NIFC Response to Attacks

New Israel Fund of Canada (NIFC) is committed to fostering the development of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state as envisioned in its Declaration of Independence. We believe that Israel can live up to its founders’ vision of a state that ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race, gender or national identity.

NIFC was founded in 1985 to help Israel realize the vision of its founders, who viewed Israel as a sovereign expression of the right of self- determination of the Jewish people and as a democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities. For more than 30 years NIFC has served as a vehicle for helping Israel realize that vision. We believe that not only can Israel be both a Jewish state and a democracy, but that the combination is essential to Israel’s long term security and survival.

NIFC is an approved Canadian charity governed by a national Board of Directors. We are financially independent from others in the NIF family, including US-based New Israel Fund. All projects and initiatives are approved by the NIFC Board. New Israel Fund in Israel acts as our agent on the ground, monitoring the progress of our projects and initiatives.

NIFC is a strategic funder and partner.  We focus on four main areas: Civil and Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Religious Pluralism and Women’s Rights. Many groups are ineligible for funding because they fall outside these areas of focus. Our organizational guidelines and those of the Canadian Revenue Agency also identify areas and activities that NIFC will not support. These include partisan political activity, advocacy and lobbying, involvement in the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement or efforts to deny Jewish self-determination or equality for all Israeli citizens.

NIFC is proud of three decades of supporting a strong Israeli civil society in the service of achieving equality and opportunity for all Israelis. As the debate about Israel in the North American Jewish community has grown more contentious and polarized in the past several years, however, a group of organizations and individuals have assigned themselves the task of attacking New Israel Fund of Canada and the New Israel Fund (our partner in the US), going so far to brand NIFC and NIF as “beyond the pale” and “anti-Israel.” These groups include Im Tirtzu and NGO Monitor in Israel and JCC Watch.

Many of these claims are simply false, and others are more a matter of political judgment than anything else. Of course, people may disagree with our approach, it might not be their way of supporting Israel. Nevertheless, the mainstream consensus in Canada has been that the New Israel Fund of Canada is well within the parameters of the pro-Israel community.

Refuting every one of these false or partisan claims every time they are repeated would require constant attention.  We and community organizations who partner with NIFC are forced to spend large amounts of their time establishing what has already been established over and over: that NIFC and its partners have a legitimate, progressive outlook on Israel and that attempts force us out of the communal conversation are damaging to the maintenance of a broad and diverse base of support for Israel and a broad, diverse, civil and welcoming Jewish community.

Accusations brought against NIFC by these groups tend to fall into broad categories like: “NIFC supports BDS” or “NIFC supports human rights organizations that are anti-Israel” or “someone who used to work for NIF or a partner said something anti-Israel”.

In order to provide refutation of some of these claims, the section below takes up several broad types of claims made against NIFC. For each type, we explore and debunk one or two representative claims in depth.

By demonstrating the false and politically partisan nature of these claims, we hope to reveal the “evidence” against NIFC for what it is: an attempt by ideologically right-wing groups to defame and delegitimize a group with which they oppose on political grounds. These claims are not accurate, they are not serious, and they should be viewed not as sincere criticism but as an attempt to damage NIFC’s reputation and raise doubts about our integrity.

Misperception: NIFC supports organizations that “reject the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.”

NIFC has clear, public guidelines regarding its funding (see Appendix)

There should be no confusion about the principles and guidelines, which were codified and published in keeping with NIFC’s tradition of transparency to donors, partners and the public. We are a big-tent organization that has always stood for democracy and for welcoming diverse views, particularly those of marginalized segments of Israeli society who frequently don’t get a seat at the table.

In keeping with those values, our funding guidelines are specific, clear and fair. We will fund neither those organizations that work to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination, nor those that work to deny the rights of Palestinian or other minorities to full equality within Israel. That is consistent with our 30-year history, with our values, and with our intentions going forward.

As the nation’s leading organization protecting Israeli democracy, however, we cannot and will not censor the individual opinions of the thousands of community leaders who work in and with our partners. Our funding guidelines cover organizational behaviours and policies, not every statement made by someone involved with a partner organization to a newspaper, even when we ourselves profoundly disagree with those statements. No responsible funder can do differently.

Every organization we fund has a legally designated non-profit status, either as an “amuta”, or non-profit organization, registered with the Israel Government, shares our values of equality and social justice, and complies with rigorous technical requirements.

Misperception: NIFC supports BDS or organizations engaged in BDS

As mentioned above, NIFC opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. NIFC has never and does not currently support any organization with BDS programs.

To ensure that organizations meet these guidelines, NIFC conducts annual reviews of all of its partners to determine if their activities are in violation of our guidelines. NIFC is in direct contact with our partners throughout the year and will investigate if there is any reason to think that there is an issue.

This due diligence process is serious and not at all pro-forma. We have been able to engage groups that were contemplating involvement in BDS or signed on to one statement and engage them in a dialogue about why we think BDS is wrong. Because we are in relationship with these organizations, we, with NIF, have often been able to persuade them to distance themselves from BDS.

Note that current attacks on NIF and NIFC in this area claim that we “laid the groundwork” for BDS by previously supporting organizations that later went on to play a role in the movement. This is the only (illogical) claim that can be made, given our policies on the issue.

Misperception: NIFC partners have claimed that Israel is an “apartheid state” or support Israel Apartheid Week

This usually boils down to videos or other materials that use footage or cite reports from NIFC partners being used by Israel Apartheid Week activists. Obviously, once reports and footage from  human rights group are in the public domain, anyone can incorporate them into new, incendiary ‘documentaries’ and other anti-Israel materials.

Every human rights group worldwide operates with the protocol that their public materials are public; so here.  NIFC never participates in Israel Apartheid Week and we reject the use of the word as generally inaccurate and a-historical.

Sources: NGO Monitor

It is well worth looking at the source of many of these accusations, NGO Monitor (NGOM). NGOM is an ideological organization, well-known for its selective critique of progressive Israeli NGOs, whose premise is not based on “monitoring” but rather on promoting a hardline conservative political agenda. NGO Monitor has never concurred with the findings or values of any Israeli NGO that criticizes the Israeli government’s policy, and it consistently equates any type of dissent with disloyalty. NGOM has also neither investigated nor criticized any settler, ultra-nationalist or ultra-religious NGO, despite the opaque funding for these groups and their negative impact on Israel’s most pressing issues. (One radical settler group highly involved in provocative takeovers in East Jerusalem, El-Ad, actually went to court to keep its donor list private. It has never been investigated nor criticized by NGOM. Nor has the settler group recently raided by Israeli police for land fraud against Palestinians been a target of NGOM “investigations.”)

As opposed to NIF and NIFC, which clearly and transparently reports on its funding sources, activities and partners, NGOM is remarkably un-transparent. The queries of Israeli journalists about its funding have been consistently rebuffed or ignored. NGOM does not publish a comprehensive list of its donors, and its American “Friends Of” organization has changed its name and registration more than once.

In 2013, NGO Monitor’s Social Media Director was banned from Wikipedia for dishonesty. Recently, NGO Monitor’s president, Gerald Steinberg, was referred to as an advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, although threats from NGOM forced Ma’ariv to retract the claim.

Sources: Im Tirtzu

Im Tirtzu is another matter entirely. A guerrilla media group representing the far right wing settler movement, it was the initial source of the attacks on NIF. At the time of the attack, some left-wing activists started a Facebook page in NIF’s defense entitled “Im Tirtzu is a fascist organization.”  Im Tirtzu promptly sued them in court. In 2013, an Israeli judge found that Im Tirztu DOES have “fascist attributes,” and found the defendants not guilty.

Since its initial attack on NIF, Im Tirtzu’s other campaigns against Ben-Gurion and Haifa Universities, against the media, and a particularly odious campaign entitled “Nakba=Chartah” (the word Israeli Arabs use for their catastrophe of 1948=excrement) have convinced the vast majority of Israelis that this is a fringe hate group, not to be taken seriously.

Sources: Ronn Torossian

In the fall of 2014, an infamous PR-practitioner in New York, Ronn Torossian, began posting to blogs and extreme right-wing media outlets about major NIF donors, calling them out by name.

Torrossian was described by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic as “the most disreputable flack in New York” representing “the lunatic-fringe of right-wing Israeli politics.” According to the website Gawker, which has tracked his activities for years, Torossian was under federal investigation for extortion.

In addition to some of the claims mentioned elsewhere, Torossian quoted a far-right Knesset member of the settler Jewish Home Party to the effect thus: “The main goal of the NIF is to undermine the Israeli Army, by knowingly financing left-wing Israeli groups that try to get young Israeli soldiers prosecuted for war crimes.”

This is untrue. NIFC and NIF strongly — and publicly — oppose any effort to have Israeli soldiers face prosecution outside of Israel. It would be a violation of our funding guidelines. We will not fund any organization that takes part in universal jurisdiction cases.

People of goodwill can disagree about what the correct policy is. Individuals might feel that supporting Israel’s civil rights champions isn’t their way of supporting Israel. But there is nothing “awful” or illegitimate about the work that NIFC is funding. These are the checks-and-balances of Israeli democracy.

What You Can Do

We hope this information helps to address various claims made about the New Israel Fund of Canada and reassures you about NIFC’s well-respected place in the Canadian, international and Israeli communal landscape.

But we also hope for more than that. We hope it will also embolden you to speak out against the slander perpetuated against good, Israel-supporting organizations like NIFC by people who disagree with our politics. It should be absolutely unacceptable – a kind of anti-Jewish hate crime – to accuse people who work hard to promote a strong, democratic Israel of being “anti-Israel.” Not standing up to this sort of defamation tears at the fabric of our community. It is delegitimization, pure and simple. And it should be called that by community leaders.

APPENDIX

NIFC’s Criteria for Partnership and Support

  1. Compliance with the laws of the State of Israel
  2. Respect for the principles of the New Israel Fund, New Israel Fund of Canada and and compliance with our policies and procedures
  3. Relevance to NIF and NIFC strategic priorities, including:
    1. A focus on social change;
    2. Strengthening Israel’s democratic values and institutions;
    3. Missions that fall within one of NIFC’s four general issue areas: Civil and Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Religious Pluralism and Women’s Rights
  4. Non-profit status
    1. Registration as an “amuta” or a company for the benefit of the public;
    2. Publicly available bylaws;
    3. Audited financial reports;
    4. Confirmation of proper accounting procedures as required by Israeli tax authorities and possession of a certificate of tax-withholding at source
  5. Compliant with charitable law in Canada, NIFC does not support advocacy or lobbying in Israel or Canada.

Organizations that engage in the following activities will not be eligible for NIFC partnership:

  1. Participate in partisan political activity
  2. Promote anti-democratic values
  3. Support the 1967 occupation and subsequent settlement activity
  4. Violate the human rights of any group or individual, advocate human rights selectively for one group over another and/or reject the principle of the universality of human rights
  5. Condone or promote violence or use violent tactics
  6. Employ racist or derogatory language or designations about any group based on their religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation
  7. Works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel, or to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel
  8. Engage in activities at odds with the positions, principles, or vision of the New Israel Fund.
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