WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Ford Foundation is denying that it is ending its Israel funding over criticism leveled at the foundation and some of the groups it helps to fund.
The Forward reported Thursday that the philanthropic foundation, which has contributed $40 million to civil society groups since 2003, will wind down its giving in two years.
Ford was sharply criticized for backing Israeli-Arab groups that helped steer what was to have been the 2001 United Nations conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, into an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish forum.
Subsequently, other groups that Ford helps fund — including the New Israel Fund, itself an umbrella fund for hundreds of progressive groups — have been targeted by some on Israel’s right wing for harsh criticism of Israel.
Ford and the NIF denied that these were factors in the decision to defund, instead noting that Israel’s civil society sector is capable of seeking funding from other sources.
Some on the left had criticized Ford and other outside philanthropies in recent years for steering money into a wealthy and Western democracy that had shown itself capable of tolerating dissent instead of spending money assisting groups in autocracies.