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New Israel Fund's undemocratic meddling in Israel's democratic process


August 17, 2018

(JNS)—A recording that aired on Israeli TV channel Arutz 20 this past week revealed the tactics employed by the New Israel Fund when it disapproves of legislation proposed in the Knesset, such as the recently passed nation-state law.

In the recording—a conversation between NIF’s Israel director Mickey Gitzin and NIF’s U.S. CEO Daniel Sokatch—Gitzin described how the NIF and its beneficiaries organize opposition in the Knesset (“tackling the system,” as Gitzin called it), demonstrations on the Israeli street, and the recruitment of academics, celebrities and other “high-profile” individuals to speak out against the unwanted legislation. Gitzin also mentioned the NIF’s willingness to petition the Israeli Supreme Court should other tactics fail.

Since its establishment in 1979, the New Israel Fund—an American nonprofit organization with offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and Israel—has sought to shape Israeli society in a “progressive” image of what it claims to be “equality, tolerance and social justice.” To this end, the NIF has for decades been patiently working on changing the face of Israeli civil society. “Thirty years ago, Israel’s NGO sector consisted of small groups that were mostly partisan and allied with political parties, and charitable organizations dominated by traditional cultural, educational and religious institutions. Today there are more than 27,000 citizen-action groups, hundreds of which are helped each year by the New Israel Fund,” writes the NIF on its homepage. Also there, “Widely credited with building Israeli progressive civil society, we have provided over $300 million to more than 900 organizations since our inception in 1979.”

As its name suggests, what NIF wants is a “new Israel”—a “progressive” Israel marked by “social justice.” But to understand what that really means, it’s helpful to look at some of the organizations that it funds. These include 29 advocacy NGOs that are active in political campaigns against Israel, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; B’Tselem (whose director has repeatedly appealed for international action against Israel, comparing Israeli policies to “crimes against God and man”); Breaking the Silence (which collects anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations against the Israel Defense Forces from low-level soldiers in order to promote “war crime” charges against Israel); Coalition of Women for Peace (a major player in international BDS campaigns against Israel, especially through its “Who Profits” project, a database that identifies targets for anti-Israel divestment and boycotts); and Adalah, which seeks to defame Israel by falsely claiming that the country passes anti-Arab laws, and whose director played an active role in the NGO Forum of the U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban in 2001, which quickly devolved into a veritable hate fest against Israel.

NIF’s grantees also include Mossawa and Baladna, both of which refer to the founding of the State of Israel as a nakba (the Arabic word for “catastrophe”) and promote the Palestinian “right of return,” which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

It is therefore of little surprise that the NIF and organizations it funds in Israel have contributed to the recent hysteria against the nation-state law.

Daniel Sokatch, NIF’s California-based CEO, has called the law “tribalism at its worst” and “a danger to Israel’s future.” He has also said that the law asserts “Jewish supremacy,” while he simultaneously admits that the law “won’t change much about day-to-day life in Israel.” Sokatch has vowed that “no matter what extremist politicians do, the New Israel Fund and our grantees will stand up for the democratic, equitable and shared society all Israelis deserve.”

There is nothing “democratic” or “equitable” about funding organizations that want Israel boycotted, sanctioned and divested from, its Jewish character erased, and its soldiers dragged in front of international courts.

Affirming the Jewish character of Israel is not “a danger to Israel’s future.” On the contrary, such a provision is meant to protect the state from the constant attacks upon it by organizations such as NIF. The affirmation, however, does constitute a danger to NIF’s and its grantees’ disturbing agendas for Israel.

No one in Israel elected the NIF and its radical grantees to patronize and lecture Israeli citizens and their democratically elected government on the democratic merits of their society.

It is supremely ironic that NIF—a foreign, unelected body with no democratic mandate whatsoever—while intensively meddling in the democratic, political processes of a sovereign country (Israel) claims to be the guardian of “democracy” when its activities can only be described as the very antithesis of what democracy means.

Judith Bergman is an Israeli writer and political analyst based in Jerusalem. She is a fellow with the news and public-policy group Haym Salomon Center.


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