Israeli Tabloids Maariv and Yisrael Hayom, which led the attack on the New Israel Fund in recent months, celebrated yesterday what they believe is a change in the NIF policy regarding its support for leftwing organizations.
A page 4 story in Maariv, written by the paper’s reporter in New York, Tzah Yoked, has declared that “from now on, organizations that reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel will no longer be eligible to receive money from the New Israel Fund.”
The story repeated some of the misleading information Maariv published in the past, claiming that NIF-backed organizations “served as the legal basis for the Goldstone report.” It concluded that:
The change [in NIF guidelines], it should be underscored, is more than merely cosmetic. This is a change that will oblige the New Israel Fund to reassess longstanding relationships it has had with organizations that until now had enjoyed its financial support, despite the fact that they explicitly advocated the establishment of a bi-national state and rejected the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.
If the New Israel Fund truly does change the criteria for funding—it will be deserving of all praise. Rumors about that have been circulating for a long time.
In the tabloid Israel Hayom, senior columnist Dan Margalit accused NIF of flip-flopping, claiming that by clarifying that it would continue supporting left wing organizations, the NIF “ruined the correction” [of its wrongful policy], after “yesterday it seemed that the New Israel Fund had turned an attentive ear [to the criticism against it].”
It seems that the confusion over the NIF’s intentions got the progressive left worried as well. Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote that:
This is my lowest moment in an ambivalent relationship with NIF. I cannot in good conscience support its work when it turns it back on its Palestinian grantees and an entire Palestinian NGO community. I would urge these grantees to unite and protest this terrible formulation of the guidelines. I can’t help but think if most of the Palestinian and even perhaps a few Jewish grantees refuse to apply for funding that this will send a shock through the system.
I don’t agree with Richard on this one. The NIF never backed from its support of Palestinians NGOs. In fact, it actually re-affirmed its commitment to them. As I wrote in an answer for Richard’s comment on my blog, I think we should give the NIF people more credit, and judge them according to their actions, not (only) their words.
I cannot overstate the importance of the NIF for those who still believe that the work of civil society organizations matters. The battle here is much larger than the argument over the new guidelines or the misquotation of someone. This is the front line of a war on the future of democracy in Israel. The NIF is under tremendous pressure these days, and so far they have dealt with it honorably. So though I have my own issues with some of the NIF’s statements and actions, I would wait a bit before I join those casting stones at it (even when it’s done for the best intentions).
Didi Remez has contributed for this post.