The Two-Faced New Israel Fund

'The NIF is a public charity and should thus be obliged to introduce greater transparency and implement accountability with checks and balances.

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It is a somber reflection on the naivety of well-intended Jewish philanthropists that they continue donating vast amounts of money to Israel's largest NGO, the New Israel Fund.

They do so despite repeated documented exposures demonstrating that this body is sponsoring anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and post-Zionist organizations, committed to undermining the Jewish state and promoting the narrative of the Palestinians as victims and Israelis as oppressors. Many of the donors are liberal Jews genuinely committed to Israel who blindly accept at face value statements from fund officials who obfuscate the truth.

Recently, yet another damning bombshell discrediting this organization was revealed by WikiLeaks. A confidential cable quoted a conversation between officials at the Tel Aviv U.S. embassy and NIF associate director Hedva Radanovitz, who until last year controlled the fund’s distribution of grants to 350 other organizations, to the tune of $18 million per year. She told embassy personnel that she believed 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.”

Radanovitz was in fact, rationalizing why the fund has and continues to provide millions of dollars to groups supporting the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

In response to media coverage of these bizarre remarks, the fund’s CEO, Daniel Sokatch, said Radanovitz was at the time “not optimistic about Israeli support for human rights and democracy” and that her views would not be supported by his organization. He also stressed that she is now no longer employed by it. However, Sokatch and other fund leaders failed to explain why most other senior NIF officers share an ideological view of Israel as a Jewish state which most Israelis would bitterly oppose.

However, when communicating to the public, fund spokesmen stress that while being “a big tent organization” they unquestionably support Israel as a democratic Jewish state and promote freedom, justice and equality for all citizens. They purport to be opposed to anti-Israeli “lawfare” and BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions). They continuously dismiss critics as being “extreme right-wing” and accuse them of McCarthyism.

Since its inception in 1979, the fund has dispersed more than $200 million to more than 800 Israeli organizations. The majority of the recipients are indeed worthy institutions engaged in social welfare and developmental projects that all Israelis would endorse. When NIF spokesmen address the public, they relate exclusively to the bona fide social organizations they fund. They fail to disclose that they are also providing vast funds to organizations, which by no stretch of the imagination would qualify for inclusion in that category. Even after their recent adamant assurance to the public and donors that organizations opposed to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state would no longer be sponsored, last year they still directed over a quarter of their funding ($4.3 million) to groups engaged in delegitimization and other forms of anti-Israeli activity.

Here are a few examples of NIF allotments last year to organizations for political advocacy which are deeply engaged in anti-Israeli campaigns.

Nearly $500,000 was provided to Adalah, a group which contributed to and campaigned for the Goldstone report, urged foreign governments to “re-evaluate their relationship with Israel,” described Israel as “a colonial enterprise promoting apartheid,” called for implementing the Palestinian right of return to Israel, provided affidavits to Spanish courts to charge Israeli officials with war crimes, and defended Hezbollah spy Amir Makhoul as a “human rights defender.” It would surely be difficult to visualize any Zionist or remotely pro-Israeli body providing funds to an organization committed to such objectives.

Mada al-Carmel, another recipient of NIF funds, engages in anti-Israeli agitation and openly repudiates the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

The fund also continued to fund the Coalition Women for Peace, a leader of which expressly promoted global “boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.” This coalition also organizes events for “Israel Apartheid Week.”

In 2010, the NIF tripled the funding for Breaking the Silence, another organization which paved the way for the Goldstone report by making unsubstantiated claims of war crimes by the IDF. During the Goldstone committee inquiry, Breaking the Silence, in conjunction with B’tselem and other NIF-funded NGOs, accused Israel of war crimes and provided “evidence” to the Goldstone Commission to substantiate their biased and defamatory report.

The sordidness of these virulently anti-Israeli NIF-funded NGOs is heightened by the fact that many are primarily funded by foreign foundations, in particular by European governments, which promote campaigns against Israel and engage in bolstering far-Left Israel fringe groups. Tens of millions of euros are allegedly provided to such groups by overseas governments, demonstrating that they are certainly not indigenous to Israeli society. One could not visualize any European state tolerating such interference in its domestic affairs by foreign countries or organizations seeking to subvert the democratically elected government under the cloak of promoting human rights.

Indeed, without the perseverance and determined investigative analysis of Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, the public would be totally unaware that such vast sums are provided to anti-Israeli organizations. Steinberg has also been instrumental in promoting Knesset legislation, which now requires NGOs to be transparent and disclose their sources of foreign funding, based on the model of the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration ACT. This requirement will enable Israelis to appreciate the extent of foreign initiatives designed to fund anti-government “political activity.”

The NIF is a public charity and should thus be obliged to introduce greater transparency and implement accountability with checks and balances. Although we are told that Radanovitz is no longer employed by the fund, we know nothing about her replacement, and whether the numerous organizations still promoting the dismemberment of Israel as a Jewish state last year have been excluded from 2011 grants. The fund should be obliged to publish this information immediately.

Clearly, in these difficult times there is a need for drastic change in the personnel managing this organization and for an end to the secrecy under which they operate, to ensure that funds raised for the welfare of Israel are not diverted to organizations committed to undermining the Jewish state.

si Leibler (pictured above, click to download) is the former head of the Australian Jewish community and a former senior official at the World Jewish Congress. A veteran international leader with a distinguished record of contributions to the cause of human rights, he lives in Jerusalem and is a regular columnist for the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom.Editor’s note: This column first appeared in Israel Hayomand is distributed with permission from Isi Leibler.

Posted on September 5, 2011 and filed under Israel.