Commentary Magazine


Topic: Im Tirtzu

Im Tirtzu Ad Calls Out NIF for “Anti-Israel” Funding

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):

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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? 

Sincerely,

Im Tirtzu

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.

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Why the Truth Constitutes “Incitement”

As Noah noted, the New Israel Fund controversy is laying bare just how warped the “human rights” community’s definition of human rights is. But it has also showcased two particularly Israeli variants of this disease: that freedom of information constitutes “incitement,” and that freedom of speech requires financing speech you oppose. The NIF’s Israeli president, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, demonstrated both in response to the Im Tirtzu organization’s report that 92 percent of the anti-Israel information in the Goldstone Report came from Israeli groups funded by the NIF.

Neither Chazan nor her American parent organization has disputed Im Tirtzu’s findings: they do not deny that the NIF grantees supplied the material in question to a UN inquiry into last year’s war in Gaza, nor do they deny the Goldstone Commission’s use of it. On the contrary, Chazan said she was “ever so proud to be a symbol of Israeli democracy,” while the NIF’s American CEO, Daniel Sokatch, told the Forward that the grantees bolstered “Israel’s moral fiber and its values” by “tell[ing] the truth.”

If so, why was Chazan so upset over the revelation of the NIF’s contribution to this achievement that when the Knesset announced it wanted more information on the subject — a Knesset committee said it would establish a subcommittee to examine foreign funding of Israeli nonprofits, and one MK even advocated a parliamentary inquiry commission — she responded by accusing the Knesset of trying to “fan incitement”? Since when has the search for, and dissemination of, truthful information constituted incitement?

The answer relates to her other fallacy: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations [the grantees] say, but we support their right to say it.” Actually, so would most Israelis — but they wouldn’t give money to help them say it. And that is a crucial distinction. Freedom of speech means letting people or groups say what they please without fear of prosecution. It does not require anyone to help them do so by giving them money. The minute you donate to a group, you are not just “supporting its right” to speak; you are supporting the content of its speech. After all, the NIF doesn’t fund Im Tirtzu; does that mean it doesn’t support Im Tirtzu’s right to speak?

The problem for the NIF is that many donors might not support this particular content. Indeed, the Forward reported that when the NIF sought statements of support from other major Jewish groups, only three had complied as of February 3: Americans for Peace Now, J Street, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thus it is critical for the NIF and other groups with similar views to promote these twin canards: that freedom of information — i.e., shedding light on what they actually do — constitutes “incitement,” which is legally suppressible, and that freedom of speech requires funding even speech you oppose. For unless they can either suppress knowledge of just what speech they are enabling or convince donors that liberal values require funding such speech even if they oppose it, their own funding is liable to be endangered.

As Noah noted, the New Israel Fund controversy is laying bare just how warped the “human rights” community’s definition of human rights is. But it has also showcased two particularly Israeli variants of this disease: that freedom of information constitutes “incitement,” and that freedom of speech requires financing speech you oppose. The NIF’s Israeli president, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, demonstrated both in response to the Im Tirtzu organization’s report that 92 percent of the anti-Israel information in the Goldstone Report came from Israeli groups funded by the NIF.

Neither Chazan nor her American parent organization has disputed Im Tirtzu’s findings: they do not deny that the NIF grantees supplied the material in question to a UN inquiry into last year’s war in Gaza, nor do they deny the Goldstone Commission’s use of it. On the contrary, Chazan said she was “ever so proud to be a symbol of Israeli democracy,” while the NIF’s American CEO, Daniel Sokatch, told the Forward that the grantees bolstered “Israel’s moral fiber and its values” by “tell[ing] the truth.”

If so, why was Chazan so upset over the revelation of the NIF’s contribution to this achievement that when the Knesset announced it wanted more information on the subject — a Knesset committee said it would establish a subcommittee to examine foreign funding of Israeli nonprofits, and one MK even advocated a parliamentary inquiry commission — she responded by accusing the Knesset of trying to “fan incitement”? Since when has the search for, and dissemination of, truthful information constituted incitement?

The answer relates to her other fallacy: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations [the grantees] say, but we support their right to say it.” Actually, so would most Israelis — but they wouldn’t give money to help them say it. And that is a crucial distinction. Freedom of speech means letting people or groups say what they please without fear of prosecution. It does not require anyone to help them do so by giving them money. The minute you donate to a group, you are not just “supporting its right” to speak; you are supporting the content of its speech. After all, the NIF doesn’t fund Im Tirtzu; does that mean it doesn’t support Im Tirtzu’s right to speak?

The problem for the NIF is that many donors might not support this particular content. Indeed, the Forward reported that when the NIF sought statements of support from other major Jewish groups, only three had complied as of February 3: Americans for Peace Now, J Street, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thus it is critical for the NIF and other groups with similar views to promote these twin canards: that freedom of information — i.e., shedding light on what they actually do — constitutes “incitement,” which is legally suppressible, and that freedom of speech requires funding even speech you oppose. For unless they can either suppress knowledge of just what speech they are enabling or convince donors that liberal values require funding such speech even if they oppose it, their own funding is liable to be endangered.

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Exposing the New Israel Fund

The New Israel Fund finds itself embroiled in controversy, and rightfully so. The philanthropic group has given a great deal of moral support to the Goldstone Report, and even more financial support to the many NGO’s whose job is to manufacture the kind of allegations contained in the Report. Recently a Zionist group called Im Tirtzu released a report documenting the extent of NIF’s funding for what can only be called objectively anti-Israel groups.

This is consistent with NGO’s Monitor’s finding that “In 2008, NIF distributed over $20 million to over 300 NGOs in Israel. Approximately 20% goes to NGOs that engage in political activities related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including some that reject the legitimacy of Israel as Jewish democratic state, and are active in boycott and similar campaigns.”

And now the Ma’ariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini has thrown down the gauntlet. Read his important piece, available here in English, below the jump. Read More

The New Israel Fund finds itself embroiled in controversy, and rightfully so. The philanthropic group has given a great deal of moral support to the Goldstone Report, and even more financial support to the many NGO’s whose job is to manufacture the kind of allegations contained in the Report. Recently a Zionist group called Im Tirtzu released a report documenting the extent of NIF’s funding for what can only be called objectively anti-Israel groups.

This is consistent with NGO’s Monitor’s finding that “In 2008, NIF distributed over $20 million to over 300 NGOs in Israel. Approximately 20% goes to NGOs that engage in political activities related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including some that reject the legitimacy of Israel as Jewish democratic state, and are active in boycott and similar campaigns.”

And now the Ma’ariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini has thrown down the gauntlet. Read his important piece, available here in English, below the jump.

SLUSH FUND
by Ben-Dror Yemini, Ma’ariv, 2.2.10

The New Israel Fund is part of the global deception campaign. It does not deal with human rights but with denying one people’s right to self-determination.

The New Israel Fund is angry. It thinks that it is correct to spread false testimony about the State of Israel. It thinks that it is OK to participate in the demonization campaign of groups whose goal is to eliminate Israel. It thinks that it is OK to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission, even though it was established by the automatic majority of dark countries that controls the “UN Human Rights Council.” It thinks that it is OK for Israel to cooperate with the Commission even though no country in the free world supported its establishment. It is certainly legitimate, in a democratic country, to do all these things.

But there is something else that is also legitimate: Expose the truth about the Fund and the groups that falsely carry the description “human rights.” If most of the political groups that are supported by the Fund do not recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state – do not say human rights. Tell the truth: Denial of rights only for Jews. The Palestinians have the right to a state, a national state, of their own, just as the Croats, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and other peoples do – but not the Jews.

For example, the New Israel Fund supports the Zochrot non-profit association, which openly aspires to eliminate the State of Israel via the realization of the “right of return.” Not that there is any such right and not that there has been even one precedent of a mass “return” after post-war population exchanges – but this does not bother the Fund. It always jumps at the slogan “human rights.”

None of this is to say that Israel is exempt from criticism. Among the hundreds of claims, there are those that have merit. But many sane people abhor the human rights bodies, not because they abhor human rights, on the contrary. It is because most sane people are fed up that human rights have become a weapon for dark forces.

The New Israel Fund has turned itself into yet another body, one among many in the world, that are party to global deception. There are a million and one attacks on human life and human rights in the world. Israel, as a state in the midst of conflict, makes fewer attacks than any other element. This has been verified. This is anchored in numbers. But it is Israel that absorbs most of the criticism. This is called demonization, delegitimization and obsession.

There is no defense of human rights here but rather an orchestrated campaign in the service of Iran and Hamas. This is not the Fund’s intention but this is the result. Things should be called by their name. Most of the groups supported by the Fund deal in the delegitimization of Israel. But the Fund rolls its eyes and whines:

What is wrong with human rights? There is nothing wrong. There is something wrong with those who clearly aspire to deny the Jews’ right to exist in the only place where they have sovereignty, in order to turn Israel into a “state of all its citizens,” in which the majority will be Hamas supporters. There is something wrong with those who want to perpetrate politicide on only one people in the world. There is something wrong with those who collaborate with dark forces and try to sell the lie that it is all about “human rights.”

How is it that so many people, mainly Jews, support the Fund? How is it they facilitate this systematic campaign that masquerades as humanitarian and is, in effect, demonic? They are not anti-Semites. They are people with good intentions. Their rhetoric deals with human rights and minorities. Jews are sensitive to this and good for them. Most are simply unaware. Most truly and innocently want Israel to be more enlightened and more progressive, and stricter about human life and human rights. But they do not know that the money goes to other goals.

Even Professor Naomi Chazan, who heads the Fund, does not hate Israel. But what has happened to countless bodies that deal with “the rights talk” has happened to them. In the end, they serve the agenda of Iran and Hamas.

Human rights groups can restore the confidence in themselves. They need to support human rights, not groups that deal in denying Israel’s right to exist. In the meantime, these groups, including the New Israel Fund, are the major enemy, not only of Israel but of the free world and human rights.

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