Tag Archives: Human rights

SF and Boston: Jewish Charity Blacklists and the Israel Question

What do Jewish Voice for Peace, Madre, Amnesty International, New Israel Fund, American Friends Service Committee, Media Matters and Institute for Policy Studies all have in common?

There has been a growing backlash since the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation first announced the most restrictive funding guidelines in the country. The guidelines essentially ban recipients from giving voice to anyone who doesn’t toe the line (which the Federation ultimately determines) on Israel. No wonder the Bay Area Jewish intellectual class is in an uproar. As UC Hebrew and Comparative Literature professor Chana Kronfeld says, “All the major Israeli writers would probably be banned.”

The Open Letter to Jewish Communities in the Forward signed by Bay Area Jewish academics, rabbis  and other leaders, as well as coverage in Tablet, the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the New York Times reveals the extent to which concern about ideological policing is now a concern not just for the left but for the Jewish center.

However, what is not generally known is that the Fed’s Jewish Community Endowment Fund has also quietly pulled a number of nonprofit organizations from their acceptable charities list in an apparent attempt to ensure ideological purity.

What are those groups? Using a bit of technical sleuthing (and a tip-off from a donor), we’ve been able to pinpoint thus far 6 nonprofits that have been pulled from the list: Jewish Voice for Peace, American Friends Service Committee, the Institute for Policy Studies, Madre, Global Exchange, and the National Lawyers Guild. There is no reason to think there aren’t more – we will publicize those names as they become available. This means supporters of these groups who keep funds in the Endowment Fund can no longer designate them as recipients.

Even more interesting, one can still designate money to the Hebron Fund, FLAME, and extremist settler militia funder, the Central Fund of Israel.

The implications of this new battle that mirrors the war on human rights groups in Israel haven’t been lost on Boston activists who, within weeks of the announcement of the SF guidelines, launched their own Boston Combined Jewish Philanthropies witch hunt. (See embedded PDF file/link below-all articles from Boston’s Jewish paper, the Jewish Advocate.) Even The David Project founder Charles Jacobs weighs in on these so-called enemies of Israel: The American Friends Service Committee • Democracy Now! • The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) • The Tides Foundation • Media Matters • The New Israel Fund • Brit Tzedek v’Shalom • Physicians for Social Responsibility • The Workmen’s Circle • Amnesty International

Meanwhile NGO Monitor’s Prof. Gerald Steinberg, a man who never met a human rights organization he didn’t hate, is speaking this week at the Annual Conference of the Association for Israel Studies, at the University of Toronto on “Delegitimizing Israel: Can Jewish Philanthropy Change the Tide?”

Proposed Jewish Charity Blacklist in Boston: Not Pro-Israel Enough?

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Reut Institute report author lies about Naomi Klein

Let’s review shall we?

Reporters questioned the Reut Institute about their use of the terms “sabotage” and “attack” in a set of recommendations for how the Israeli government should respond to human rights group who said things they consider a threat. In response, Reut didn’t say, “We were misunderstood and we reject violence of any kind.” But they did suggest that what they mostly meant was sabotage and digging campaigns against individuals who work for human rights organizations- nasty work pioneered by NGO Monitor. (Which may be why one acquaintance at a human rights group that does work in Palestine said that the director sent an email to staff suggesting they come forward now with any personal information that could be used against them. Sad days indeed.)

Reut Institute’s Eran Shayshon got a chance to explain the report on The Current, Canada’s flagship radio morning program : CBC Listen here.

It’s interesting that out of the 92-page report (download it all here), Naomi Klein isn’t mentioned once. Yet Shayshon confidently says that Klein, and her opposition to “Israel’s right to exist”, is one of the main reasons that Toronto is considered a hub of delegitimacy. Only problem? Klein has never been opposed to Israel’s right to exist.

(Another problem? My guess is that there’s a second report or database somewhere that is full of names of people like Klein and specific organizations conspicuously missing from the published report. They knew issuing a list of enemies of the state would cause more of a firestorm, but it’s the obvious next step when you’re fighting a war. And it works in Israel and Palestine, why not the rest of the world?)

The report also says “there was an attempt to boycott the Toronto Film Festival because it thematically spotlighted Tel Aviv”. That’s a lie too. The Toronto Declaration explicitly did not call for a boycott of the festival. It opposed showing films under a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv.

What Shayshon says about me is a flat out lie. I have made a personal choice not to advocate any particular political outcome in Israel-Palestine. He can search all my writing and public statements, he won’t find anything. What I do advocate, and what the BDS campaign advocates, is for Israel to abide by all applicable international laws. Any political outcome — whether one state, two state or more — must abide by these universal non-discriminatory principles. Though I do have personal preferences, I have no secret agenda and would support any outcome that conformed to these principles.
Shayshon’s other big lie is his claim that I oppose “Israel’s right to exist”; indeed that I “have stated it out[right].” Once again, I challenge him to find one single example in anything I have said or written that would in any way support this claim. He won’t find it.
This lie could just be slander, and attempt to inflict more “shame” on BDS advocates, as the leaked internal document explained to all of us recently. But I suspect that if challenged, Shayshon would simply claim that to support BDS is to oppose Israel’s existence, a claim I have heard before. This is interesting. Since the unequivocal goal of BDS is to force Israel to abide by international law, what Shayshon seems to be saying by implication is that Israel cannot exist within the confines of international law. I would never make such an argument but it does explain the recent aggressive “lawfare” campaign taking aim at the very existence of these laws.
One last point: if supporting boycotts against a place means supporting its annihilation (the claim being made here and elsewhere), what precisely are we to make of the Gaza seige, infinitely more brutal than anything BDS advocates? Does that mean Israel is denying the right of Gaza to exist?
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Think tank tells Israeli government to declare war on peace groups

They’re baaaaack – Israel’s “most influential” think tank tells Israeli government to “attack” and “sabotage” global peace and human rights groups (as opposed to domestic groups which are already under attack.)

I wrote last month about the Reut (pronounced Ray-OOT) Institute’s report on what they see as the new existential threat to Israel. No longer military, the report said, the primary threat to Israel is political. Israel must fight a “delegitimization network” of peace and human rights groups based largely in four international “hubs”: Toronto, Madrid, London and the San Francisco Bay Area (where Jewish Voice for Peace is located.)

(Now, more of the report is available on-line, including a cool animated PowerPoint! Read terrific in-depth pieces on the new material by Ali Abunimah and Richard Silverstein.)

There are many astonishing elements of the report. One is the blame it places on others including the global left for the increasing political viability of a one-state solution. In fact it is Israel’s never-ending expansion of settlements that has made a two-state solution seem more and more unlikely by the day, not the global human rights movement. What groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) seek to delegitimize is the occupation and massive inequality and human rights violations committed against Palestinians, not Israel itself. Even most Palestinians, polls show, want their own viable state over a one-state solution. (JVP is neutral on the issue of one state or two or three for that matter, supporting any resolution consistent with international law which is largely supported by both parties.)

If the Israelis really wanted the Palestinians to have a state of their own, they could have made it happen years ago and the entire world would have cheered, and since 2002, they would have had full relations with all their Arab neighbors. But instead, the Israeli government has used endless peace negotiations as a way to expand settlements while keeping the international community at bay.  If the one-state solution marks the greatest existential threat to Israel, as the Reut report suggests, the Israeli government has no one to blame
but itself. The global peace and justice movement is the symptom, not the cause.

Secondly, the report actually dares to suggest “sabotage” of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace who are part of an international peace and justice  human rights network and who actively support Israeli and Palestinian activists on the ground (our sites include: www.December18th.org, www.FreeEzra.org, www.TheOnlyDemocracy.org etc..). We take this very seriously. Perhaps this is the way NGOs are
increasingly handled in Israel, especially under Netanyahu. But it’s certainly not how the government, and especially a foreign government, is expected to respond to law- abiding NGOs here in the United States (Ahem, Cointelpro and other efforts notwithstanding). And frankly, we won’t stand for it.

Plus it’s just a stupid idea.

How a report that says in one breath that Israel’s future lies in branding itself as a high-tech, eco-conscious and cultured democracy while simultaneously suggesting “sabotage” and “attacks” on law-abiding peace groups is stunning.  Instead of driving a wedge between “soft” and “hard” critics of Israel, as the report suggests, promoting these kinds of war-like responses against human rights groups will backfire and turn the most casual critics of Israeli policies into supporters of much harsher measures. This, after all, is
the primary legacy of Cast Lead, Israel’s massive attack on Gaza’s entrapped population.

If the Reut Institute really wanted to offer some helpful advice on how Israel might stop the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, they might start by advising the Israeli government to end the
occupation.

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