Thursday, 03 May 2012
Washington, DC. In response to NGO Monitor’s periodic “report” on the activities of the New Israel Fund, NIF today released the response below.
We prefer to focus on our growing responsibilities fulfilling our mission of advancing civil rights, social justice and religious pluralism in Israel. Our contention is that NGO Monitor is not an objective watchdog organization, but an organization that shares its support and ideology with many associated with Israel’s political right. Thus, much of its report revives old issues from years past to which NIF has already responded and/or interprets the activities of NIF and the organizations it supports through a lens of values and assumptions we do not share.
We appreciate, however, that NGOM provided this report to us in advance of its publication, and therefore took the time to respond.
New Israel Fund Response to NGO Monitor
General Responses: Funding and other issues
- NIF’s audited financials are always available by mid-year of the following calendar year, as are our complete listings of donors of more than $500. We continue to receive the highest ratings from Charity Navigator and other philanthropic-watchdog institutions.
- As NIF has previously stated, following the institution of revised funding guidelines in September 2010, every grantee was reviewed for compliance. We engaged grantees who appeared not to be in compliance after this thorough review in discussion, and in cases where there was no agreement, we removed those organizations from our list. As is the case with every responsible funder, we will never compromise the integrity of our grant-making process, and the confidentiality to which our organizations are entitled, by public discussion of our decision-making.
- Every current grantee of the New Israel Fund complies with our funding guidelines. Like most funders, we do not require absolute agreement with our own positions as a requisite for support, to do so would contradict our own core values of democracy and pluralism. Claims that certain NIF grantees are engaged in “delegitimizing” Israel are dubious, and very often motivated by ideological considerations. The accusations made by NGO Monitor are no exception; “delegitimization” is very much in the eye of the beholder. Our belief is that in upholding civil rights for all Israelis, and in opposing the occupation, the civil and human rights organizations we support represent the best of Jewish and humanist values.
- NIF has received an overwhelmingly positive response for its donor-sponsored ad in the New York Times, which specifically references the many Israelis working against religious extremism and the exclusion of women, and for democratic values in general. The generous response from our donors, and new supporters learning about these grave issues in Israel, is heartening.
- For twenty years NIF study tours have included meetings with our grantees working on Israel’s most difficult issues. “Polarizing” is NGOM’s description, and certainly betrays an ideological viewpoint not consistent with NIF’s values or objectives.
- NIF has repeatedly responded to the now two-year-old Wikileaks statement; even at the time the story first emerged, the former Associate Director was no longer in her position, the result of a principled disagreement with NIF principles and policies.
- That same U.S. diplomatic cable revealed that Mr. Steinberg was quoted as saying “that he did not want the NGO legislation to feed into the delegitimizing rhetoric, but that such an unintended consequence might be an acceptable cost to reduce the power of the NGOs'” – implying that delegitimizing Israel, the phenomenon that NGOM ostensibly wants to combat, is acceptable if it means more punitive restrictions on NGOs with which NGOM disagrees. We have not yet seen any public comment or explanation of this viewpoint.
- NGOM references a petition filed by Adalah in 2004, long before “delegitimization” was a buzzword. The petition asked the Israeli High Court to intervene, thus it was the opposite of asking foreign courts to intervene under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.
- Justice Rubinstein’s comments on this petition, misquoted by NGOM as reflecting a High Court decision, do not in fact reflect a consensus view of the court. In fact, the term “delegitimization” was absent from the opinion written by Justice Beinish, to which Justices Rubinstein and Meltzer concurred. Additionally, Judge Rubinstein was himself the Attorney General during the Rafah events, authorized them himself, and should obviously have recused himself from the proceedings.
- Adalah also won two landmark court victories recently. For the first time, the demolition of a Bedouin village was put on hold, setting an important precedent for humane handling of Bedouin affairs in ways consistent with Israel’s support for civil rights for all its citizens. And, in a landmark decision that will benefit all poor Israelis receiving government benefits, welfare recipients may now own cars that are much needed for transportation for work, education and medical treatments. In both decisions, Adalah was the lead litigant.
- NIF would never deny that representatives of Adalah or any Israeli NGO have the right to meet with or participate in conferences with organizations that hold different views.
- Although NGOM did not contact Adalah or NIF to determine the facts before going public with its charge about the BDS conference in Geneva, after its public attack, NGOM was notified that Adalah would not, and indeed did not, participate in the Geneva BDS event. Despite this knowledge, more than a week after the event a NGOM op-ed appeared claiming that Adalah had planned to participate. Ben-Dror Yemini, the conservative columnist for Ma’ariv, publicly acknowledged his mistake in asserting that Adalah would participate in the conference; we have not yet heard a similar acknowledgement from NGOM.
- However, the op-ed about Adalah by an NIF International Council member inadvertently said that NGOM supports the Akunis-Kirshenbaum legislation to tax or restrict foreign funding to Israeli NGOs; we understand that is not actually the case. NIF, which advised the author of the piece regarding that issue, regrets the error. NGOM has repeatedly called for “transparency” in revealing foreign funding – which all Israeli amutot funded by NIF already provide – and has consistently criticized and lobbied foreign governments and institutions to cease this funding.
- NGOM may choose to deny that there is widespread discrimination against Arab Israeli citizens of Israel, as Adalah and NIF assert. In this, it contradicts the findings of the Israeli government’s official Or Commission report, which details the many ways in which that discrimination is actualized. Unfortunately the Or Commission’s report recommendations to remedy that discrimination have not, as the Israeli government admits, been implemented.
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement:
- SJSM never posted or used one of the ads NGOM describes, and the other was posted on its Facebook page for approximately 30 minutes, after which it was removed with an apology. We at NIF found those ads offensive.
- SJSM’s activities and organization comply with NIF’s funding guidelines. Like NGOM itself, SJSM’s popular name is different from its registration as an amuta, and we provide both names for transparency.
- We oppose harassment of women in every circumstance, and welcome investigations of anyone accused of that behavior. To our knowledge, no-one involved with SJSM has been arrested or charged with sexual harassment or assault. We are actively engaged in upholding the rights of all women in Israel.
- Core to NIF’s mission is providing outlets for Israel’s many voices, which certainly includes the thoughtful writers at +972. No media outlet is responsible for every view or phrase of its journalists; how much more so must funders stay clear of dictating content. NGOM may disagree with some of the magazine’s contents; that’s normal and appropriate in a democracy with a free press.