Cherny invites Lamm to join the NIF Board
Nathan Cherny responds to Zionist Council of Victoria’s president Danny Lamm in the latest bout over the cancellation of NIF president Naomi Chazan’s visit to Australia.The ZCV did not cancel her visit. But they did withdraw from a planned joint function with the Union of Progressive Synagogues. Her visit, to raise funds for the United Israel Appeal, was axed by the UPS and Chazan herself.
J-Wire has been running the exchange of viewpoints since media reports released news of the New Israel Fund financially supporting NGOs who are alleged to have furnished 92% of the content of the Goldstone Report.
Nathan Cherny responds to articles by Danny Lamm and Gerald Steinberg published on J-Wire.
from Nathan Cherny
Danny, I was pleased to read that we are on the same page in fighting for a more just, humane and better Israeli society. Moreover, I am also pleased that my article has sparked enough interest to engage in a dialogue with you about these important issues. Rightly so, since the founding of the State, the global Jewish community has invested a great deal in strengthening the Jewish character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, yet for too long we’ve neglected the other part – the democratic part.
The Israeli public’s lack of support for basic democratic principles and institutions is truly alarming. I would like to think that the shoe thrown at Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, and yesterday’s firebombing of a Haifa court judge’s car were isolated incidents, yet unfortunately these represent an increasing disrespect for the rule of law in Israel and the judicial processes essential for just and democratic rule.
At the same time, the current attempts to silence voices of dissent in civil society are no less alarming and anti-democratic. Iran’s judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadiq Amoli Larijani recently called for fighting human rights organizations in his country because they “confuse human rights with law and order.” Im Tirtzu, Gerald Steinberg and Isi Liebler couldn’t have said it better. But we are better than Iran, aren’t we?
Yes, the civil society organizations are nudnikim. They sometimes report on things or take up issues that people don’t want to hear about. These issues are, however, vital. Not addressing, or allowing them to become pervasive undermines our moral credibility and erodes the fabric of Israeli society; the society in which I have invested my life. I come here to build a Jewish state based on principles of justice and democracy.
I appreciate that you want some answers to your concerns regarding specific grantee organizations and I have been told that Prof Martin Indyk who is a member of the Board of The New Israel fund, will be addressing the specific issues that you have raised.
A few facts must be corrected here:
Other than an unverified assertion by the Settler News Service, Arutz 7, there is no public record of condemnation of the NIF by President Perez. Ehud Barak has actively opposed an investigation into the NIF and said: ” I certainly am not enthusiastic about and don’t like (some of) the bodies that benefit from the donations of this fund but The New Israel Fund has done many good and positive things for the State of Israel.” Furthermore he even attacked the attempts to silence the supporters of the NIF, calling it a local version of “McCarthyism” (Walla News, Feb 8). And Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog echoed this sentiment: “One of the most basic democratic rights is the right to voice criticism. The attempt to silence, to prevent protest, and to enforce a particular definition of nationalism and patriotism is a slippery slope that endangers us all.” (Ynet 2.6.10) Moreover, while a Kadima MK had initially proposed the investigation, Kadima voted unanimously not to support a Knesset investigation against the NIF, and it has been since scrapped.
Gerald Steinberg is a man with a mission akin to Ayatollah Sadiq Amoli Larijani. The quality of some of his misrepresentations underscore his biased mission of discrediting Civil Society activists in Israel. He writes: ” The very controversial decision to re-open route 443 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Palestinian vehicles was largely the result of pressure from these NGOs.” The so-called very controversial decision was a Decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Israel!! The decision was based on the rule of law in the State of Israel as arbitrated by the county’s highest court. To suggest that the court was “pressured” is an obscene and unsubstantiated indictment on the process of justice in Israel. In a highly security-oriented society like Israel, arguments of defense and security are in constant tension with principles of justice and democracy. The case was made that the blanket exclusion of Palestinians from that road was disproportionate to the security concerns and that the temporary ban (initiated during the peak of the Intifada) should be lifted and that opinion was upheld by the highest court in the land. That is justice in action, and to call it the result of coercive “pressure” is a disgraceful manipulative sham unbecoming of his academic stature.
Both Nancy and I drive to work from Modi’in / Maccabim to Jerusalem every day on Route 443. Residents of our town recently signed a petition stating that “We are afraid for our personal security. Yet we support the Supreme Court’s just decision to open the road to Palestinians. We trust that the IDF will devise appropriate security measures that will provide protection and will also ensure freedom of movement to all as required by the courts.”
I could go on, but I will leave the corrections to Prof Indyk
Regarding the Goldstone report: The day after the war ended, the civil society organizations called on Israel to launch an independent investigation. Had our country done that properly, it may have pre-empted the UN investigation which did, subsequently, turn into a farce. You should note also that even according to the dubious report of In Tirtzu, the information provided by the accused NGOs accounted for only 14% of the evidence that was considered, not the 92% that was widely misrepresented in the press. Furthermore, the largest of the implicated NIF supported NGOs, B’Tselem, strongly criticized conclusions of the report including the lack of balance of the report in addressing Israel versus Hamas violations and the unsupported claim that Israel’s overall objective was to cause massive civilian and infrastructural damage to Gaza. Interestingly and importantly, the current witch hunt against Israeli human rights organizations is not claiming that any of the background information cited by Goldstone was false. It is simply questioning the very legitimacy of free speech in Israel.
There are many voices here in Israel, including in the mainstream and among senior political echelons – even Minister Dan Meridor - who have also called for an independent investigation into the events in Gaza.. (It’s not just the so-called “traitors”) It is time to make an honest inquiry to clarify what happened in Operation Cast Lead and to see if we can avoid hurting and killing so many non-combatants in defending ourselves in the future?
When Nancy and I send our sons to the army several years from now, we want to know that we are sending them to serve in an army that holds itself accountable. Furthermore, when they return safely to civilian life we want them to be able to raise their families in a country committed to justice and democracy. Sadly, in the meantime, we are deeply troubled by the threats to justice and democracy that we have alluded to above.
Finally Danny, given your personal commitments to the importance of the agenda of civil society in Israel, and to a Zionism based in justice and democracy, why not consider nominating for the board of the New Israel Fund. You could have a lot more influence to “keep the bastards honest” from the inside, that in being a partially informed critic from the bleachers.