting effects and, also, that we shall be – fortunately – stuck here in our little shtetl with the no longer so entertaining routine dished out by the said Margo and Getreu double act.
    ( Sorry, Ilona, Uri, Irving et co, if I left yourse out, look I didn’t !!)

  8. Harry Joachim says:

    “Mr Sokatch, who has headed Israel’s leading organisation committed to equality and democracy since 2009″

    This isn’t exactly a particularly good example of unbiased reporting… If this statement is based on an NIF press release, then the assertion that the NIF is the “leading organisation committed blah blah” should be in quotation marks…

  9. There are many unpallatable aspects about NIF’s duplicitous PR campaign.
    Socatch’s visit is just another leg in NIF’s race for acceptance by the larger sections of the Jewish communities it is campaignin in. Socatch does not add anything new with his verbose assault on the basic pprinciples on whcih Israel functions, in spite of the farcical tactic it employes of constantly making references to Israel’s Declaration of Independence. It is simply an insulting pretence it has developed of it being NIF’s “ideological foundation”.
    Baseless, vacuous and twisted “explanations” of NIF’s activites, extrapolations which grossly misrepresent reality , are the chief machinations of an organisation badly compromised by a raft of vicious anti Israel activities undertaken by a large number of NGO heavily financed by NIF.

  10. Ian says:

    When I read of the visit I checked out the NIF websites – Australian and international. It was gratifying to see that the Australian branch has limited itself to four apparently worthy recipients and allocated a sensible budget for them.

    On the other hand the international site has not improved since I last looked at it about a year ago. The financial statements still have not been updated since 2009, and I didn’t succeed in finding the lists of actual recipients and the amounts paid to each, which were previously attached to the accounts.

    Most importantly it really is necessary to go further than just weeding out the organisations which publicly support BDS.

    People with real complaints about infringement of their rights ought properly to be assisted to assert those rights through the political and legal processes. The problem is that there are still a number of organisations on the donees’ list which genuinely see it as their duty to engage in anti-Israel propaganda. Indeed Goldstone finally admitted that he had been the victim of misinformation from precisely such sources.

    Of course those who wish to denigrate Israel by making loud complaints around the world are perfectly entitled to do so. That is what freedom of speech is all about. However that is no good reason for Jews to raise funds to finance them.

  11. michael says:

    QUESTION FOR THE NIF CEO DANIEL SOKATCH.

    NIf is well known for funding Israeli/ Arab groups such as Adalah.

    Does your NIF group FUnd the non- government volunteer based ‘Shruat Ha Din’ Human rights organization who fight for the rights /compensation of victims of Palestinian/ Arab terrorist attacks in Israel and abroad.

    A simple ‘yes/ No ‘ answer Mr Sokatch will suffice ,

    Michael Burd
    Melbourne.