NIF: ‘We can support Israel and work to end the occupation’

June 18, 2018 by Sharon Berger
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The New Israel Fund (NIF) Australia hosted the successful Melbourne and Sydney book launches of ​Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation​ last week.

NIF VP President Steven Glass and the panel from left seated Avner Gvaryahu, Deb Whitmont (moderator), Geraldine Brooks and Assaf Gavron. (Kent Johnston)

In total, almost 800 attended NIF events launching the book, including in Sydney at Paddington Town Hall with Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks, award-winning Israeli author Assaf Gavron and Executive Director of Breaking the Silence Avner Gvaryahu. In Melbourne the event at Memo Music Hall sold out with over 250 attending to hear Gavron and Gvaryahu.

As a Diaspora Jew Brooks acknowledged the complex feelings Jews have about Israel. “I think Jews in the Diaspora have to balance a reluctance to respond with the responsibility to address it,” she told the Sydney audience, admitting that many of her Jewish friends preferred not to attend this sort of discussion.

“Traditionally, Jews have been offered two options: support the Israeli government and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, or the alternative from the BDS movement, which says that in order to oppose the occupation you also have to oppose Israel. We’re strengthening the voices of moderation that say it is possible to support Israel, while also opposing the very real issues created by occupation, both for Palestinians and Israelis,” said NIF Australia executive director Liam Getreu.

Kingdom of Olives and Ash​, put together by Jewish-American authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, along with Breaking the Silence, included essays from 26 Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian and global authors, with each writer focusing on a different story that highlighted Israel’s 51-year occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

The Melbourne panel from left: Avner Gvaryahu, Deb Whitmont (moderator) and Assaf Gavron. Photo: Nat Court

The events, moderated by Deb Whitmont, also provided a platform for Gvaryahu to discuss his work at Breaking the Silence, an organisation of current and former IDF soldiers who give testimonies in order to educate the Israeli public about the effect of the occupation. Gvaryahu, a former IDF sergeant and paratrooper, argued that the solution lay not in amending the rules of conduct for the IDF soldiers but in ending the ongoing military control.

Many members of the audience welcomed the opportunity to have an open conversation about what is happening in Israel, rather than ignoring the current reality for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Authors Geraldine Brooks and Assaf Gavron sign books after their Sydney session. (Kent Johnston)

“It was incredible to see so many like-minded people from all walks of life come together at the NIF event with Breaking the Silence to talk about the realities of what’s happening on the ground in Israel,” said Netzer youth leader Mikaela Webb about the Melbourne event. More than 100 leaders from the Zionist youth movements and AUJS attended the events in Sydney and Melbourne.

The events in Melbourne and Sydney also offered a chance for the Jewish community to fund important work in Israel that change the reality on the ground for Palestinians and Israelis, including projects that promote healthcare, education and legal support.

“This entire week has been an opportunity for the community to learn more about what is happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories. We are glad to have been able to offer such engaging evenings with top quality speakers and allow people to learn more about the need to end the occupation,” said NIF Australia Executive Director Liam Getreu.


15 Responses to “NIF: ‘We can support Israel and work to end the occupation’”
  1. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The so-called “Palestinian National Charter”,which was promulgated in 1968 [1964 -Ed], bitterly disappoints Jews like “The New Israel Fund, in that it affirms unequivocally that the Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians” are “an integral part of the Arab nation.”

    Nonetheless, most Israelis take the position that they can call themselves whatever they like as long as they don’t usurp Jewish rights in The Land of Israel, as long as they do not engage in terrorism and only if they abandon their anti-Jewish apartheid.

  2. DAVID SINGER says:

    Fascinating to see this report using the term “occupation” or “occupied” on seven occasions.

    “End the occupation” is actually a phrase coined by the PLO that has been well and truly swallowed hook, line and sinker by NIF.

    This phrase ignores the following facts:

    1. The Jews living in East Jerusalem were all driven out of their homes and businesses by six invading Arab armies in 1948 and not allowed to return there until 1967.

    2. Established Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza all suffered the same fate in 1948 as their fellow Jews in East Jerusalem.

    If NIF wants to be intellectually honest with itself then it should use the term “end the re-occupation” that occurred with Israel’s defeat of Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War and the re-occupation by the Jews of their properties in East Jerusalem, Judea Samaria and Gaza from which they had been forcibly expelled between 1948 and 1967.

    Maybe NIF is ignorant of these facts. If so – they need to review their slavish use of Arab terminology that is deceptive, misleading and downright untruthful.

  3. Ephraim Benyitzhok says:

    I have visited Israel many, many times, often for lengthy periods, since the 1970s. I have family and friends there with a wide range of views on the conflicted relationship with the Palestinians. I know that none of them find pleasure in this situation. What they largely do feel, however, is safer as they go about living their daily lives and resurrecting their ancient homeland. For a People who have suffered from insecurity for millennia, this is no mean achievement.

    Unlike Michael Chabon, one of NIF’s poster boys, they don’t live in liberal enclaves on the east or west US coasts, or in Melbourne or Sydney for that matter. They don’t get to give commencement addresses at slick rabbinical schools, where they can pontificate like Chabon: “This is my charge to you, class of 2018, Jewish leaders of the future: Knock down the walls. Abolish the checkpoints. Find room in the Jewish community for all those who want to share in our traditions. Inscribe the protective circle of your teachings around all those people whose very otherness demands that we honor our avowed commitments to peace and justice and loving kindness. Seize every opportunity to strengthen and enrich our cultural genome by embracing the inevitable variation and change that result from increased diversity.” (

    I wonder if Chabon would have the courage to preach like this to Muslims, Christians, Hindus or Buddhists. But they’re clearly not his problem, nor his target. Chabon’s address emphatically states that he is not committed to any Jewish future. Rather he is for “…mongrels and hybrids and creoles, for syncretism and confluence, for jazz and Afrobeat and Thai surf music, for integrated neighborhoods and open borders and the preposterous history of Barack Obama…. for the hodgepodge cuisines of seaports and crossroads, for sampling and mashups, pastiche and collage… ambiguity, ambivalence, fluidity, muddle, complexity, diversity, creative balagan.” Wow, how cool.

    Well, not everyone has the luxury (or the desire) to live like this. And the irony is that Chabon, despite his self-proclaimed liberalism, obviously hates the Jewish religion and its adherents, so much so that he makes the completely illogical and hatefully biased judgement that the conflict between Jews and Palestinians is some sort of Orthodox Jewish plot. This claim shows how ignorant he is about Jewish history, Israeli domestic politics and the decades-long conflict between Israel and its neighbours.

    Are these the views the NIF stands for?

    PS For those who haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend Elli Fischer’s article in The Jewish Review Of Books, “Michael Chabon’s Sacred and Profane Cliché Machine”

  4. Leon Poddebsky says:

    There are no occupied Palestinian territories: the ancestors of Arabs who today call themselves Palestinians never had a state; nor was there ever a national Arab entity called Palestine, only a geographical one.
    The Arab historian, Phillip Hitti, attests to the above truths.
    Some “Palestinian” Arab leaders candidly confess that the invention of a mythical “Palestinian” corporate entity was a political stunt.

    In secular international law the territory which The New Israel Fund people, to their eternal shame, call “occupied territories” is known as “The Jewish National Home.”

    The late Egyptian-born Arab leader, Yasser Arafat, predicted that in time there would be Jews who would co-operate with his people’s mission to destroy Jewish national self-determination. Were he alive today, he would be delighted to witness this occurring.

    • David Zyngier says:

      Both Israel and Palestine were created by international agreement at the UN in 1947. Ben Gurion accepted that decision. So should we! Easy for you armchair Zionists from the safety of the Diaspora to pretend that Palestinians don’t exist and base this on a book of mythology written over 3000 years ago. When you say the Palestinians don’t exist you are using the exact perverted logic of anti-Zionists who claim that there is no such thing as the Jewish People therefore Israel is illegitimate. Obviously you have never heard of the right to self determination of people.

      • Leon Poddebsky says:

        David Zyngier

        You are mistaken on each and every count.
        At the UN in 1947 the General Assembly RECOMMENDED partition of 20% of The Jewish National Home into “a Jewish state” and “an Arab state.” [sic.]
        The recommendation made no mention of any “Palestinian”national or political entity because it had never existed other than as a geographical term.

        Israel was NOT ‘created” by the UN. It was the Jewish defenders of Israel who reconstituted the state by repelling first the local Arab aggression, and then the invasion by the 6 Arab states. The Jews lost 1% of their population in that war, and they lost Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) to British-supported Jordan.
        The UN actually did nothing to stop the Arab aggression, with some member governments, notably Britain, actually aiding the Arab aggressors.

        The Jewish nation has existed for over three thousand years.
        There has never been a “Palestinian” nation; the Arab historian, Phillip Hitti, confirms this, as have “Palestinian” Arab spokespeople in moments of candour.
        Nowadays a body of Arab activists/politicians claims to represent a “Palestinian” nation. In actual fact, however, if you examine that population, you will find that there is more that divides them than unites them.

        Nevertheless, Israel has demonstrated a willingness to donate even more of The Jewish National Home to them if, and only if they show that they are serious about peace.
        The only solution the “Palestinians” want, however, is the dissolution of Israel.
        They have been conditioned to the view that the Jews stole “their” land, and only its total “recovery” will satisfy Arab honour.

        It is easy for self-righteous Jewish armchair pro-“Palestinians” in the Diaspora to preach 50 year-old myths and prescriptions to Israeli Jews, who have to bear the brunt of terrorism and international hypocrisy.

        These armchair Jewish pro-“Palestinians” want to see “Palestinian” self-determination fabricated at the cost of the loss of Jewish self-determination.

      • Leon Poddebsky says:

        Your so-called “international agreement” of 1947, had it been fulfilled, would have deprived the Jews of any rights in any part of Jerusalem since that “international agreement” recommended that Jerusalem be placed under international control.

        In the entire history of Jerusalem only the Jews have permitted unfettered access to all sites of all religions.

        The Arab “Palestinians” deny that Jews have any history in Jerusalem.

        That assertion, for people like you, is not mythology, but according to you, the Bible is mythology.

  5. Anthony Michaels says:

    ‘We can support Israel and work to end the occupation’. Perhaps, but NIF only does one of those

  6. Bella Ceruza says:

    “Ending ‘the occupation” sounds so positive….I wish I could be more positive about NIF and associates.

    “Ending ‘the occupation'” sounds even more positive than ‘Land for Peace’ which resulted in the ceding of Gaza and enabling Hamas to eliminate their opponents, force squalor on the unfortunate Gazans and turning Gaza into a rocket launching pad cum terrorist base from which to target Israeli civilians.

    When individuals want to commence peace proceedings by bowing to the opposition without any realistic indication from Arabs of anything in return I shudder.

    And our ‘End the Occupation’ friends should also shudder when they actually take the time to think about what kind of leadership would follow if Israel were to withdraw…. ie would human rights in ceded territories follow the example of almost all of Israel’s neighbours?

    Israelis would probably be better of without ‘the occupation’…but would the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria be as ‘well off’ as Gazans, Syrians, Yemenis etc?

  7. David Itzkowic says:

    Is the discussion about unilateral withdrawal from the west bank in the absence of a peace agreement or security arrangements with the palestinians ??

    • Leon Poddebsky says:


      The Arab “Palestinians” signed the Oslo Accords.
      In no time at all they violated their provisions and continue to do so flagrantly and continually. Arafat called them a Trojan Horse and such it has turned out to be.
      Hamas and the “Palestinian Authority” reached ceasefire agreements between them. They swiftly breached them, and Hamas kicked the PA out of Gaza, murdering its people in the process.
      Can you imagine them honouring any “peace agreement” or “security arrangements” were they to gain control over Judaea and Samaria?

      The Arab “Palestinians” have been conditioned to view their war against Israel as a zero-sum conflict. They have been conditioned to believe the myth that the Jews stole “their” land, and only its total “recovery” will satisfy Arab honour.
      That is why they chant, “From the river to the sea, ‘Palestine” will be free.”

      And here we have Jews who wittingly, unwittingly or witlessly in effect collaborate with them.

    • Karen Loblay says:

      Come to more NIF events…you can ask any difficult question you want (respectfully) and you’ll get an informed answer. Happy to answer what I can over dinner sometime…:)

      • Leon Poddebsky says:

        The NIF’s agenda is essentially to end Jewish national self-determination and to replace it with “Palestinian.”
        Some NIF supporters are even more radical, wanting an end to the Jewish identity entirely.

      • Leon Poddebsky says:

        You ask for respect from others, but your David Zyngier’s comment is quite disrespectful.

      • DAVID SINGER says:

        Why don’t you just answer the criticisms of NIF made by J Wire readers that have been posted in response to this article?

        “Breaking the NIF silence” is something NIF critics would like to see.

        C’mon Karen – as an NIF director please post your responses to those readers who have taken the time – like me – to respectfully vent their frustration with NIF.

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