All nonprofits should be so lucky.
Thanks to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook post blaming the nonprofit New Israel Fund for causing the breakdown of his deal with the United Nations that would have resettled half of the 38,000 African asylum seekers in Israel and other Western countries, donations have spiked at the U.S.-based human rights, social justice-focused organization.
Since the Israeli prime minister posted the claim on April 3, the New Israel Fund has received donations of just under 1 million shekels, roughly $283,000, from 3,000 Israelis. Three-quarters of the donations came from Israel, nearly all of them first-time donors, according to Libby Lenkinski, NIF’s vice president for public engagement.
Lenkinski likes to call it the “Bibi Bump,” a reference to the “Trump Bump” that progressive nonprofits saw in donations after Donald Trump was elected.
“We’re also seeing a spike here in the U.S.,” she said, “but that spike in Israel, that’s the really incredible thing.”
Founded in 1979, NIF raises money for nonprofits in Israel that protect civil and human rights, providing more than $300 million to more than 900 organizations to date. It also advocates for progressive and democratic values, builds coalitions, and works with activists to build an “Israeli progressive civil society,” according to its website.
While donations come from across the globe, the majority of them currently come from the United States. Now the organization is building its donor base in Israel, a cause that Netanyahu greatly helped with the Tuesday Facebook post that, translated into English, said that NIF is the “principal actor that led to Europe pressuring Rwanda to back out of the deal.”
The claim was refuted on Twitter the next day by Rwanda Foreign Ministry’s Olivier Nduhungirehe, who wrote in part: “My surprise comes less from the fact that #Rwanda doesn’t even know what this
@NewIsraelFund is all about, but more from the assumption that a foreign NGO can successfully impose any pressure on a sovereign government named @RwandaGov.”
In his Facebook post, Netanyahu defined NIF as “an organization that receives money from foreign governments and from forces hostile to Israel, like George Soros’ foundations. The overarching goal of the Fund is the erasure of the Jewish character of Israel and turning it into a state of all its citizens, alongside a country of the Palestinian people cleansed of Jews, along the 1967 lines, with its capital in Jerusalem.”
NIF also denies that it played any role in the deal.
“We had nothing to do with pressuring the Rwandan government, it’s an absurd claim,” Daniel Sokatch, the fund’s CEO, told JTA.
Lenkinski said Netanyahu’s attempt to discredit the NIF has been going on for more than a decade, but that the new Israeli donors to NIF said they’d had enough. “His attempt to then blame us for his own failures seems to have had the opposite impact. … People’s response was actually to spontaneously and organically start donating to the New Israel Fund.”
The New Israel Fund also got support from some “unexpected places,” she said, including Dan Meridor, a former deputy prime minister in Netanyahu’s administration, who “just took it upon himself to go on Israeli national radio and started talking about all the good things about NIF.”
“This whining and this wild attack on the New Israel Fund is a strange and serious phenomenon,” he said, according to a translation provided by NIF.
“First of all, does anybody know who NIF is?” he continued. He then mentioned the “excellent service” they provide for those in need. “And, yes, they want a country that is just and that is equal. Most of them are outstanding Zionists their entire lives.
They’re the ones who convinced Rwanda to back out? What type of talk is that? Really. It’s an embarrassment.”
Netanyahu did get some praise for his efforts. About 1,000 of the 3,000 Israeli donations, according to NIF, were made in his honor.
JTA contributed to this report.