Right-leaning Israeli campus group Im Tirtzu released an ad today set to run in Jewish newspapers that accuses the left-leaning New Israel Fund of financing groups that slandered the Israel Defense Forces in its recent Gaza intervention. The ad takes the form of an open letter to NIF President Brian Lurie, and will run in “20 of the largest-circulation Jewish newspapers across the United States,” according to Im Tirtzu.
Here’s the crux of the argument in the letter (which can be read in full here):
Now, in the weeks after the latest conflict in Gaza, NIF groups are once again making misleading and unfounded accusations against the IDF.
B’tselem, Adalah, Gisha, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel are claiming that the IDF targeted journalists and civilians, violated international law, and is perpetrating “collective punishment,” a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.
In the weeks leading up to Israel’s response, as terrorist rockets forced thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters, none of these groups criticized the attacks or stood up for Israel’s right – its human right, and its right under international law – to defend itself.
Despite this troubling record, we hold out hope for your leadership as the new president of the New Israel Fund. We ask that you hold the groups you fund responsible for the veracity of their accusations, and that you demand just as much accountability from them as they do from the IDF.
And if you do not stand by their latest false accusations, Israelis deserve to know: What will you do to reform the New Israel Fund?
The Zionist Student Movement
NIF’s CEO Daniel Sokatch responded in a statement criticizing Im Tirtzu’s letter as inaccurate, and blasting the group as “extreme Israeli ultra-nationalists.”
“Today, on International Human Rights Day, we honor the organizations and the nations that respect and expand human rights, especially in regions of conflict,” said Sokatch. “It is ironic that Im Tirtzu is again peddling the twisted logic that Israeli attention to human rights somehow hurts Israel’s international reputation. It is the vitality of Israel’s civil society, and of a society that can look at its own conduct to remedy mistakes and injustice, that aligns Israel with the humanistic democracies that share those values.”
Im Tirtzu has battled with NIF in the past, but this is the first time it’s taking the fight to NIF’s home turf. While the umbrella organization finances groups in Israel, much of its funding comes from the American Jewish community. If you’re looking to go after NIF effectively, that’s the way to do it–not by objecting in Israel to the groups it funds, but by jeopardizing its funding sources in the U.S. Many of NIF’s supporters likely still view it as a liberal but Zionist mainstream group. Clearly Im Tirtzu hopes to chip away at that image through these advertisements.