New Israel Fund: Danny Lamm responds to Nathan Cherny

February 10, 2010 by J-Wire Staff
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The President of the  Zionist Council of Victoria, Danny Lamm, withdrew its sponsorship of a meeting in Melbourne at which NIF head Naomi Chazan was due to speak. His position was criticised by Melbourne-born Israeli Nathan Cherny. Danny Lamm responds…

from Dr Danny Lamm

Yes Nathan, but where are the answers?

Nathan Cherny expresses what nearly all of us want for Israel – a just society built in accordance with what must have seemed an impossible dream to Theodore Herzl when he revived modern Zionism well over a century ago.

danny lamm

Dr Danny Lamm pic: Henry Benjamin ©

Like Nathan, we too want a just society in Israel. We too want the social and economic gaps bridged. We too want to promote equal rights for all citizens including minority communities. We too want to advance the status of women and foster tolerance and freedom of religious expression. We too want to increase government accountability, eradicate corruption and respect for the rule of law. We too want to protect the environment and public health and yes, we too very much want peace between Israel, the Palestinians and her Arab neighbours.

To the extent that the New Israel Fund (NIF) strives to achieve these exemplary aims, the Zionist community here has no issue whatsoever. We applaud the work done by many of the organisations supported by the NIF and which Nathan has mentioned. We do not question their legitimacy or the value of their contribution to the nation. In this regard we are on the same page and are fighting the same battle not only for a better Israeli society but for a better world.

This is not the issue we have with the NIF. The Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) does not have a political argument with the NIF. We are not “extremists”, nor are we “anti democratic” and nor are we about left vs. right. The ZCV is the roof body of all Victorian Zionist organisations across the political spectrum and our constituents carry a wide range of views. We regularly invite guests who are anything but monolithic in the views they express and who come from many and varied backgrounds.  We host a wide range of functions and we encourage debate on issues of importance to Israel and her future. These debates are often vigorous but remain civil and the views expressed by all are treated with respect. Anyone who attended our debate on the settlement issue in late 2009 or for that matter the debate on the evacuation of Gaza in 2005 would attest to this.

Since we work tirelessly here to promote the same values for our youth as Nathan wishes to promote for his children, it was therefore disappointing to read his claims that we here in Melbourne are not promoting a just vision for the Jewish State. In making those claims Nathan is just plain wrong.

That said, the ZCV does have an issue with the NIF.

It concerns the matters that Nathan skirted around in his promotion of the NIF and the organisations it supports. Specifically, he avoided making mention of those groups whose apparent dark side has recently come under attack in Israel and against which allegations have been raised of not only acting against Israel’s interests but also working to deny its right to exist as a Jewish State. Among those who have publicly condemned the NIF are President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak. The investigation of NIF which is being considered by a Knesset committee right now has been promoted by Kadima members.

Nathan speaks of democracy but surely the very essence of a democracy is to demand answers to the serious allegations that have circled the country over the past weeks causing a tidal wave of interest around the world that has even reached these shores? In such a robust democracy with such a commitment to truth and fact, why does the NIF not come forward to simply answer what is being asked?

How can it be true to its mission statement, which declares that it works “to strengthen Israel’s democracy and to promote freedom, justice and equality for all Israel’s citizens” and yet not have the transparency to provide a response other than to engage in ad hominem attacks on those who have raised the issue in the first place?

The groups to which I refer are those alleged to have actively reinforced a worldwide propaganda campaign against Israel, using the vicious rhetoric of apartheid, using “lawfare” to threaten Israel’s leaders and soldiers should they travel, and using and supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns. These same organisations made unsubstantiated claims to the UN committee chaired by Justice Goldstone, who himself has said that “if this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven” but the existence of the report and the lies it contains endangers the lives of Israel citizens. Has the NIF scrutinised its funding of these groups?

How can the NIF support an organisation like Adalah when, despite having as its mission the protection of Arab civil rights, routinely accuses Israel of implementing “apartheid” and of committing “war crimes”?

This group is going far beyond its charter when it proposes a so-called “Democratic Constitution” for Israel, calling for an end to Israel as a state with a specifically Jewish character. This is an outcome diametrically opposed to the Zionist dream of a national homeland for the Jewish people in Israel. Remember too, this is in a region where there are more than 50 Muslim States. Can the NIF tell us why it showers on such a group millions of dollars of funds donated in good faith by those who wish to promote a peaceful, just and democratic Israel?

If there is some justification as to why the NIF provides support for those whose words and deeds are antithetical to the essential world view of the Zionist movement and endanger Israel’s citizens then let us hear it.

In the meantime however, it is the silence of the NIF that is causing damage to Nathan Cherny’s commendable initiative and the good work of many others who perform vital, much-needed and legitimate social functions in the interests for the benefit of Israel and all of its citizens.

If there is any damage occurring to those worthy institutions, then all suffer but the blame does not rest with those in Israel who are asking the difficult questions and seeking answers to them or with the Zionist movement in this country.

We are only asking questions that deserve answers.


9 Responses to “New Israel Fund: Danny Lamm responds to Nathan Cherny”
  1. Mark Bernadiner says:

    Israel NGOs receive money from anti-Israel sources, including Ford Foundation notorious anti-Semitic organization, not mention Ford was an open Hitler admirer and supporter, for specific and only objective that is vilifying Israel and fabricating false and fraudulent information on IDF and Israel authorities. It is not “justice”, it is “TREASON”, and must be treated as such. I am surprised that Dr. Cherny does not understand this simple difference. Israel must update its laws to new international and internal environments.

  2. Harold Zwier says:

    On February 4th the Age newspaper reported that Danny Lamm had withdrawn the support of the Zionist Council of Victoria for the invitation extended to Professor Naomi Chazan to speak in Melbourne because: “her association with the New Israel Fund was ‘intolerable’……Organisations that they have funded have done damage to Israel and as a consequence we don’t want to have anything to do with the New Israel Fund.”

    This is in stark contrast to Danny’s comments here: “To the extent that the New Israel Fund (NIF) strives to achieve these exemplary aims, the Zionist community here has no issue whatsoever. We applaud the work done by many of the organisations supported by the NIF and which Nathan has mentioned. We do not question their legitimacy or the value of their contribution to the nation.”

    It is pleasing to see that he has stepped back from his blanket condemnation of the NIF to a more qualified “We are only asking questions that deserve answers”.

    But the damage Danny has done both to the standing of the ZCV and by association our community, is the result of jumping in with intemperate comments which effectively condemned Professor Chazan rather than “only asking questions”.

    Perhaps, if Danny had thought about the opportunity that the NIF controversy had afforded him, he could have asked his questions in person to Professor Chazan while she was in Melbourne.

  3. Whispering_Jack says:

    I want to take up the point Steve Brook makes about the Goldstone Report, in particular the assertion that Danny Lamm’s case would be considerably stronger had Israel not refused to talk to the Goldstone committee.

    As a lawyer who closely followed the legal side of the Goldstone Mission from its very inception, I came to the conclusion long ago that it would not have made one iota of difference to the its outcome whether Israel “co-operated” with the Mission or not.

    The whole concept of the Goldstone Report was a miscarriage of justice from its very inception and no self-respecting adherent to the principles of the rule of law should be required to submit itself to what unabashedly proved to be a charade.

    Leaving aside the fact that it was the brainchild of the Organization of Islamic States and that its terms of reference were so slanted that they barely required any investigation into Hamas’ role before and during the conflict, the investigators appointed had already shown their bias and their leanings against Israel’s involvement before their appointment. One of its number, Christine Chinkin had already signed a letter in January 2009 accusing Israel of “aggression” and “prima facie war crimes.” In any democracy that values the rule of law such a person would never even be in contention to sit on any judicial or quasi-judicial body carrying out an investigation of this magnitude and importance but this is the modus for the dysfunctional UN Human Rights Council which has established a substantial reputation for doing absolutely nothing for human rights around the globe.

    It was no surprise therefore, that Goldstone did not reached a judicial conclusion but a political one that mirrored the pre-existing prejudices of those who were supposedly doing the investigating. His report simply defies logic and bends the rules of evidence so far backward that one wonders why his Mission wasted its time convening and taking evidence in the first place (as it was, it did the work in record time given the serious nature of the allegations put forward in the case). 

    Goldstone himself conceded that there was no evidence to support the conclusions reached and this supports my very strong belief that Israeli co-operation with the Mission would be superfluous.

    Nathan Cherny recognises the importance of the rule of law (he specifically says so in his original piece) and its clear that the Goldstone Report is an abuse par excellence of that very rule of law he and most of us support.

    The Goldstone Report would therefore have reached the same conclusions with or without any information (false or otherwise) supplied by Israeli human rights groups funded or supported by NIF and with or without the co-operation of the State of Israel. 

    This of course, does not excuse those groups, if indeed, they provided Goldstone with unreliable or false evidence and that is why I consider that some response from NIF on these allegations would help at least clear the air. 

  4. Michael says:

    G- d forbid if we had to reply on members of the AJDS [ above ] to promote anything positive about Israel!

  5. Les Rosenblatt says:

    Cherny said in his J-wire statement of Feb 8,

    “I believe in “Zedek, Zedek tirdof” the imperative of actively pursuing justice as a core Jewish Principle. Even in war, I want to be able to take pride in the justice of my country. If, and when, my country or its agencies stray through faulty decision making or command, I want a system that is ready to honestly investigate the claims and to candidly address them. This has been the approach of NIF supported non profit Israeli organizations (such as B’tzelem) calling for Israel to launch fair and independent investigation into some of the accusations arising out of the events Operation Cast Lead. Believe me, I want this, not out of any self hatred, but out of a profound sense of patriotism and love of my country. ”

    But Danny Lamm is a Kadimah/Likud Australian Zionist, not a Meretz one like Naomi Chazan, and certainly not sympathetic to the politics of the NGOs and the democratic multiculturalism underpinned by universal human rights protections which the NIF supports.

    This makes him so much more vulnerable to the pressures of the Orthodox ethno-nationalists who rely on a mythos of holy warrior nationalism to suppress semblance of a liberally humane civil society. The Iranian mullahs do the same in their country, viciously supressing democratic dissent against monolithic religious nationalism, but fortunately, unlike Iran, the Israeli government is constrained by the structure of a western political/legal system which includes a legislature and judiciary still held publicly accountable thanks to the work of organisations such as the NIF.

    Now that Chazan’s visit to Australia has been effectively stopped by removal of sponsorship by the ZCV, who do we see as her replacement speaker to raise money for the UIA, – despite Steve Denenberg’s (Exec Director of Union of Progressive Judaism) pious ‘Viewpoint’ piece in today’s Australian Jewish News
    arguing for non-controversial speakers (and supported by the AJN Editorial, also arguing against ‘divisive’ speakers)? None other than the extraordianrily divisive ‘Lioness of Londonistan’ Melanie Phillips to whip up anti-Muslim hatred and fear.

    The hypocrisy of this is breath-taking as part of a double snow-job on the melbourne Jewish community by the ‘friends’ of Israel which includes the sponsorship by AIJAC of Gerald Steinberg to whip up a self-righteous militia and lynch mob mentality in the heart of Melbourne’s Orthodox Jewish community, the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation.

    Hopefully Shulamit Aloni and Naomi Chazan, before both of them are dead or too debilitated to travel will visit us and provide some relief from the stridency of the elite of militaristic national monopolists foisted on us by the ‘diversity-respecting’ Zionist Council of Victoria and the AIJAC (which no Australian Jews ever voted for).

  6. Steve Brook says:

    Is Danny Lamm aware that some of the funding for Im Tirtzu comes from Americans who believe that the Last Days will be fought out over Meggido in Israel and that true believers, Christians that is, will be zapped up to meet Jesus above the clouds? Us non-believers, unfortunately, will remain behind on earth, to face years of Tribulation following the Last Trump. Don’t talk to ME about “with friends like these…”!

  7. Steve Brook says:

    Danny Lamm’s case would be considerably stronger had Israel not refused to talk to the Goldstone committee. One top IDF spokesman has already said that it was a mistake to ignore the committee. Has the Israeli government no idea of PR?

  8. I can’t take up the accusations against Adalah in any detail, but at least one organization which has been on the receiving end of attacks is I’lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel. Such reports have been thus been used to attack the NIF by proxy because of its funding supports for civil rights organizations.

    I’lam has at least been able to resond to the report, “Inside I’lam” written by David Bedein and Samuel Sokol, published in May/June 2009 by the Israel Resource News Agency (IRNA). ( They demonstrate the right-wing agenda of both authors, including population transfers and strong affiliation to the settler movement. So much for the non-political stance which Lamm claims in his approach to such matters, presumably based upon such information.

    There is a similar report about Adalah by Arlene Kusher, also called ‘Inside Adalah’ by an Arlene Kushner, who claims to be a Middle East expert. By looking at her blog and other sites, it’s clear that in fact, she is a journalist pushing a particular propoganda line. It is not clear if she even knows Arabic.

    The author of the Ilam response says–

    “It seems that criticism of Israel as not living up to its democratic ideals is what the IRNA report takes most offence with; it has nothing to do with our work, our engagement in human rights promotion, our initiatives towards social equality and justice in Israel. The approach of IRNA resembles that of NGO-Monitor, which describes itself as “promoting critical debate and accountability of Human Rights NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict”. However, IRNA’s research seems even more poorly conducted and executed. Just as NGO-Monitor is keen on vilifying all critics of Israel (including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Ford Foundation, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Caritas, United Nations Agencies and Israeli organizations, including Betselem, Hamoked, I’lam and Adalah) conveniently ignoring Israel’s human rights violations, IRNA seems to operate on similar principle.

    This is the sort of ‘deep background’ which forms the opinion of the local Zionist etablishment.

    By picking up on the hot and sensisitve topics such as ‘apartheid’ ‘racism’ or Adalah’s ‘Democratic Constitution’ etc, as discussed at Durban, or on websites, NGO watch is able to construct a strong case that Israel is equally hated by all. This of course, ignores the base of the problem–a deep structural problem with how Israel has structured its society, and the occupation. If people want to keep going like that, then they have to live with the consequences. IF they don’t then concessions will ultimately be required, including a reworking of the now hollow ‘Zionist’ dream into something much more practical and secure for Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora.

  9. Michael says:

    Even though left wing activist Chazan joins anti zionist Academics signing Anti -israel petitions and heads a organization that supports groups that defame Israel and help to demonize Israelis and Jews world wide there are Jews in Australia that consider Chazan [ Hazan] a staunch Zionist…. with Zionists like these who needs enemies.

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