Dear Robin, Dear Jason
Jason Edelstein, NGO Monitor’s Communications Director wrote a letter to J-Wire on the newly-founded New Israel Fund Australia. Today we publish a response from NIFA head Robin Margo….
Statement by Robin Margo S.C. to J-Wire – 19 May 2011
NGO Monitor now acknowledges (per its Communications Director, Jason Edelstein, J-Wire 19/5/11) that NIF does not provide funding to the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) and has not done so since 2009, though Dr Ron Weiser is still suggesting publicly, with no evidence and for motives known only to him, that funding may have continued into 2010 (Weiser, J-Wire 17/5/11, para 2).
It is regrettable that NGO Monitor’s acknowledgement did not come sooner. It continued to make damaging public allegations that NIF was continuing to fund CWP after NIF had clarified its guidelines last year, after Professor Itzhak Galnoor had stated publicly at Shalom College in Sydney last April that that was not the case and after Dr Gerald Steinberg had been personally informed on 11 May to the same effect, by NIF’s Executive Director in Israel at a meeting attended by dozens of people.
Mr Edelstein’s letter to J-Wire is also inaccurate, and therefore misleading, in a number of respects:
- 1. Although the foundations for the global BDS campaign were laid at the notorious Durban 1 conference in South Africa in 2001, it did not grow suddenly and assume urgent significance until a couple of years ago, a development that took even the Israeli government by surprise.
- 2. CWP’s involvement in the global BDS campaign did not come to attention until 2009, when it launched its “Who Profits?” website. It has received no further funding from NIF since 2009 and was removed from NIF’s donor-advised list at the beginning of this year.
- 3. The fact that CWP did not promptly update its own websites is not the fault of NIF and could not in any way alter the fact that NIF had stopped funding CWP. NIF has written to CWP requesting it to correct its websites but has better things to do with its funds than launch a law suit that could have no practical effect.
Dr Weiser suggested also that NIF consider cutting off funding to Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement because, he says, it calls for an end or fundamental change to the JNF. Whatever the merit or lack of merit in such views, Dr Weiser appears to be unaware that that is a respectable intellectual topic of discussion in Israel’s democratic society, extending also to Israel Bonds and the Jewish Agency in their present form.
I am pleased however that Dr Weiser has stated that he is not opposing NIF’s establishment in Australia (J-Wire 17/5/11) and that NGO Monitor’s head, Gerald Steinberg, has stated that he does not regard NIF as anti-Zionist (letter to AJN 29/4/11).
These developments provide the opportunity for our community to continue to be a “big tent” in which all who love Israel can engage with her in ways that are meaningful to them, without being accused of “illegitimacy”.
Now that this episode is behind us, NIF Australia intends to concentrate on the real work of engaging with Australian Jews who take Israel’s Declaration of Independence seriously and want to help Israelis realise that vision.