The two-faced fund

The two-faced fund

It is a somber reflection on the naivety of well-intended Jewish philanthropists that they continue to donate 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, WikiLeaks revealed yet another damning tidbit. A confidential cable quoted a statement by the NIF’s associate director, Hedva Radanovitz, who until last year controlled the fund’s distribution of $18 million per year in grants. She reportedly said 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.”

In response to the revelation, 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 were not supported by the NIF. He also stressed that she is 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 that most Israelis would bitterly oppose.

Dismissive of critics

When communicating to the public, fund spokesmen stress that they are “a big tent organization,” but that 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 continually dismiss critics as being “extreme right-wing” and accuse them of McCarthyism.

Since its inception in 1979, the NIF has dispersed more than $200 million to more than 800 Israeli organizations. The majority of recipients are worthy institutions engaged in social welfare and developmental projects that all Israelis would endorse. The NIF, however, also supports organizations that are opposed to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Last year, the NIF directed over a quarter of its funding ($4.3 million) to such groups.

Here are a few examples of groups the NIF supports:

• Adalah, which urges foreign governments to “re-evaluate their relationship with Israel,” which it describes as “a colonial enterprise promoting apartheid.” It also supports the Palestinian right of return to Israel.

• Mada al-Carmel, which openly repudiates the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

• The Coalition of Women for Peace, which expressly promotes global “boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel” and organizes events for “Israel Apartheid Week.”

• Breaking the Silence, which has accused Israel of war crimes and provided “evidence” to the Goldstone Commission to substantiate its claims.

The primary funding for these virulently anti-Israeli NIF-supported domestic NGOs comes from foreign foundations – private and European government-sponsored – that themselves promote campaigns against Israel.

Who would tolerate this?

One cannot 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 Prof. Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, the public would be totally unaware that such vast sums – tens of millions of euros – are provided to anti-Israeli organizations.

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 benefit of Israel are not diverted to organizations committed to undermining it.