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Op-Ed: New Israel Fund should not fund groups that oppose Jewish state

JERUSALEM (JTA) — This year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the New Israel Fund. During this time, NIF’s far-reaching work has had a profound impact on Israeli civil society.

Donors rightly can take pride in some of NIF’s better-known programs to promote religious pluralism, eradicate racism from Israeli soccer and empower disadvantaged women.

However, they are probably entirely unaware that NIF directs a significant portion of its money toward organizations with agendas that undermine the very foundations of the Jewish state.

A prime example is Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research, to which NIF’s latest public accounts record a grant of $125,000, making it one of NIF’s larger recipients. At first glance, Mada al-Carmel’s mission to “promote theoretical and applied research on the Palestinian community in Israel” might sound innocuous enough.

Yet closer inspection reveals that they spearheaded the 2007 document known as the Haifa Declaration, which delegitimizes the concept of the Jewish state and asserts a dangerous historical narrative in which Israel is branded guilty of torture, collective punishment and racism.

The Haifa Declaration suggests that Israel’s “policies of oppression” are “in excess of those of the apartheid regime in South Africa," blames Israel for “exploiting” the tragedy of the Holocaust to “legitimize the right of the Jews to establish a state at the expense of the Palestinian people,” and advocates changing the definition of Israel from a Jewish state to an amorphous “multicultural” state where Jewish identity and symbols are of no significance.

Signatories to the declaration include other recipients of NIF funding, including Adalah (which received $285,000 in 2007) and Sikkuy (which received $155,000 in 2007).

The problem here is not one of legitimacy. Unquestionably, in any healthy democracy, the right to hold unpalatable views and opinions must be upheld. Consequently, organizations such as Mada al-Carmel, Adalah and Sikkuy are legal Israeli nonprofits.

Yet legality itself does not justify support. There are myriad worthy causes that NIF can and does fund. But by choosing to support the authors of the Haifa Declaration, NIF is funding the back-door destruction of the State of Israel as we know it.

No doubt NIF will argue that its grants are designated for specific projects far removed from the Haifa Declaration. Yet any funding for these groups enables them to spend other resources wherever they wish.

Moreover, backing from NIF provides a patina of legitimacy worth much more than money. After all, why would the average donor be concerned by Mada al-Carmel’s vision for Israel when it is supported by a mainstream Jewish charity?

The NIF must be clear on its funding red lines. If signing onto documents like the Haifa Declaration does not cross them, NIF must make clear why.

NIF has a duty to explain to its donors whether supporting an end to the Jewish state has a place in their vision for Israel. If not, surely they must undertake a serious re-evaluation of their allocations process.

Highlighting these important questions is not part of a malicious campaign to limit Arab rights and equality in Israel; quite the opposite. There is much to do in order to achieve parity for all sectors in Israel, including the Arab community. But when initiatives such as the Haifa Declaration manipulate the cause of Arab equality to advance an end to the Jewish state, it wholly undermines this worthy cause.

NIF also funds organizations unconnected to the Arab sector that raise additional questions about the charity’s outlook on Israel’s future.

The Coalition of Women for Peace, which is funded by NIF, claims to “work relentlessly for peace.” But a group called New Profile, which is one of 10 member organizations of the coalition, is under investigation by the Israeli attorney general for advising new Israel Defense Forces’ recruits on how to appear unfit to serve so they can dodge military duty.

NIF also supports the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, which recently released a booklet of anonymous soldier testimonies about alleged IDF misconduct in the Gaza conflict in January. The booklet attempts to condemn the IDF as a whole, undermining one of Israel’s bedrock institutions. This agenda should prompt NIF to ask whether its funds are being utilized to the benefit of Israeli society.

NIF claims to “want to create the Israel we all know to be possible,” yet surely this cannot include encouragement to break Israeli law.

While we share NIF’s mission to “fight inequality, injustice and extremism,” NIF must not be compromised by support for organizations that work against the very concept of the Jewish state and the rule of law. To continue do so would be to affiliate with the very margins of the Jewish world.

Dan Kosky is the communications director of NGO Monitor.

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