NIF president-elect responds to Isi Leibler

September 18, 2011 by  
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Isi Leibler has been a dedicated Zionist for his entire career. I know that he loves Israel and is dedicated to its future. So am I. Which is why, next June, after a career that has included stints running the national UJA and a major Federation, I will become the next chair of the New Israel Fund.

So writes Rabbi Brian Lurie, the president-elect of the New Israel Fund….

He continues…

“I am taking this on as the capstone of my career because I believe that the New Israel Fund is the most important organization helping Israel realize its founding principles.  And thus I must address recent attacks on the New Israel Fund, including that of Mr. Leibler’s (“The Two Faces of the New Israel Fund,” September 15.)

First, it’s important to understand that Mr. Leibler’s viewpoints are embedded in a right-wing ideology, one which I’m sure he thinks necessary to ensure Israel’s survival. That said, his writings exculpating settler behavior, attacking other progressive organizations and supporting problematically anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset are a matter of record.

He should have, however, in praising NGO Monitor, acknowledged that he is on the board of International Overseers and chairs the Israel-Diaspora Committee of the Jerusalem Council on Public Affairs, the body that founded NGO Monitor.  Perhaps relying overmuch on that organization, which has long justified its existence by targeting the New Israel Fund, many of Mr. Leibler’s facts are wrong.

Every organization funded by the New Israel Fund is a legal Israeli amuta.  We are on the record, in our funding guidelines, in refusing to fund any organization that “works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel, or to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel.” And, as has been repeatedly reported, we no longer fund the Coalition of Women for Peace or Mada al Carmel, and all organizations funded by or through NIF must meet our funding guidelines.

Adalah is the most successful Arab Israel organization securing the rights of the Arab minority, which probably is the real reason it is targeted so frequently. As co-chairman for the last several years of the Interagency Task Force on Israeli-Arab issues, a coalition of many mainstream organizations working on discrimination against the Arab minority, I share Adalah’s concern.  Their latest victory, after a lawsuit in the High Court, was the acceptance by the Israel Land Authority of a request by an Arab family to live in the community town of Rakefet in the Western Galilee. How could Mr. Leibler object to the granting of the equal rights promised by Israel’s Declaration of Independence?

Further, fulminating against foreign funding of the human rights community, and outlawing it, is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes in Russia, China, Sudan and other nations Israel should have no wish to emulate. The legislation Mr. Liebler and his associates at NGO Monitor champion makes no mention of the millions of foreign dollars flowing to extremist settler groups, one of which actually went to court to protect its donor list from public scrutiny. Unfortunately, NGO Monitor’s complete list of donors is also unavailable to the public.

The New Israel Fund’s audited financial information is available every year for the previous calendar year, as is standard practice, and our complete list of donors is in our Annual Report on our website.  Very few Israeli organizations meet NIF’s standard of transparency.

And finally, as anyone who has ever actually participated in a grant-making organization knows, our grants process meets the most rigorous international standards of checks and balances. The personal beliefs of the grants director, currently or previously, have no impact on grant decisions, which are overseen by executive staff, Board subcommittees and the Board of Directors itself. The only objectives, criteria and guidelines determining NIF grants are those of NIF itself.

The latest wave of attacks on NIF comes at a bad time.  Right now most Israelis are feeling particularly besieged. The breakdown in relations with Turkey and Egypt and the looming UN vote are real reasons for concern.  This, of all times, is not when Israelis and we who love Israel should engage in fratricidal games of “gotcha.”

As the High Holidays arrive, it is the time for “cheshbon nefesh,” searching our souls in order to clarify who we are and what we hope to be.  With the understanding that we will respectfully disagree on serious issues about the direction of the Israeli government’s policy and Israeli society, we must unite in support of a free, just and egalitarian Israel, the Jewish homeland we all support, at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

 

Rabbi Brian Lurie is the former Executive Vice President of the United Jewish Appeal, the executive director of the Bay Area Federation, and co-chair of the Interagency Task Force on Israeli Arab issues. He is the president-elect of the New Israel Fund.

Comments

6 Responses to “NIF president-elect responds to Isi Leibler”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    It has become a habitual given that, with every issue emerging from Israel, NIF shoot themselves in their Zionist foot, the one heading in any direction but in favour of Israel.
    NGO Monitor is doing a fantastic job in reminding us that, in connection to very current problems Israel is facing internationally, the UN issue, NIF have been supporting the most important players in the deligitimisation of Israel. Figures, facts, written statements,not just financial, accessible with increadible ease, betry, once again, an NIF solidly engage in anything BUT what basicly looks like Zionism. ACRI ( Associaltion for Cibil Rights in Israel) has received no less than $3,274,693 between 2006 and 2009 in its activities of unmdermining Israel’s efforts in bringing the tensions with palestinians under civilised behaviour. ACRI is one of the main players in attacking “legally” Israel, contributing on the frontline of attacks against Israel. The old B’Tselem, receiving “only” $97,707 in the same period from NIF are just as vicious and disingeniously attacking Israel.
    What the hell have all these ( and more ! ) to do with Israel’s Declaration of Independence, with any ethical stands in the conflict, the bery survival of the Jewish State, is a question that needs immediate and honest attendance by those long departed from among the proper Jewish dedicated Zionists and descended into the abismal black hole of NIF/NIFAu !!

  2. Paul Winter says:

    Rabbi Lurie rehashes the arrogant USA notion that Americans have a better idea than Israelis what Israel’s democracy was really meant to be and that it is their right to meddle in the affairs of another country to remake it in what their interpretation of its founding ideals were. Lurie then labels Isi a right-winger, as though that is sufficient to disregard the facts he details. Also, Lurie tries to justify the unjustifiable NIF anti-democratic acts as legitimate political activity. Then, after making false accusations dealt with by Isi, Lurie tries to smear NGO Monitor, trying to make us forget that research to expose enemies of Israel is nowhere near the same as funding its enemies. In talking about NIF funding, Lurie not only defends the indefensible – paying Adalah a sworn enemy of Israel – but in crowing that it no longer funds some enemy groups, he tries to hide how recently NIF funded those groups and that it stopped that funding only after NGO Monitor exposed those nefarious activities. The most galling is rabbi Lurie’s unctious remarks about fratricide, concern for Israel and the High Holy Days. The plain facts are that the NIF, a USA far left anti-democratic group of meddlers, has set its goal as the remaking of Israeli society in its own ideals and damn facts on the ground, history, justice and the will of Israelis. To achieve that end, it is willing to support enemies of Israel and to use smear tactics against those who expose its deception and underhanded tactics. The NIF is engaging in activites forbidden in the USA; shame on NIF and shame on Rabbi Lurie. (Just a small question that lurks in tha back of my suspicious mind: since the NIF was set up during the Carter administration, is it a CIA/State Dept front?)

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    NIF has been revelead time and again as very skilled in attracting funds on false pretence, but, also of late unable to justify the mishandling of the same funds, except when it satisfies donors who share the genuine policy by NIF of deligitmising Israel. The NIF retort above abounds in meaningless classifications of farcical “ideological” shades, reference to a Zionism completely abandoned by NIF while in the most detractive manner pretending that NIF offers the only sustainable way for Israel’s future. This goes well beyond the farcical,it is profoundly pernicious, with the destructive intent of the Israel real Zionists acknowledge and wish to prosper.

  4. isi leibler says:

    Rabbi Brian Lurie is both wrong and disingenuous.
    It is untrue that I supported Knesset legislation concerning the outlawing of foreign funding for political organizations. In fact in July I wrote condemning the proposed law and called for substitution legislation requiring disclosure of all sources of overseas funding for political organizations across the board – right wing as well as left wing bodies. And only last week I wrote bitterly condemning hooliganism from settler fringe groups.
    Rabbi Lurie is disingenuous in alleging that in its funding guidelines NIS was refusing to fund any organization that “works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel” and yet reaffirmed that NIS is continuing to fund Adala and many groups with similar agendas.,
    In my column on NIF, I pointed out that Adala campaigned for 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 in order to charge Israeli officials with war crimes, and defended Hezbollah spy Amir Makhoul as a “human rights defender”. These are all documented in detail by NGO Monitor, a respected research organization, and despite NIF’s baseless attacks, unfortunately repeated in Lurie’s response.
    Perhaps Rabbi Lurie would care to explain how any Zionist or remotely pro-Israeli body could justify providing funds to an organization engaged in such activities.

  5. Michael Burd says:

    Surely there are so many other less controversial, seemingly dodgy Organizational In Israel to support than this Mob.

  6. isi leibler says:

    Rabbi Brian Lurie is both wrong and disingenuous.
    It is untrue that I supported Knesset legislation concerning the outlawing of foreign funding for political organizations. In fact I wrote condemning the proposed law and called for substitution legislation requiring disclosure of all sources of overseas funding for political organizations across the board – right wing as well as left wing bodies.
    Rabbi Lurie is disingenuous in alleging that in its funding guidelines NIS was refusing to fund any organization that “works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel” and yet reaffirming that NIS is continuing to fund Adala,
    In my column, I pointed out that Adala campaigned for 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 in order to charge Israeli officials with war crimes, and defended Hezbollah spy Amir Makhoul as a “human rights defender”.
    Perhaps Rabbi Lurie would care to explain how any Zionist or remotely pro-Israeli body could justify providing funds to an organization committed to such objectives.
    Isi Leibler

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