I don’t have a lot to add to Richard Silverstein’s sobering post on the New Israel Fund’s proposal to denying grants to groups that do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The Forward brings distressing news that the New Israel Fund has prepared draft funding guidelines that would bar any Israeli NGO which did not endorse Israel as a Jewish state.
I have, throughout the Im Tirzu attacks, stood by NIF and championed its cause. But if it follows through on such guidelines it will have succumbed to the venom spewed by Im Tirzu. It will have caved to pressure from the Israeli right to conform its mission to a pro-Zionist one, rather than one that embraces the notion of Israel as a state that empowers all its citizens, including those who are not Jewish.
Silverstein goes on to point out how if this is a response to right wing attacks on New Israel Fund, it is unlikely to appease those critics.
The NIF, under enormous pressure from the Israeli right, determines that it must compromise with its values in order to appease its enemies? Does NIF really believe this will protect it from the worst of the hatred coming its way?
If this is what NIF’s leaders are thinking they are sadly mistaken. If they cave, the right will see this as a sign of weakness and it will crowd in for what it hopes to be the kill. And such compromise will destroy the organization’s credibility among its Arab donees. Who in the Palestinian community will want to accept money from it under such conditions?
We have also supported the New Israel Fund many times on these pages, and been inspired by their work. One of my first posts here at Muzzlewatch was how impressed I was by a panel at JStreet’s conference organized by the New Israel Fund. Its most powerful moment came when a Jewish Israeli, Hagai El-Ad of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said he was not afraid of the Palestinian narrative of their own dispossession in the creation of Israel being taught in Israeli schools. He was afraid of an Israel where such a thing would not be possible.
I think the New Israel Fund should apply the words of their donee El-Ad in this case. NIF has nothing to fear from groups who have a different vision of just what a “New Israel” would look like. Provided they advocate their vision democratically, such groups, many of them Palestinian citizens of Israel, can only strengthen the democratic values that sustain Jewish Israelis as well, values that the New Israel Fund has supported in the past. What they should fear is a country that outlaws such alternative visions, a country that would make it far more difficult for the NIF to do its important work.
UPDATE: Richard Silverstein reports that the attempts to muzzle grantees were defeated. Good news!
My source tells me the proposed guidelines will include a provision acknowledging Israel as a Jewish homeland. But the language will also affirm that Israel is:
…A democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities.
Not perfect language, but Silverstein beileves the compromise to be in good faith.