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Financing the Flames

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Interview Tries to Purify the New Israel Fund

October 30th 2017

Dome-of-the-Rock

Last Shabbat, the CEO of the New Israel Fund (NIF), Mickey Gitzin, was interviewed by the Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper. Four pages of prime location in the weekend supplement were allotted by the paper’s editor to journalist Nevo Ziv in order to try to rehabilitate the public standing of the NIF. The determined writer did not even try to hide or mask his flattery with questions that would make things difficult for Gitzin. Instead, Ziv presented his readers with four pages of flattery and softball questions.

A hypothetical parallel to Ziv’s pampering interview with Gitzin would be an interview with extreme right wing activists Itamar ben Gvir or Baruch Marzel, something that no right wing media agency would think of doing, and rightly so. The nature of the interview was determined by an editorial decision with a clear significance – in the current confrontation between the Israeli public and the NIF, Yediot Ahronot chose the Fund.

The NIF is not just any moderate left wing organization, Zionist and focused on its pet issues. It is not the left of Yesh Atid, the Labor party or even Peace Now which engages in dialogue with Israeli society. They are far more left than that, somewhere in the ideological area code between Meretz and the Joint Arab List. This is not the Zionist left of Ben Gurion, Katzenelson, Rabin, Peres, Herzog or Tzipi Livni. This is the radical left of B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, Yesh Din and Mossawa. Excuses and qualifications regarding a variety of opinions and being sure to include a multitude of voices are irrelevant in this case.

After we talked about the plate, let’s get to the course itself. We begin with the good news that appears at the beginning of the interview. The author writes that when he asks people what the NIF is, the answers range from “I don’t know” to “Terrorist supporters.” I personally prefer a less aggressive description of the Fund besides “terrorist supporters,” but the NIF does heavily fund organizations like B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Adalah and has earned the disgust directed at them by a large majority of the Israeli public.

Next, Ziv lobbed this softball to the Fund’s director. “How did they do this to you?” How did they turn the Fund into the most reviled organization in Israel? Gitzin’s answer expresses the lack of ability of the left to engage in a dialogue with Israeli society. He accuses everyone except for the Fund itself. “The NIF has created the Israeli society that Bibi Netanyahu goes around the world and brags about,” boasted Gitzin while he tried to claim every project or positive process that has occurred in Israel in the last few decades in the name of the Fund. An overwhelming majority of Israelis who know the NIF see the organization as an enemy and as anti-Israeli, but Gitzin does not even begin to reconsider his position.

The same self admiration with no self awareness came up again when Gitzin described the Fund’s response to an Im Tirtzu campaign that revealed NIF actions. “The Fund was in a vulnerable position. Everyone who works there believes that they get up in the morning to do only good. They were not prepared from a media perspective to deal with the campaign of demonization.” The then president of the NIF, Naomi Chazan, together with the former CEO Rachel Liel apparently thought that they could fund B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence and Israelis would wipe the spit from their face convinced that it was fairy dust and invite the Fund to receive the Israel prize.

The truth is that that you can understand them. If Zev Sternhell, Yeshayahu Leibowitz and Igael Tumarkin won the prize, why deprive Naomi Chazan? But the days when the heads of the Fund would spit in the well and afterwards divide prizes amongst themselves are finished. Democracy works in two directions, if freedom of expression allows for the NIF’s organizations to produce endless amounts of reports and campaigns that defame Israel; it also allows Im Tirtzu to buy billboards revealing the connection of the Fund’s organizations to the Goldstone Report.

And now for some hard facts. Between the years 2005 and 2016 the NIF transferred 2.8 million dollars to B’Tselem, 1.4 million dollars to Breaking the Silence, almost 3 million dollars to Adalah, 2.1 million to Mossawa, 665 thousand dollars to Yesh Din, 854 thousand to Machsom Watch and almost 600 thousand shekels to the Coalition of Women for Peace.

In the last few years, those organizations published hundreds of articles that revealed their consistent extreme and anti-Israeli agenda. The list of pearls produced by the Fund’s organizations is infinite. As an example, here are some from B’Tselem, one of the organizations most supported by the Fund. Exactly a year ago, the head of B’Tselem Hagai El-Ad flew to the UN Security Council and “pleaded” in front of the council members to act against Israel. The same Hagai El-Ad, whose organization receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the NIF every year, refused to define Hamas as a terror organization during an interview.

Lieutenant Colonel (Res.). Yonatan Dahuh-Halevi revealed a large list of distortions and inaccuracies in B’Tselem’s reports. Among other things, Halevi revealed cases in which B’Tselem classified terrorists as uninvolved civilians who were killed by IDF fire. B’Tselem even struggled to define Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin as a terrorist and he moved again and again between different categories, until in 2011 his definition settled on this innocent wording – “Ahmad Isma’il Yassin – 68 year-old resident of Gaza city, killed on 22.03.2004 in Gaza city, by gunfire, from a helicopter. He was a target for assassination.” According to a document exposed on WikiLeaks, in January 2010, the former director of B’Tselem, Jessica Montell, met with the Assistant Secretary of State and told him that: “Its goal is to bring Israel into a situation that its leadership will consider twice before deciding to embark on another military operation.”

With such a list of achievements, it is no wonder that when people were asked by Yediot’s writer as to their impressions of the NIF, the answer amounted to “terrorist supporters.”

The support given by the NIF to B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, and Yesh Din is only the tip of the iceberg of the Fund’s massive support for radical left-wing organizations who work to defame the State of Israel. Similar donations were made to a long list of other radical leftist and left-wing organizations such as Bimkom, The Center for the Defense of the Individual, Physicians for Human Rights, Mada al-Carmel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Israel Social TV, as well as to many organizations that do not deal with the defamation of Israel, but are working to change its character and identity, against the will of the vast majority of Israeli citizens. For example, the fund transferred 223,000 dollars to ASSAF (an aid organization for refugees and asylum seekers) and a million dollars to the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

A clear example of the gap between the well known names and positive framing of the NIF’s organizations and their actual actions is the Association for Civil Rights, an organization that received huge grants that added up to no less than 11 million dollars between the years 2005 and 2016. A large majority of Israeli society would be horrified by the Association’s activity. Among other things, the Association is working to prevent Israel from revoking the residency of the terrorists Subhi Abu Khalifa and Shuruk Dweiyat who tried to stab Israeli civilians. The Association is also working to restore the terrorists’ entitlement to academic studies after they were recently cancelled.

The organization called the “Association for Civil Rights in Israel” actually works to protect the privileges of Palestinian security prisoners, who are not citizens, and who wanted to murder Israeli citizens whose rights the Association is supposed to protect according to its name. Replace the word Association with the word Center, the word Civil with word Defense and the word Rights with the word Individual and you have a new radical laundering by the name Center for the Defense of the Individual. According to an Im Tirtzu report, in the last two years, the Center represented 48 terrorists and their families who were responsible for the murder of no fewer than 51 Israelis. From 2005-2016 the NIF transferred 1.1 million dollars to the Center.

Gitzin can continue to boast that the Fund is responsible for all the good things that Netanyahu brags about to the world. In reality, the organizations that the Fund supports are involved with or are connected to almost every abominable and outrageous action by the extreme left. Here’s an example just from the last few days. Last week we discovered that extreme leftist activist Dror Etkes published a clear aerial photograph of the home of Avichai Shorshan, the founder of ‘My Truth’, to which he added negative accusations against Shorshan in Hebrew and Arabic. Etkes added a close-up picture of the entrance to Shorshan’s home where he lives with his wife and two children. A few hours later, Shorshan began to receive death threats, and the police decided to declare his house a “threatened site” at threat level 6. Etkes, for those who were wondering, is a former activist in Yesh Din and the founder of Kerem Navot, which was founded in 2012 and won a grant from the NIF of $40,000 last year.

If we put aside the large number of manipulations by Gitzin in order to discredit his political opponents or glorify the NIF’s activities, he mainly makes a rather cumbersome attempt to launder the Fund’s support of dozens of radical leftist organizations by taking ownership of social action in the extra-parliamentary arena. It is even possible to expand on Gitzin’s arrogance in allowing himself to erase countless charitable organizations that are not connected to the NIF or to the left and to note the fact that even among those who benefit from the NIF’s welfare activities, there are those who feel disgusted in the face of the anti-Israeli agenda promoted by the NIF’s organizations. But that’s not the point

The attempt to launder the abominations of B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence through social projects is reminiscent of drug traffickers who come to court with a big kippa on their heads, proud of the contribution they made to the neighborhood pensioners’ club. Just as that method does not work for those criminals, it will not work for the New Israel Fund. The Israeli public will condemn and despise Hagai Elad, Yuli Novak and Dror Etkes, and rightly so. The Israeli public will see that the financing of this anti-Israeli hate industry is a distorted and sickening phenomenon operated by self-hating Jews.

The realization will not just happen here. The dramatic shift in the standing of the New Israel Fund is also occurring abroad. In 2010, the NIF invested 2.5 million dollars in fundraising from a yearly budget of 37 million dollars. In 2016, the NIF has already been forced to spend 4 million dollars in fundraising from a budget of 26 million dollars. Despite the 60% increase in the fundraising budget, the NIF’s budget decreased by 30%.

The true face of the NIF has been revealed in Israel and among American Jews. The NIF is still a huge organization with a huge budget, but it is much more vulnerable than we thought. If Mickey Gitzin is the best thing that the Fund can enlist in order to try to stop the erosion, than we can be optimistic. We made it through Pharaoh, we’ll make it through the NIF.

Erez Tadmor is an Israeli Radio commentator.


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