Why New Israel Fund Is Marching For Israel

Our entire strategy has been based on investing in Israel, not divesting from it.

Fri, 04/11/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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On June 1, tens of thousands of New Yorkers will gather for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade. As in previous years, we at the New Israel Fund (NIF) will be there, leading a group of progressive, pro-Israel activists. We will take our rightful place alongside the many others dedicated to the Israel that is, as well as the Israel that ought to be.

Our presence, however, seems to be infuriating some groups who are prepared to rain on the parade. In recent weeks, certain rabbis and others have protested our inclusion in the parade and have exerted significant pressure on parade organizers to ban us. These protesters claim that the New Israel Fund supports the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. These allegations are false, and the UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) staunchly support our inclusion. Nonetheless, wouldn't it be easier for the larger community were we to just sit this one out?

No. Sitting it out is simply not an option for us and should not be an option tolerated by the larger New York community of Israel supporters. For the past 35 years the New Israel Fund has taken on the most challenging struggles facing Israel: We support Israelis on the ground who work tirelessly to advance civil rights, social justice and religious pluralism in a country they love and feel a deep responsibility to protect. Our entire strategy has been based on investing in Israel, not divesting from it. In fact, our investment of $30 million a year in Israel has actually made us the target of the BDS movement, though we enforce a clear policy against making grants to organizations that participate in the global BDS movement. Groups that allege that we support BDS are blatantly wrong and as a newcomer to NIF, I can only hope that these inaccuracies are a function of poor research rather than malicious slander.

Our detractors argue that we are still beyond the pale of Israel supporters because we do not prohibit our Israeli grantees from boycotting products and services that come from the settlements. Although we don’t take a specific position on the advisability of such a boycott, we don’t prohibit our grantees from doing so. Why?

For one thing, we oppose the occupation and the settlement enterprise.  This week the settler attack on the army reservists at Yitzhar is yet another demonstration of the divisive and deeply damaging impact of those settlements on Israeli society and unity.

But even more important, many Israelis oppose the settlements with their wallets, and that is their right. Despite an actual and profoundly anti-democratic law that passed the Knesset (and is now in front of the High Court) prohibiting Israelis from calling for boycott of settlements on pain of civil penalty, thousands of Israelis continue to avoid economic support for the settlements. And they are not alone. We believe that Israelis have a right to boycott dairy producers who raise prices on cottage cheese; we believe that ultra-Orthodox individuals have a right to boycott stores that are open on Shabbat; and we believe that a group of prominent Israeli artists who oppose the occupation have a right to refuse to perform in the territories.  We support the rights of each of these groups because we believe in a democratic Israel and, like our Israeli partners, we believe we have an obligation to protect it.

But let's be honest, this attack on NIF’s participation, which has been spearheaded for years now by the same tiny extremist group, is not really about false accusations of support for BDS. What this is actually about is the real work that the New Israel Fund does: our support of Israeli organizations that provide social services to African asylum seekers; who advocate for the right of Jewish women to pray at the Western Wall as they wish; who protect Bedouin citizens of Israel against being evicted from their villages; and who litigate in the Supreme Court to ensure that Israel’s Arab, Ethiopian and other minorities are not further discriminated against in matters of housing, employment and education. We and our family of organizations often have to expose difficult realities in our efforts to safeguard Israel as a Jewish homeland that lives up to the promise of its founders, a place of equality and social justice.

These difficult realities are at the heart of the issue — the desire to sweep them under the rug by delegitimizing the very people who devote their lives to correcting them. The work of our heroic Israeli colleagues and partners deserves to be celebrated publicly; it should not be relegated to the sidelines.

So, we will not sit this one out, and you should not either. Do not allow people around you to perpetuate the lie that the New Israel Fund supports BDS. Recognize and explain the difference between the global BDS movement and the right that Israeli citizens of Israel have to protest with their pockets. And come June 1st, make your way to Fifth Avenue for the Celebrate Israel Parade and march with our group in celebrating the sometimes unpopular but always inspiring work of the hundreds of organizations and thousands of social change activists working for the Israel we believe to be possible.

Stephanie Ives is the recently appointed NY/Tri-State Director for the New Israel Fund.

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There are too many so-called "supporters of Israel" who seem anxious to reduce the range of opinions that this self-appointed Sanhedrin deems kosher for discussion. The Israeli Declaration of Independence, which has hung for decades framed on the wall of my home, calls for a democratic and Jewish Israel. However, a totalitarian Israel, the inhabitants of which are quite diverse, would consume itself group by group. And this is what we are witnessing in the attempts to deny the Zionism and/or Judaism of others with whom these "sanhedrin-chiks" do not agree. For instance, peace and tolerance appear to be in the view of this self-appointed so-called Sanhedrin as unkosher, or at least, not as kosher as this self-anointed Sanhedrin would accept.

No, this is totalitarianism in its incipience, and if there is a place for intolerance, it must be against this totalitarian viewpoint.

People need to understand that being against specific policies supported by the Israeli government, does contradict supporting the state of israel. This is particularly true for Israelis, many of whom do not support the government and many of their/our policies.

Freedom to speak out and to peacefully protest is at the heart of a true democracy. Even if you don't agree with NIF, you should support their right to be part of the parade and all other public, open gatherings of supporters of Israel.

Ms. Ives, let's be honest. You cannot love Israel and support groups who hate her.

Mr. Silverman, let's be honest. You cannot love anyone, any thing, or any country, while suppressing all criticism thereof. You cannot understand criticism, engage in civil debate, and introduce reforms if every criticism is distorted into "hate".

I can only repeat what others on this thread have said. Stephanie Ives is less than honest. She says they don't control what their grantees do. But the NIF should not be funding anti-Israel groups in the first place.

And to take the position that Jewish people do not have the same right as others to live on the west bank is atrocious. Ms. Ives, you cannot claim to love Israel while going out of your way to embarass her.

The NIF may not itself support BDS, but why then does it bestow grants upon organizations that do exactly this:

http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/new_israel_fund

Would Ms. Ives be good enough to explain why the NIF contributed to these organizations and please don't try to distract us with unrelated issues like Women of the Wall.

Is the NIF prepared to come out with a flat statement that says "We will not allocate any money to any organization that engages in BDS against Israel"?

And, Ms. Ives, please spare us the sanctimonious lectures about the difficult realities. Here is the hard reality that I am not sure that you grasp. Israel is a decent country in terrible neighborhood. It is not bordered by Canada to the north and by Mexico to the south. And, within its borders there are people who would happily slaughter every Jewish man, woman and child.

To guard its citizens, Israel has to sometimes resort to measures that make life difficult for these people, like walls and checkpoints. This is the hard reality. Sorry that this offends your sensibilities.

NGO Monitor is a thoroughly disreputable organization that exists purely to undermine open civil discourse by creating lies and distortions about anyone and everyone it disagrees with. NGO Monitor conducts no field investigations and condemns anyone who criticizes Israel. In January 2010, thirteen Israeli human rights organizations released a common statement describing NGO Monitor and Im Tirtzu as "extremist", and criticised an "unbridled and incendiary attack" by them against human rights groups.

On NIF's website says what you have asked them to say. On http://www.nif.org/about/selected-policies#14 it says, "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."

Well written comment! It's absurd that the NIF is trying to legitimize boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning Israel and Israelis.

In the spirit of NIF funding organizations that support boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning Israel and Israelis, surely NIF respects the right of other Jewish groups to want to have not part of interesting with such a group that funds such organizations that attempt to harm the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Also, all this call for tolerance why accusing her ideological opponents of racism with no evidence. Where is the evidence??? Quite a mug sligging campaign by NIF here. Very sad. I hope they will work to stop funding organizations that support boycotting, sanctioning, and divesting from Israel.

The NIF funds NGOs who act against the Jewish character of Israel and try to demonize Israel using blatant lies, and falsely branding it as apartheid, ethnic cleansing state. The nif is funded by the European union against the interest of Israel and the Jewish people. They should banned from every Jewish event around the world

New Israel Fund is funded mainly by private donations. At NIF's annual Guardian of Democracy banquet in San Francisco, the Consul-General of Israel always attends and praises NIF's support for strengthening Israel's character as a pluralistic democratic state. Presumably, he does so with the full approval and support of Israel's foreign ministry.

If you despise the branding of Israel as an apartheid state, as I do, then you should work to change the policies and practices of Israel that lead people to draw that conclusion. There are millions of people living in the occupied territories who have no representation in government that sets the rules for their daily existence, and they have lived this way for almost 50 years. Meanwhile, a small settler minority living in the occupied territories has inordinate representation and power in that government. It is hardly surprising that some people have begun to describe this situation as apartheid. The only way to get people to stop calling it apartheid is to end the policies that look like apartheid. Israel needs to end the settlement expansion enterprise and stop throwing monkeywrenches into the negotiation process.

The NIF supports a large number of organizations that demand that Israel cease to exist as a Jewish State and turn into another Arab Muslim one. The NIF supports Arab organizations that are explicitly Palesyinian nationalist and which consider the birth of Israel a tragedy they wish to reverse. The NIF has no place in a parade of people that wish to see Israel survive and thrive. The NIF might consider itself progressive even though it supports the fracturing of Israeli society on ethnic and religious lines, but its argument for being pro-Israel is entirely ridiculous.

Ms. Firth says "Let's be honest.." and then proceeds to do the opposite. NIF contributions to benign civic organizations are not targeted by anyone that I have read or met. It is their funding of groups that engage, not only in good citizen activies, but in activities that undermine Israel. For two statements, one pro-NIF and the other anti-NIF, see an April submission in the israelagainstterror.blogspot.mx.

As for her broadside against residential areas termed "settlements", one should remember that for the Arabs, not only is Jerusalem partly a "settlement," but indeed all Jews are "settlers." Most of the so-called settlements are areas that various mediators propose remain Israeli, with Israel accepting the need to dismantle ad-hoc "settlements" it considers unauthorized. And the infamous Goldstone document, repudiated in large part by the lead author himself, proudly supported by the NIF.

Oh, and she is not for BDS, just for those Israelis who support the boycotts BDS seeks to impose on consumers, middle men, and suppliers.

NIF, J Street, and the ilk, let them march in their own parade, one that will be marked by true "progressive" style "diversity", arm in arm with the Arab terrorists and the Neturei Karta.

Stephanie Ive's "Why New Israel Fund Is Marching For Israel," (April 11) eloquently articulated the textured Zionism I champion. I am a progressive Zionist who proudly supports both AIPAC and New Israel Fund as manifestations of Theodor Herzl's two-fold vision:1) securing international legitimacy for the right of the Jewish people to a state of our own (ie, AIPAC), and 2) deepening the life of our national home (ie, NIF). Having battled against BDS in Berkeley many times, I can truly say how profoundly grateful I am that NIF does its work to help more people say "yes to a better Israel."

Rabbi,

You cannot have it both ways. The NIF supports organizations that are not supporters of Israel. That should be your only criteria.

I won't give to the UJA until they stop supporting DIVISIVE groups and publications. They do a lot of good, but there are other groups that also do good, without the divisiveness. These thoughts are on my mind because in April I do my taxes and charity for the year. I'm sure I'm far from the only one who feels this way.

Interesting. Tell me how much you plan not to give them this year and I'll double that sum.

The New Israel Fund does immense damage to Israel, and operates essentially as an Anti-Israel organisation. when will realize are not welcome in Israel.

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