The New Israel Fund – further clarification re the current debate

May 23, 2011 by Ron Weiser
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The current debate took off around a story in the press that asserted that the communal leadership supported the establishment of NIF in Australia.

Ron Weiser

As far as I know, this is simply not true. The communal leadership has not supported NIF’s establishment here.

Not supporting the establishment of something is not the same as opposing it.

Here is the consistent view I presented repeatedly and from the outset – quote from the Zionist Council of NSW press release previously:

The New Israel Fund through its grantees has contributed to the betterment of society within Israel.

However in the last decade there is evidence that in terms of some of its grantees, it had lost its way as it strayed from its social and welfare activities.

Indeed, by NIF’s own statements and new guidelines late last year, it seems to have realised this.”

Just as the campaign to vilify Naomi Chazan is to be condemned, so too is the campaign to vilify anyone who dares asks questions of NIF’s current operations to be condemned.

And no – nothing is clear.

For example, NIF state that they no longer support the CWP. NIF do not deny that they did formerly support CWP or that CWP has at all relevant times actively promoted the BDS campaign.

NIF’s announcement that they will not continue funding CWP is good news and is a result of shining a light on its grantee and grantee activities.

But hold on, although CWP (a roof body of a coalition of organisations) no longer receives funds, a CWP constituent like Machsom Watch, which successfully petitioned the Norwegian Pension Fund to divest from Israeli firms, continues to – and is listed on NIF’s own website currently, as a grantee.

So what does this mean? No longer support for the roof body, but support for constituents?

Then we have organisations such as Adalah – and there is no doubt it is a current and large NIF grantee.

In the AJN NIF article of the 20th of May, Avishai Braverman is quoted as saying that we should all support the betterment of the situation of Israeli Arabs. He is absolutely correct. We should.


However I see nowhere a quote from Braverman, who by the way visited Australia as a guest of the JNF and Zionist Federation, stating that we should support organisations that call for an end to the Jewish State, or an end to Jewish migration to Israel except on humanitarian grounds, or who urged the European Union in February this year to “Condition the upgrade of its relations with Israel, including any new bilateral agreement, on tangible improvements in the human rights situation in the OPT and in Israel”

NIF grantees such as Adalah have signed up to a paper called the “Haifa Declaration”.

Amongst its principles are a “change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state to a democratic state” and belief in the 2 State solution but with “the Palestinian Right of Return” implemented.

That is – a State called Israel with a majority of Arab citizens, next to a State called Palestine with no Jewish citizens – 2 States for 1 People.

Our support has always been for a 2 State solution based upon the principle of 2 States for 2 Peoples.

It is good to see that the current questioning is finally eliciting some transparency in NIF’s position.

NIF Australia now also admit that NIF currently provides money to an organisation which calls for fundamental change of the JNF, UIA/Jewish Agency away from their charter and focus, which is to help in building the Jewish State.

NIF state that they do not cease funding grantees “on account of statements inconsistent with the Zionist narrative”.

That is fine to a point.

But calling for an end to the Jewish State is a little more than being “inconsistent”.

The question is not whether we should support the betterment of Israeli society. We should.

The question is whether the only way to do so is to also support organisations that as a part of their principles and activities campaign to end the Jewish State.

Shalom College defined its own red line in regards to Limmud Oz just a week ago.

They said “Limmud-Oz does not deny that proponents of BDS have the right to express their views to whomever they like. But that right does not impose an obligation on us to provide them with a space to do so.”

The same principle can and should be extended to NIF grantees in my view.

Of course they are legal in Israel and have the full right to even declare that the State of Israel should not exist – that is what is correct and proper in the democracy that Israel is.

That right however does not impose an obligation on Australian Jews to fund those who support and/or work whether in smaller or larger part for an end to the Jewish State or an end to the work of JNF and UIA.




One Response to “The New Israel Fund – further clarification re the current debate”
  1. Reader says:

    Oh, Ron, you can’t say you support action on improving the situation for Israeli Arabs, yet in the same breath attack Adalah, the single most active organisation in seeking to do so — one which has had breathtaking success in securing rights for Israel’s Arab citizens. You’re just paying lipservice if you do. If you really believe what you say, Ron, it’s incumbent on you to put your money where your mouth is and support the work of Adalah.

    And please don’t roll out the Haifa Declaration! Or at least, if you do, put it in its proper context: it’s a document intended to stimulate dialogue on constitutional reforms that might protect Israeli minorities, no more. You don’t have to agree with everything in the it, but that’s the beauty of Israel’s democracy of which you so proudly speak: in a democracy, friends can differ on their vision for their political future. Instead of fearmongering with the selective passage you have cited, next time you refer to the Haifa Declaration please make sure you quote this bit:

    “We also aspire that the Declaration can spark a democratic, open, and constructive dialogue within our society and with the Israeli-Jewish society,
    one that might enable us to work together towards building a better future
    between our peoples. This, we believe, might lay the foundations for creating a society based on justice and equality for all citizens and inhabitants of the state of Israel.”

    I trust you share deeply in this expression by Adalah of its deomcratic aspirations. You and Adalah in lockstep; a promising way to embark on the journey for a better Israel.

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