NGO-Monitor v NIF: Here we go again

September 7, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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The Jerusalem-based NGO-Monitor has published a press release detailing a WikiLeaks cable divulging a controversial statement made by the New Israel Fund’s associate director in Israel to U.S. embassy officials.

J-Wire has asked the New Israel Fund for a reaction to the statement made in February 2010 by Hedva Radovanitz.

The following is the full statement released by NGO-Monitor:

A confidential cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv released by Wikileaks, contains controversial comments by a New Israel Fund (NIF) official, relating to Israel’s future as a Jewish state. The cable, which deals with NGO politics in Israel in the context of the Knesset’s Foreign Funding Transparency Bill, also highlights the anti-democratic agendas of political advocacy NGOs, according to Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor.

In the February 2011 cable, Hedva Radovanitz, speaking in the capacity as the NIF’s Associate Director in Israel, told U.S. embassy officials, “that she believed that in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.” (emphasis added)

 

WikiLeaks on Steinberg

 

WikiLeaks on Radovanitz

“These comments from a high ranking NIF official reiterates the serious questions regarding NIF’s commitment to Jewish self-determination and Israel as a Jewish state,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “NIF is the most powerful non-governmental actor in Israel, and its policies affect millions of Israelis, without providing any accountability or checks and balances. When combined with NIF funding for and close cooperation with organizations that promote the political assault on Israel, this statement highlights the need for a complete change in NIF’s leadership and priorities.”

More broadly, the cable reflects the centrality of the lack of transparency regarding European government funding for Israeli political NGOs reflects, including their role in the “war crimes” accusations used in the discredited Goldstone report. NGO Monitor is quoted extensively in the analysis, demonstrating the impact on American government policy analysis. At the same time, the leaders of NGOs such as B’tselem, ACRI and Gisha (all part of the NIF network) admit that their organizations have no roots in Israeli society. On this aspect, Prof. Steinberg added that “In referring to a ‘lack of domestic constituency for the NGOs,’ NIF also highlights the democracy deficit of political advocacy NGOs – they better represent their European government funders than Israeli society.”

According to the cable, Radovanitz further stated that “NIF had no plans to build a human rights constituency within the right wing of Israeli society, though she believed politics had shifted to the right for the foreseeable future.” On this point, Prof. Steinberg added, “This reinforces extensive evidence that the current leadership of the NIF sees their primary function as a narrow political opposition group, rather promoting democratic and civic values in all sectors of Israeli society.”

NGO Monitor also notes that the cable identifies Radovanitz as a former employee of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), a recipient of nearly $1.3 million in NIF funding in 2009-10. Radovanitz was also the manager of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI), and is on the board of Hamoked: Center for the defence of the individual, another NIF organization that promotes “war crimes” and similar allegations.

President of the New Israel Fund Australia, Robin Margo, referred J-Wire to the global response made by the NIF head office.

The following was released by The New Israel Fund head office in Washington:

In response to the Wikileaks cable recounting a February 2010 discussion about pending anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset, the New Israel Fund issued the following statement:

Last week’s dump of Wikileaks data included a cable from an officer at the American embassy in Tel Aviv demonstrating the embassy’s concern about legislation then pending in the Knesset, designed to defund and penalize progressive civil society organizations in Israel.  It comes as no surprise to us that in February 2010, when NIF was itself first attacked and when the wave of anti-democratic legislation began moving through the Knesset, the American government was keeping a close and concerned eye on these negative trends in Israel.

The cable quotes the personal views of Hedva Radanovitz, then Grants Director at NIF.  Ms.  Radanovitz is no longer an employee of the New Israel Fund; she left her position almost a year ago. Her comments, as reported by Wikileaks, are her personal views. They do not reflect the policies or positions of the New Israel Fund.  We valued Hedva’s contribution to NIF, but it also true that her viewpoints diverged from those of the organization, and her resignation was largely due to her disagreement with the positions and direction of NIF.

The New Israel Fund has always supported Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; our first principle states that we are dedicated to the vision of the State of Israel as the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people, and as a democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities.

We also believe the context of the cable demonstrates just how far our opponents are willing to go, and what they are willing to sacrifice, to achieve their goal of shutting down dissenting voices in Israel.  NGO Monitor director Gerald Steinberg is quoted as being willing to feed into the international rhetoric delegitimizing Israel in order to reduce the “power” of Israel’s human rights NGOs, as well as dismissing the impact of the legislation, which he admits specifically targets only human rights NGOs, on freedom of speech.  He appeared to reject the applicability of the U.S. government’s Guiding Principles for Non-Governmental Organizations, provided then to Mr. Steinberg, especially since the legislation he championed ran counter to the U.S. Principles pertaining to financial support and freedom to impart information and ideas.

New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch said: “The Wikileaks cable demonstrates the way in which the ultra-nationalist agenda attempts to destroy the legitimate work of the human rights community. It also shows that the American government is justifiably concerned about that issue.”

“It’s certainly understandable that back in February 2010, our former employee Hedva Radanovitz was not optimistic about Israeli support for human rights and democracy. That was the month that NIF itself first came under vicious attack, and the bill to penalize progressive civil society that’s under discussion in the Wikileaks cable was just the tip of the iceberg in attempts to de-democratize Israel.  But today it is obvious that there is certainly much support in Israel for the vision of a fair and just society that is NIF’s most important core value.  Saturday night, 450,000 people demonstrated for the Israel that we at the New Israel Fund support. I firmly believe that, in despairing of support for progressive values among Israelis, Hedva was wrong.”

 

“I also believe more firmly than ever in the vision of Israel put forth by its Declaration of Independence.  I know that the New Israel Fund’s dedication to an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic could not be clearer.   NIF is and always has been a big-tent organization – our staff, grantees and volunteer leadership reflect the gamut of views from the center to the left, fiercely debated in Israel and elsewhere.  But our principles are firm. Nothing in the Wikileaks cable reflects an organizational agenda or principles that differ from our repeated public statements and official mission – that of building an Israel that is just, inclusive, caring and representative of the best of Jewish and universal values.”

 

Comments

2 Responses to “NGO-Monitor v NIF: Here we go again”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    It may seem boring and devoid of any sensationalism or whatever excites those Jews who need the adrenalin of novelty in their communal lives,but NIF and its local offspring NIFAu are, indeed a force to be reckoned with. NGO Monitor is doing precisely what needs to be done and NIFAu’s president does what he knows best, i.e. avoiding accountability of the genuine kind. Referring us back to vacuous NIF rhetoric does nothing to the REAL data provided by NGO Monitor, in the same vein and truthful manner as Im Tirzu have been doing for years now. NGO Monitor published on their site a clear account of the ACTUAL commitement NIF has for a large number of NGO involved in strong activities of deligitimising Israel. Not only does NIF finance those NGO, but NIF has increased in some cases as much as EIGHT times the financial support between 2009 and 2010. As an example Adalah received “only” US$55,400 in 2009 and in 2010….US$475,950. B’Tselem US$111,722 in 2009 and US$368,832 in 2010. To these figures and other increases for a raft on NGO with devoted anti Israel policies, we are “granted” the offensive referral to NIF’s statement of…policies, one repleat with rhetorical garbage about a NIF devoted to “social justice” and, would you belive, Zionism.
    I want to have my opinions published and, as such, I retain a “kind” tone to my postings, otherwise one can imagine what I believe NIF and NIFAu deserve to be TOLD in respect of the “respect” one should grant their false and highly damaging policies against Israel and against the true dedication to Zionism by all decent Jews.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    No matter how Sokatch twist and turns, at the time that Radovanitz commented that she was quite content with Israel ceasing to be the state for the Jewish people, she was NIF’s bursar. Sokatch’s comment that Radovanitz and NIF parted ways because of differing attitudes to Israel is meant to mislead, because Radovanitz had those views working for various anti-Israel NGOs before NIF hired her. Sokatch then reverts to NIF’s traditional role of crying victim when NIF’s true anti-Israel position is exposed by claiming that the exposure is a right wing plot, dare I say conspiracy, to silence progressive humanitarian working their dear little hearts out to make Israel a better, caring, more democratic society. Sadly, the weasel could not resist the weasel words of the propagandist: Sokatch firstly expects us to believe that NIF’s official position is the one it pursues and secondly in stating that position he reveals NIF’s true position and agenda. If NIF’s mission is to build a just , inclusive and caring society, then it means that at present Israel lacks those traits and pressure to adopt those values is justified. That means paying organisations like Adalah, which refuses to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, is a valid tactic. It means that Israel needs to include even those Arabs whose loyalties are with Hamas. And in referring to working to make Israel a representative of the best in Jewish and universal values it not only arrogantly anoints itself a judge of what those values should be, but insinuates that Israel lacks those values. In talking about universal values, it also reveals itself as having its role model the same internationalist community that condemns Israel at ever turn and displays humanitarianism only when expedient; Darfur, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Tibet, Iran, Somalia and North Korea all slip under the keen tearful human eyes of the NIF and its funders, who see only sinful Israel in need of left-wing redemption.

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