Open letter to the ZFA

July 14, 2011 by J-Wire
Read on for article

Nathan Cherny has responded to the Zionist Federation of Australia and its president Philip Chester on the New Israel Fund…and it is an open letter.


Dear Philip

Nathan Cherny

From my office in Jerusalem I make it a habit of touching base with the community where I grew up, nurtured by the Zionist values of my family home and my involvement in Habonim. Through the advent of the internet I peruse the Jewish News each week and generally pleasure at the vibrancy and pluralism of Jewish life of the community I left behind.

As you point out in your op ed about the New Israel Fund, my life and the lives of so many other youth movement graduates of Australia are the beneficiaries of the work and support of the Jewish Agency. My skin still tingles when I sing Hatikvah, I savor the JNF parks where I celebrate and share a love of Israel with my nuclear and extended family here in Israel.

It is out of my love for Israel that I, and many others like me, am so committed to the pursuit of justice and the protection of democratic values in Israel through support of the vital work of the New Israel Fund.

I care that Israel be secure, safe and just and as a lover of Israel, I am not afraid of internal dissent or criticism. I am not afraid of organisations that criticize the JNF for its failure to recognise the rights of Israel’s Bedouin citizens, or when it uses its resources to build in the West Bank or when it obliterates all traces and memory of Palestinian villages destroyed in the war of Independence and the six-Day War. Personally, I side with the Supreme Court of the State of Israel when I speak out against the JNF’s refusal to allow Israeli Arabs to buy property in Jewish towns and neighborhoods.

I care deeply about my adopted country and it shames me to see the plight of the Arab population of the mixed city of Lod,12 kilometers from my home. The neglect caused by the refusal to grant building permits for the Arab population leaving them no option but to build what is a shanty town by the railroad tracks (where several children are killed by trains each year). I am distressed by the discrepancy of educational resources afforded the Arab minority in Israel. I am appalled by the neglect of their needs for opportunity, housing, childcare, parks and playgrounds.

Its not only your so called anti Zionists, like the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, who think that the settlement of Jews and eviction of Arab families in East Jerusalem is imprudent; Teddy Kollek also rejected that approach, despite it being “legal”. He recognized the dangerous asymmetry that allowed Jewish property claims from the wartime periods but that precluded recognition of Arab claims based on similar titles in Jewish Neighborhoods. These concerns are the basis of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement’s agenda. Do you also want to question Teddy Kollek’s Zionist credentials?

When you label Adalah as an organization which is “an anathema to the core principles of Zionism” you give no credit for the work that they do to protect and promote the rights of Arab citizens in order to counter the very real discrimination and neglect that this population encounters.  This indisputable reality has been acknowledged and even documented by the State (see Or Commission Report) and successive Israeli governments.

As a Zionist, I care about living up to the promise of equality that is a central part of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. I am not afraid of that dialogue and, indeed, I see it as a Zionist imperative.

There is whole world of mindful, constructively introspective Zionists who are quite comfortable in discussing problem issues associated with the touchstones that you seem to regard as the “sacred cows of Zionism”.  Suggesting that unquestioning loyalty to these sacred cows, such as the JNF, the Jewish Agency, the lyrics of Hatikva or a united Jerusalem are a litmus test for ones Zionist commitment is audacious and facile. Constructive introspection, pursuit of justice, promotion of democracy, open vibrant dialogue, and transparency: these are among things that make Israel stronger. These are the core values of the Zionist vision of the New Israel Fund, of which I am a proud supporter.

I refuse to believe that Zionism in Australia has atrophied to a siege mentality unable to see the important place of these issues within the spectrum of Zionist endeavor. The New Israel Fund, which proudly champions the promotion of justice and civil society in Israel does not need your “hechsher” to assert its Zionist credentials.

I respect that you have a different Zionist perspective than I. Indeed, we have known one other since your days leading Betar (The revisionist Zionist youth movement) in Melbourne, and we have always had different perspectives. If there are projects that you, or likeminded supporters of Israel, don’t feel comfortable with, that is your prerogative, and you can have the opportunity to selectively support other NIF projects that do wholeheartedly support, or you can chose to support Israel in other ways. In the broad social agenda of the New Israel Fund that includes environmental concerns, Ethiopian immigrant education, battered women, religious freedom, reducing violence and corruption in Israeli society, promoting affordable housing, and so much more, I am sure that there is much you and other concerned Zionists, could want to support and be proud to be a part of.

I am sure that there will be a great many Australian Zionists and friends of Israel who will celebrate in the opportunity to be a part of this new way to support Israel that focuses on issues of social justice and I would hope that the umbrella organization of Australian Zionists that you lead will have the wisdom to be inclusive.

With regards,



Nathan Cherny is an Australian oleh living in Israel. He is professor of Humanistic Medicine and Chief of Palliative Care at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. He is a former member of Habonim in Melbourne. He holds no official office in the New Israel Fund.


16 Responses to “Open letter to the ZFA”
  1. david singer says:


    So what – or who – are you?

    You are obviously a very caring and concerned person. Kol Hakavod.

    However looking after your interests only to the detriment of looking after the interests of other Jews seems to be the very antithesis of Hillel’s maxim.

    Our differing political opinions should not be the catalyst for personally discriminating against each other.

    United we stand. Divided we fall.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:


    I am most sincerely in awe of the primordial importance of all medics in society. I cannot place any other human pursuit above the medical proffession.
    As a trained historian and having a most precious Son study at the highest level also history, I am humbled by the comparatively undisputed greater importance of doctors. Having been married once to a doctor I know quite intimately how majestic their function is.
    Without minimising the unparalleled importance of the work you and all your colleagues do WITHIN the geopolitical environment under which Israel exists, the incredibly impressive story you shared with us may, if I can say, be a testimony of precisely WHY palestinians should embrace en masse the civil, normal, attitude of those described in your story. Sadly, some 73% of palestinians ( according to the latest figures ) are dedicated to a psyche and respective policies drastically counter to what we ALL would like them to adhere to. I am not being at all fatuous by saying that,should that 73% be more intimately associated with the benefits of , at least, medical advantages available right in their midst, within the fold of their Jewish neighbours, their behaviour would,most certainly , follow the transformations seen at your patients. But do we really need one ailment to cure another one ??!! Most definitely NOT. And thus we are still faced with that ponderous number of an INCREASING percentage of palestinians, who would VITALLY need the civil and normal COEXISTENCE with their Jewish BROTHERS, or at least cousins, but who seem to opt for the …destruction of that vital need.
    Consequently,my function, reflective of your own morality, is to emphasize to my own Jewish brothers and cousins that it is just as important to promote to the palestinians the virtues of their Jewish co-existential neighbours as it is to show and provide sincere care to their own “clinical” existence. As such, marching alongside a sworn enemy , by THEIR choice , against Israel can only increase the hatred of the palestinians of everything Yahudi and, implicitely, annull the positive effects contained potentially in the Jewish loyalty of Hillel’s message. So far NIF has proven in a very damaging way excessively unilateral in addressing the Israel “issues” and obfuscate, at best, the acute palestinian and generally anti Israel features.
    Palestinians should not be denied Jewish medical assistance BUT they should, most definitely, be denied Jewish political aid in ireconciliably confronting the very survival of Israel.
    From your story it is far too evident that palestinians do need Israel for their wellbeing and I cannot tell you how much I NEED Israel for my own just simple being and I am sure that the same is true for you.

    sincerely and congenially


  3. Nathan Cherny says:

    20% of my patients are Paestinians and I have a subsidized clinical at Shaare Zedek The Gates of Justice) for patients from the West Bank who do not have insurance.

    Every one who comes learn that there are Jews who want to live as civil neighbors.

    Phsyicians, nurses and social workers from Israel meet in Cyprus with colleagues form Gaza and Lebanon as well as those few Arab Cointries wth formal relations wth Israel under the auspicies of the Middle East Cancer Consortium. The paricpant from gaza and Lebaon risl there lives in participating..I can fax or emeil them..or thay may be seen as collaborators when they need help , thay contact me.

    Care can and does breed bridges of understanding.

    Yes Otto,I try to teach Palestinians th atit is better to love and to embrace ance a future of collaboration and mutual support ,rather than terror everyday.

    The annecdote below is trie and was published as part of a paper: Palliative Care in Situations of Conflict

    Case 1
    Mr. A was a 40 year old husband of a young Palestinian woman with metastatic colon cancer. Together they had 4 children and they lived in East Jerusalem. In September 2000 he had been at the site of a violent clash between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli armed services. The young man who stood beside him was shot and killed and he carried the body away from the battle scene.

    When he initially came with his wife to an Israeli hospital he was full of anger at Israelis and Jews and he had little reservation about hiding his hostility. The treating oncologist was an orthodox Jewish Israeli, Dr. S. They communicated with the help of a Palestinian social worker.

    Over two years, Dr S. cared for this young family. Mrs. A underwent several lines of chemotherapy; some successful, others less so. When she developed a bowel obstruction, Dr. S. arranged for a diverting colostomy and supported the family through the ordeal. The treating nurses would hold her hands, stroke her hair and extended the same care and support that they would to any other patient.

    Slowly, enmity faded and Mr. A, his wife and family became a part of the routine in the oncology day hospital. As her illness progressed she became increasingly dependant on help from the palliative care nurse. Because they lived in an Area that had became increasingly unsafe for Israeli’s, and in the absence of a Palestinian home care program, we had to make do with telephone support and hospital based ambulatory care.

    Mrs. A ultimately developed a severe pain problem with lumbosacral plexopathy. She was admitted for pain stabilization. She did not achieve adequate relief with PCA morphine and she was switched to methadone which provided reasonable relief. It became clear however that she would not be able to return home and she died in the oncology/palliative care ward, surrounded by her family and friends and her mainly Israeli doctors and nurses.

    A week after her death her husband returned with his 4 children with gifts and thanks for the staff. To Dr S. he said, “You are now my brother”

    Otta a PS from Hillel
    “If I don’t look after my interests, then who will;
    but, if I look after my interests only, then what am I?”

  4. Nathan Cherny says:

    I would like to recommend the article published on friday by the Likud speaker of the Knesset Rubi Rivlin regarding the recent anti-boycott laws:


  5. Otto Waldmann says:


    It is derisively spurious to claim, on one hand, that the setlers are illegal, that they represent a major obstacle to peace, that boycoting their products is morally accpetable and, on the other hand, to wear the mask of “genuine”concern for their welfare, risk-laden existence. Considering the conflicting stances above, only one seems consistent with the prevalent views, policies statements etc. of NIF and its supporters, i.e. their disdain for the “fellow” Jews who are, indeed taking risks. One of the evident risk is encountering the “rationale” of NIF’s supporters.


    The claim by NIF supporters to represent genuine Zionist principles is a farcical exercise not just in claiming to identify with Zionism but to attempt an arrogant aggrandizement of Zionism not just as their ideological flagship, but as their own exclusive property, while having provided blatant evidence of anti Israel activities. It does not matter how much you remind them that a large number of NGOs have been strongly financed by NIF in deligitising Israel, they still reckon that Mr.Goldstone is sheer mythology and NIF never heard of the bloke.
    It is farcical to pretend logic while incongruous constructs allow any “reason” to cover the… sellective boycot of genuine fellow Jews, the settlers, who have embraced , well within the spirit of Judaism ,the “temerity” of residing in their ancestral land.


    It is emphatically deficient to allow ONE MILLION TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND arabs
    so called palestinians to reside in Medinat Israel, advocate, battle on legal barricades for their “rights” within the Israeli society, but NOT allow a comparatively minuscule number of Jews to exist among the same kind of palestinian arabs in the “administartive territories”.
    When those so called lefties Jews would have spent a small fraction of their energies in defending the rights of settlers to live among the arabs, compared to their bleeding hearts for the dental, educational,legal etc. rights of the “oppressed” palestinians, not only the so called lefty Jews would have acquired a modicum of respect, but, contrary to their bankrupt ideology ( a Marxian terms, dear lefties ) only THEN shall be a real chance for a peaceful coexistence. I want to see the “thousands” of those behind the NIF displying a ballanced consideration for the REAL Jews who are, indeed, taking the risk of maintainnig alive the flame of Zionism in the midst of a criminal minded AND acting palestinian mobster lot.
    How about Nathan telling us how and when did he attempt to convince the palestinians NOT to harbour and practice terror and murder upon those “risk taking” settlers !!!!

  6. david singer says:


    Discrimination against Jews is discrimination whether it is practiced in the West Bank,Caulfield or Balwyn or anywhere else.

    To think a Jew in Israel or Melbourne should be encouraged to buy olive oil produced by an Arab in the West Bank but not olive oil produced by a Jew in the West Bank is really unbelievable.

    To believe Jews living in Israel should not be refused the right to lecture at universities abroad whilst supporting such a boycott against Jews living in the West Bank is equally reprehensible.

    Shame on any organization that preaches such a policy.

    This has nothing to do with the politics of the settlements. Their fate and the fate of the settlers will be properly determined through the electoral process. As occurred in Gaza – the law will take its course.

    Until that happens discrimination – and demonization – by Jew against Jew is the last thing we need. Our enemies are very good at such disgraceful practices. We don’t need to emulate them.

  7. Nathan Cherny says:

    I know that you dont want to aknowlege the dangers in the settlement movement but, as I expainsed above, they are the single most dangerous threat to the future of the State.

    I stand by my previous comments and I think that the assertion that claim of “discrimination” is a spurious distraction.

    Settling in the Adminsitered Territories, is not simply a lifestyle decision it it a political one and it is a decsion wth inherent risks.

    Noone moves there without either thier knowing ( or, sadly for some, the persons encouraging them to live there knowing) that ths is a disputed territory and, as such, persons who chose to live there may become ebrioled in the political consequences of ther choices.

    This is not the same a chosing between Caulfield or Balwyn and to sugges that it is extremely misleading.


  8. david singer says:


    You continue to miss the point.

    Firstly Jewish settlers in the West Bank are citizens of Israel. Fellow citizens are being urged to join the NIF which seeks to discriminate against 500000 of their citizens by employing economic boycotts on the goods and services they produce. With the greatest respect this is indefensible.

    Even if they were not Israeli citizens – how could any Jew anywhere support a policy of discrimination against another Jew anywhere in the world? Why are goods and services emanating from West Bank Arabs acceptable but not when emanating from Jews?

    This is not a matter of cute legal points or political arguments.

    Seeking to punish Jews because of where they live sets a dangerous precedent.

    You say you don’t personally advocate this approach. How then can you be a member of an organization that supports this approach?

  9. Nathan Cherny says:

    Dear David and Michael
    I appreciate that you may prefer not to recognize the difference between the State of Israel and the Administered Territories, but Israeli and international law does.

    There is a material difference between divestment from The State of Israel and divestment from projects that promote the development of the settlement infrastructure and occupation in the administered West Bank and the annexed area of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

    Israelis who chose to live outsie the borders of the State in the administered territories (this is the legal tem used by the Government), do so at there own risk.. and there are risks involved besides the secuity issues.These are discputed territores the fate of which is yet to be determined in the ongoing dialogue between The State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

    In any futiure arrangmemt some, and possibly many towns and outposts will ether need to be evauated or the residents may be given the opportunity to choose between Palestinan citizenship or relocating to the State of Israel.

    Living in a politically disputed territory has economic risks as well, among those are the risks of facing economic hardship of the poloitical actionof people who see oppose the ongoing occupation/adminstration for various reasons..some hostile others absolutely patriotic.

    Though I don’t personally advocate this approach, I recognise that it is not an unreasonable form of political expression. Last week, we , and millions of other Israeli citizens boycotted the manufacturers and distributors of cottage cheese for substalial and legitimate reasons.

    The future of a demographically viable and just State of Israel is no less of a compelling reason
    Indeed, there are many absolutely loyal Zionists, me included, who think that the settlement movement is a poison to the whole Zionist enterprise and that, other than our external enemies, it is the single most dangerous threat to the future of the state. This is not an opinion of the radial left, this is a centerist approach that is supported by the major opposition parties.


  10. michael Burd says:

    Naomi Chazan was quoted in an interview with AJN in Melbourne she wouldn’t rule out limited Boycotts out of West Bank goods.

    You can’t be a little bit pregnant .

  11. david singer says:

    Nathan Cherny states:

    “As a Zionist, I care about living up to the promise of equality that is a central part of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. I am not afraid of that dialogue and, indeed, I see it as a Zionist imperative.”

    Is he aware that this promise of equality is being seriously undermined by the New Israel Fund (NIF)?

    NIF policy on Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is stated on its web site as follows:
    “The NIF opposes the global (or general) BDS movement, views its use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.
    NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.
    NIF opposes the occupation and subsequent settlement activities. NIF will not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.”

    NIF makes it patently clear that it will support the application of BDS to the goods and services produced by 500000 Jews who have gone to live in the West Bank over the last 40 years with the approval of successive Governments of all political persuasion.

    This amounts to gross and unfair discrimination by Jews against Jews and promotes denigration of those Jews in the West Bank based on their address and nothing else.

    NIF is entitled to oppose settlements – but not to promote discrimination between Jews.

    The NIF obviously has a different view. I cannot support such a group in these circumstances – no matter what its other virtues might be.

  12. michael Burd says:

    Unlike Chazan ,the one thing I have never been accused of is being Anti- Zionist, helping our enemies deligitimise Israel or being a 5 th Columnist .

    I rest my Case

    Michael Burd

    BTW if you guys are that desperate to find a woman to place on a pedicel and hero- worship I strongly suggest you look at some I just spent one week with on her mission , Nitsana is some that is doing positive things for Israel and Jewish Human rights.

    & check this out…

  13. Nathan Cherny says:

    Dear Michael
    I think that you will find that I am a person of great moderation, as indeed are most of the more than 10,000 financial supporters if the New Israel Fund.

    Furthermore, you don’t need to label me as as a “leftist”. My politics are, and always have been, moderate, but principled.

    I am a great supporter of the Declaration of Independence and the principles and promises that it espouses.


  14. Otto Waldmann says:

    The recent, and comparatively belated, incursion of NIF in Australia has elicited a number of quite interesting phenomena. Notwithstanding the principal reason for the expansion of NIF, the massive loss of financial support from the Ford Foundation,a few ,otherwise not completely strange, features acquired exacerbated proportions. In a way amusing is the consistency of a profoundly deficient advocacy strategy for the NIF. Riddled with incongruities which rely heavily on extrapollations, rizible ommissions and far too ridiculous tactics of NOT addressing WELLKNOWN facts about NIF, its supporters would deflect the core issues towards politically correct regurgitations of terms and cathegories. Zionism becomes one of the “ideological”foci of argument. Prsonal experiences cum proofs of transfered qualitative qualifications give a deceivingly personalised dimension of an organisation that is essentially designed and functions predominantly on an ideology of highly irresponsible attempts at almost all Zionist institutions in Israel and elsewher in the world.
    NIF’s heavily compromised support given to a large number of NGOs which contributed viciously and FALSELY to the contents of the Goldstone Report is constantly treated by NIF’s advocates as either a non-event or, totally absurdly, only referred to in light of Goldstone’s belated and inefective “regrets”, as if the Report itself does not STILL exercise a heavy PR utility to all anti Israel forces. The very BDS is the result of initial massive support provided by a number of NGOs heavily financed by NIF.
    Philip Chester’s piece in the AJN is but a small testimony of the extremely well known facts about a number of NGOs which act within NIF’s structure PRECISELY in the manner in which Philip Chester, myself and millions more know too well. Adalah, Mada al Carmel,Mossawa, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, the Haifa Declaration and countless manifestations as well as Constituent Manifesti of all NGO’s involved in deligimising Israel are toxically present in the public arena to such an extent that the proud association of any individual with the farcical “good” side of the said NGO’s cannot but anihilate the Zionist claims.
    Sadly we are witnessing a very disturbing process of centrifugal spins well away from Zionism in quite a few Jews of late. Farcical argumentation abounds in places of such diversity that we are yet to define structural behavioural consistencies. I could only venture that the magnetism of what I would call the “Chomsky Syndromme” has,indeed , pervaded quite a variety of professions, ages and individual profiles. One common denominator would be a syncronised departure from traditional Orthodox Judaic spirituality.
    All that considered,right now we must deal with the ostensive aggressiveness of NIF and their,otherwise incredibly easily identified, farcical strategies !Just in case I failed to make the points clear enough; Michael Burd is RIGHT, Nathan Czerny is INCREDIBLY W R O N G !!!

  15. michael Burd says:

    Obviously some Jews think that being a good Zionist includes adding their voices to the saturated anti- Zionist movements in Israel and around the globe, signing anti- Israel petitions, supporting and promoting Arab organizations whose doctrine includes the destruction of Israel and generally believe that a good Zionist means continually criticizing Israel at every step of the way .
    The fact that Chazan has such a controversial and extremist reputation and the Israeli government has investigated the NIF is alarming in itself and what does that tell us about the people that support this Org.
    Even if Chazan claims she will not support and finance anti- Israel groups [ if you believe her I don’t] the fact that she had done so in the past is disappointing .
    If the left/Progressives and all the “‘Israel is only wrong Brigade” and all the Chazan groupies in Australia think that their way of supporting Israel is useful then G-d help Israel’s future.
    Nathan has a right to his opinion there are plenty more like him in Israel with such views.There are Israelis on both sides of the political spectrum with extreme views , the followers of NIF and Chazan are a minority thank goodness.

    Michael B.

  16. David Faktor says:

    Kol hakavod Nathan. Your interest in the well-being of all Israel’s citizens to me is the greatest reflection of true Zionistic integrity.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

    Rules on posting comments

Skip to toolbar