Category Archives: Foundations

San Francisco Jewish Federation officially excommunicates large swath of Jewish population

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Jewish Federation has made it official.

Here in one of the most cosmopolitan, diversity-friendly and culture-loving places on earth, there is a new litmus test for Jewish identity and it has absolutely nothing to do with religious practice, cultural expression, personal history or the values you embrace. Membership in the Jewish community has been officially reduced to one and only one question- do you UNCONDITIONALLY love Israel?

Do you love Israel so much that you are willing to stand by and do nothing as it destroys itself and everyone it controls by repeatedly violating international law, sending its youngest citizens to enforce the 43-year occupation of another people,  imprisoning them, killing them with impunity, denying them the right to health and education and work and claiming it’s all in the name of security while taking more Palestinian land and water and trees each day.

In other words, are you willing to love Israel to death?

If the answer is YES, you’re in! If the answer is NO, and you have the chutzpah to embrace the principled, creative, peaceful methods of Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Gandhi as a way to pressure Israel to  help provide true democracy for all Israelis and Palestinians, then you’re out!

Prompted by the controversy over the showing of the film Rachel at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the federation just announced this stunning set of McCarthyite policy guidelines which seek to sever any public ties that ANY Bay area grantees -including progressive synagogues and arts and educational organizations-  have with groups that support Boycotts, Divestment or Sanctions in whole or part, or who “delegitimize Israel” (according to who exactly? The judges who hold the Federation purse strings, that’s who).

Continue reading

Continuing insanity: Koret Foundation up in arms about Cindy Corrie, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Quakers

Jewish Voice for Peace, the sponsor of Muzzlewatch, has about 85,000 supporters; an advisory board that includes some of the best known Jewish thinkers and artists in the world; a program staff and board that is 100% Jewish; members who are rabbis, Holocaust survivors, Jewish educators, yeshiva graduates, Israeli military veterans and more; and an incoming director who has just spent the last three years living in Israel with her family.

And we’re dedicated to justice and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.

But none of that, apparently, qualifies Jewish Voice for Peace to be part of the Jewish community as defined by….funders! In fact, the experts at the Koret Foundation have determined that we are, yes, here it comes, you never heard this one before………. “anti-Semites!” How cliche! How funny! How completely unoriginal! (OK, to be fair, that’s not exactly what they called us. What they actually said was “virulently anti-Semitic.” )

In more of the continuing insanity – and that’s the only way to put it – about the showing of the film Rachel (Corrie), the Koret Foundation, major funders of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, seems to have plagiarized a far-right viral email and turned it into an official, um, “attack-statement.”

(As Muzzlewatch and also JJ Goldberg, former Forward editor has observed, it is conservative funders in the donation-dependent Jewish institutional world who increasingly wield power to define Jewish identity and community moral standards. The economic crisis seems to be fueling this phenomenon. Another theory is that the increasing crackdown on  dissent in Israel is now spreading here – something out of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s playbook? After all, the festival has featured anti-occupation films for years. JVP has sponsored many of them. Nary a peep about that, until this year. Why?)

The Koret Foundation is worth something like $400 million. They give to a lot of great programs as well as significant amounts to the right-or-wrong-Israel-advocacy programs.  Their CEO is Tad Taube, so for all intents and purposes, the statement below is from the same person.

(And to just add just more delicious irony, two key staffers of the AFSC’s Middle East program here in San Francisco are Jewish, including Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. Apparently they’ve been excommunicated by the Koret Foundation as well. Well, everyone knows how mean pacifist Quakers are. Mean! Especially the Jews who work with them!)

Statement from the Koret and Taube Foundations:

As staunch champions and allies of Israel, the Koret and Taube Foundations do not support any organization that promotes or provokes anti-Israel sentiment; nor do we provide funding to any organization whose mission runs counter to our position. In this instance, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has made three egregious errors in its upcoming presentation of the film, “Rachel”:

  • It is partnering with Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee, two virulently anti-Israel, anti-Semitic groups that support boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Both are closely associated with the International Solidarity Movement and other groups that aid and abet terror against the Jewish State. These groups cross the line for inclusion in the Jewish community. Continue reading

U.S. Withdraws Fulbright Grants to Gaza

Ethan Bronner reports for the NY Times about the newest outrage resulting from US supported Israeli control of Gaza. We all know of the continuing depredations being perpetrated against Palestinians on a daily basis, the death and injuries, the almost complete control of most aspects of daily life. This new insult arises seamlessly from this control and is ominous because the canceling of scholarly exchange goes to the heart of academic freedom further eroding the idea that Israel has any interest in fostering Palestinian civic society. Whether by intent or casual indifference, Israel is alienating those who would most likely be needed and most open to establishing a stable peace in the region. Such impeding of Palestinian intellectual activity (and development) not only impoverishes Palestinian society but adds to the hallowing-out of Israel’s moral and intellectual culture. This is, unfortunately, of a piece with the recent banning of Norman Finklestein, reported on here, and the increasingly hostile attitude towards alternative/dissident positions in Israel as exemplified by the harassment of Ilan Pappe’ and the late Tanya Rheinhart, among others. As Americans we need to ask ourselves what is ultimately more worthwhile, funding the Israeli military to oppress Palestinians or funding educational exchanges that almost necessarily foster greater understanding cross-culturally. The obvious contradiction of US funding being used to stop US funding, besides the dark humor of the self-erasing nature of US actions, should raise serious concerns about US policy in the region

Published: May 30, 2008

GAZA — The American State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at American institutions this fall because Israel has not granted them permission to leave.

Hadeel Abukwaik, standing, an engineering software instructor in Gaza, was in disbelief over losing her Fulbright grant.

Israel has isolated this coastal strip, which is run by the militant group Hamas. Given that policy, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem said the grant money had been “redirected” to students elsewhere out of concern that it would go to waste if the Palestinian students were forced to remain in Gaza.

A letter was sent by e-mail to the students on Thursday telling them of the cancellation. Abdulrahman Abdullah, 30, who had been hoping to study for an M.B.A. at one of several American universities on his Fulbright, was in shock when he read it.

“If we are talking about peace and mutual understanding, it means investing in people who will later contribute to Palestinian society,” he said. “I am against Hamas. Their acts and policies are wrong. Israel talks about a Palestinian state. But who will build that state if we can get no training?”

Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing on the issue of student movement out of Gaza on Wednesday, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine given the hundreds of students who had been offered grants by the United States and other Western governments.

“This could be interpreted as collective punishment,” complained Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Parliament’s education committee, during the hearing. “This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules.” Rabbi Melchior is from the Meimad Party, allied with Labor.

Continue reading

NGO Monitor: attacking New Israel Fund, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International

By Rob Lipton with Cecilie Surasky
Although using language that would appear to give the impression of a neutral watch dog of non-governmental human rights organizations (NGOs), NGO Monitor (NGOM) is a partisan organization that weakens universal human rights infrastructure by charging many of the world’s best known human rights organizations with bias against Israel.

Their mission statement says they were founded to:

promote accountability, and advance a vigorous discussion on the reports and activities of humanitarian NGOs in the framework of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, a more straightforward description of their ideological bias comes from liberal Jewish thinker Leonard Fein who says:

. NGO Monitor, an organization that believes that the best way to defend Israel is to condemn anyone who criticizes it.

NGO Monitor operates out of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs/Institute for Contemporary Affairs. Its editor is Gerald Steinberg, a professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, who wrote not just about NGOs, but also journalists and academics in 2003:

Israel-bashing is promoted by that other axis of evil journalists, diplomats (including the United Nations), academics and self-proclaimed universal human rights groups. These non-governmental organizations (NGOs) enjoy a halo effect, and an image of promoting noble causes without political bias exempts them from scrutiny. They are also extremely influential, and their reports are quoted extensively. In reality, however, these NGOs are at the very core of the anti-Israel axis of evil. By promoting the campaign of hatred and delegitimization, such groups are morally guilty of justifying terrorism.

This world-view is behind the single-minded commitment to weakening some of the worlds most respected human rights and civil society groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, BTselem and the New Israel Fund.

Continue reading