The New Israel Fund denies that it will change its guidelines in ways that might end the support for organizations such as Mossawa Center and Adalah, who are openly calling for turning Israel into “a state for all its citizens” or a bi-national state.
The concern over the so-called new guidelines rose after an interview given by NIF director Daniel Sokatch to the JTA. Sokatch was quoted saying that:
If we had an organization that made part of its project, part of its mission an effort to really, genuinely organize on behalf of creating a constitution that denied Israel as a sovereign vehicle for self-determination for the Jewish people, a Jewish homeland, if that became the focus of one of our organizations, we would not support that organization.
In recent months, the NIF was under pressure for its support of left wing and human rights organizations in Israel. A students group called Im Tirzu issued a report, claiming that the NIF-backed organizations were behind many of the allegations against Israel cited in the Goldstone Report. The allegations against the NIF were made public by tabloids such as Maariv and Yisrael Hayom, and later repeated by members of the Knesset. Some of them are even trying to put limits on the political actions of the NIF.
Today, Maariv quoted Sokatch’s statement and speculated that the NIF has surrendered to the public campaign against it.
After the Yom Kippur holiday, I received an e-mail from an NIF spokesperson, seeking to clarify the organization’s position on this issue. Later came an official statement:
The NIF shall continue to support, as it has done in the past, organizations protecting the rights of the State of Israel’s Arab citizens, such as Adalah and Mossawa – which the NIF even assisted in establishing…. Recent reports on changes in the NIF positions are wrong… The NIF was never a thought police, and it never will be one.
It sounds pretty straightforward, and I must admit that I never thought the NIF would stop supporting an important organization like Adalah, which is something like the Israeli NAACP. I think the JTA jumped to conclusions here, and possibly even tried to push the NIF into a corner. Now the NIF must publicly declare that they will finance organizations that challenge the Jewish character of the state – something that won’t look good with the Israeli public, and perhaps not even with their donors abroad – or abandon Mossawa and Adalah, which means betraying everything the NIF stands for. Everything they do could end up hurting them.
In the next few days, the NIF is expected to publish its new guidelines, and I guess that they will offer some more explanations for their future policy regarding the support of civil society organizations.