Should you support the New Israel Fund?…asks Steve Lieblich

September 1, 2016 by Steve Lieblich
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The New Israel Fund (NIF) claims to “protect human rights, champion social justice, and defend democracy… [and to] invest in hundreds of Israeli organizations whose work changes the equation on civil rights, on religious freedom, and on social justice” Sounds great, right?What about Jewish identity, and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination? How does the NIF stand on those issues?

Steve Lieblich

Steve Lieblich

Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor reports that the NIF has for many years funded NGOs active in campaigns that portray Israel as a racist, apartheid state (demonization); undermine Israel’s right to exist (de-legitimization); accuse Israel of war crimes (lawfare); and promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), aimed at destroying Israel as a Jewish nation. NGO Monitor provides a list of about 25 NGOs that are active in these harmful campaigns, and hundreds of examples of their activities. These NGOs receive millions of dollars (about 20%) of NIF’s funds, and have done so for years.

Those NGOs are also funded by European governments and they collaborate with interests outside Israel in these demonization, de-legitimization, lawfare and BDS campaigns. The Observer recently reported that the NIF received funds from a George-Soros-funded NGO to promote Palestinian-Authority lawfare and BDS. Tower magazine also reports that NIF-funded NGOs …cooperate with international partners hostile to Israel… [focussing] primarily on international audiences …in France, Norway, Netherlands, the UK, and the U.S.”

We all have the right to express an opinion about Israeli policies. But only citizens of Israel have the democratic right, at the ballot box, to determine those policies, which will affect their well-being and their safety against daily mortal threats. NIF’s claim of defending democracy rings hollow while it funds NGOs attempting to undemocratically impose the will of foreign interests from outside the nation.

NIF also promotes the notion that Israel’s Jewishness is at odds with its democratic character. Some NIF-funded NGOs advocate for dismantling Israel’s Jewishness, including replacing the flag and the national anthem, and promote the Palestinian “right of return,” which will demographically eliminate Jewish self-determination. One has drafted a constitution that would replace Israel’s Jewishness with a “democratic, bilingual, and multicultural” framework, and has also inserted allegations of Israeli discrimination into the US Black Lives Matter manifesto. Eminent Australian Jewish community leader, Isi Leibler, commented on revelations that an NIF associate director said that “in 100 years, Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of the Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic…” He suggested that she was in fact, rationalizing NIF funding of groups supporting the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

Isi Leibler, also said

It is a somber reflection on the naivety of well-intended Jewish philanthropists that they continue donating [to the NIF] despite repeated documented exposures demonstrating that this body is sponsoring anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and post- Zionist organizations, committed to undermining the Jewish state. Many of the donors are liberal Jews genuinely committed to Israel who blindly accept at face value statements from NIF officials who obfuscate the truth.

The NIF is entitled to sponsor enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. But they should do so transparently so that naive charitable donors are not duped into believing that their contributions are being utilized to transform Israel into a better society.

The typical response of NIF officials to any criticism, and to the abundant evidence of its anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish activities, is to attack the critics and their sources. For example, the NIF has run paid advertisements claiming that “NGO Monitor is a mouthpiece for the extreme right.” In Australia their leaders have publicly accused critical individuals of “conspiracy theories and vilification” and “try[ing] to suck the oxygen out of Jewish life”. I’ve been the target of such personal attacks on several occasions, including one instance in which an NIF Australia leader threatened legal action in an attempt to silence me.

NIF leaders have even maligned an entire Jewish community with accusations of “power structures that silence [young people]”, “toxic McCarthyism within the Jewish community” and “protecting a narrow view of what it means to be pro-Israel” in an apparent attempt to engineer a mutiny of its misguided supporters against anyone who criticizes the NIF.

Typically, NIF officials have portrayed a recent controversy over an NIF-sponsored event in Western Australia as a communal dispute between “right-wing” and “left-wing”, between “conservative seniors” and disaffected “progressive” youth, or for/against “settlements”. This is not just untrue. It’s destructive to attempt to divide our Jewish community, which includes and welcomes a broad diversity political views, provided they promote Zionism and Judaism.

The NIF has also accused West Australian Jewish community newspaper, The Maccabean, of “censorship”, because it declined to accept an NIF advertisement. The Maccabean is an independent organization created for the benefit of the Jewish community and can choose with whom it will do business. I wouldn’t expect it to take advertisements from organizations opposed to kashrut or brit milah, nor from those that support BDS or any anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist campaigns. NIF is an organization that supports both anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish campaigns, so it’s not surprising that The Maccabean has declined its advertisement.

So, if you want to protect Jewish identity, and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, should you support the NIF? The answer is a clear: NO. If you care about Zionism and the continuity of Judaism, there are many, much-more constructive ways to promote those values.

About the author:

Steve is the son of Holocaust survivors, born in Jaffa in 1950, and immigrated to Western Australia as a child.

After Engineering studies, he travelled to Israel on a World Union of Jewish Students Graduate programme, completed postgraduate studies at the Technion, and served in the Israel defence Forces. He returned to Perth in 1978, married and started a family.

Steve served on the Board of the Perth Hebrew Congregation for about 10 years, and since then, has focused on advocacy within the wider community for Israel and the Jewish community. He is Director of Public Affairs on the Jewish Community Council of WA, and has led two groups of State Parliamentarians on study tours of Israel in 2007 and 2010.

Steve also serves on the National Editorial Board of the Australia/Israel Review, a monthly magazine of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council; publishes two online Weblogs: Jewish Issues Watchdog, and Israel Issues Watchdog; and is an active member of the Committee of Management of the Friends of Israel in Western Australia.


10 Responses to “Should you support the New Israel Fund?…asks Steve Lieblich”
  1. Yosi Tal says:

    Congratulations Steve on a well researched and argued article.NIF is a danger to The Jewish People and Israel.Most of the people who support it are self righteous useful idiots.

  2. Steve Lieblich says:

    MODERATOR: please note that the following is s CORRECTED version of a recently-submitted Thanks

    Thanks Erica
    It was no pleasure to research this topic. As if Israel doesn’t have enough enemies, it’s quite distressing to find that Jews can be deluded into aligning with those enemies, against the interests of the nation and the Jewish people.
    What compounds the distress, is the reaction of NIF leaders to the revelation of the harm they’re doing. The response is typically to attack the critics and to drive wedges into the community. For example casting the debate as “right-wing vs left-wing” or youth vs seniors etc etc… That sort of infighting is the most damaging of all….

  3. phil levy says:

    A well researched and presented article. Good on you ,Steve.

  4. Erica Edelman says:

    Thank you Steve for taking the time to research,
    Write and Present this article.
    It’s been patently obvious for some time that NIF
    undermines all the great work that indeed many “bona-fide” Jewish
    Organizations do. Many good-hearted,
    Philanthropic ppl have been “persuaded” to support
    NIF which works under the guise of sincerity and good faith.
    Time will tell. NIF is being shown up as fraudulent
    And in fact unsupportive of The State of Israel. Like all groups
    Who are ultimately exposed as scurrilous and fraudulent with luck
    It won’t take long for this one to collapse and crumble under
    The weight of its own disgrace.

  5. Milton David Fisher says:

    Israel’s Jewishness is at odds with its democratic character. A democratic state cannot discriminate among its citizens on the basis of ethnicity or religion. A democratic state has a public school system where students of different backgrounds learn together, grow up together and live together. A democratic state has separation of religion and state along with civil marriage. Israel can be a Jewish state or a democratic state. It cannot be both.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Democracy cannot possibly function on a fixed model that would suit all geo-cultural circumstance but align itself with specific local profiles. Democracy will respect the spiritual profile of the people it governs.
      Judaism is an integral part of the land of Israel and Jews living in a State defined by their spiritual norms shall ensure the permanency of their own specificity. In the same spirit of democracy, other religions are free to function in Israel alongside Judaism and, if anyone has bothered to visit Israel, it will be noticed that there is NO segregation in public education in Israel.
      If a Yeshiva or any other religion based educational institution observe certain specific norms of attendance that is also a democratic right of having a determined group function based on its statutes. No Jew would be allowed to register and study in a madrassa the same way a non-Jew would qualify to doven/study in a Yeshiva.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      You are totally mistaken.

      Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish nation just as Australia is the nation-state of the Australian nation.
      Many nation-states contain ethnic and religious minorities, as does Israel.
      Freedom to practise or not to practise religion is respected by the Israeli state.

      A democratic regime is one where:
      1. citizens elect their legislature regularly as Israeli citizens do.
      2. there is equality before the law, as exists in Israel.
      3. there is a free press, as is the case in Israel.

      The nature of Israel’s regime is a matter for the citizens of Israel to determine, not for foreigners to do.

      Perhaps you could offer your preaching services to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or the Islamic Kingdom of the House of Saud or any other number of such entities.

      If the existence of a single Jewish nation-state bothers you…. too bad.

  6. Rami Reed says:

    Well said Steve. The NIF is a dangerous and evil organizsation and should never be supported by Jewish people

  7. Otto Waldmann says:

    NIF is exploiting with impunity respectable god terms, such as “humanity”, “civil rights” and alike in order to attack the very fibre of Zionism, the Jewish soul, the necessary dedication responsible Jews have for the survival of Israel as a genuine Zionist State.
    NIF is practically indicting anyone who believes in a safe Jewish State as a criminal of sorts on as many absurd fronts as their sick imagination may fathom.
    NIF does not have double standards, but only one goal, the destabilisation of Israel and implicit promotion of all causes for which Israel’s enemies inside and outside Israel strive for.
    NIF must be rejected out of hand and not given platform, oxygen, support of any kind. They are as dangerous as any known , open anti Israel even antisemite we know for, being so viciously active against the core of Jewish values, Israel as a Jewish State, renders one an antisemite as well, even if “officially” Jewish.

  8. David Adler says:

    The article is a non question.

    NIF should be known as NO Israel Fund.

    As stated, it is anti-Israel and crosses into anti-Semitism, certainly by where its $$$ go.

    NIF does not have anything good to say about Israel, providing constant denigration while ignoring the atrocities around Israel.

    It is clearly an enemy of Israel.

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