A smear campaign was launched last week against leading Israeli social justice organisation, the New Israel Fund. In what Meretz MK Haim Oron, described as a “show trial,” NIF has been blasted for apparently being the “life-force” behind the UN’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead and the delegitimisation of Israel in the international court of opinion.
But this campaign to discredit NIF and its grantee organisations amounts to nothing less than an attack on freedom of speech.
On 29 January 2010, Israeli tabloid Ma’ariv published the findings of a report by right-wing student group, Im Tirtzu, claiming that over 90% of allegations against the IDF in the Goldstone report came from 16 NIF-funded Israeli NGOs. The following day Im Tirtzu organised a demonstration outside the Jerusalem home of NIF president, Prof Naomi Hazan (pictured), with dozens of activists dressed as Hamas terrorists, as well as running an advert in the Jerusalem Post depicting a demonic Prof Hazan wearing a horn.
It didn’t take long for Im Tirtzu’s “research” to be debunked and dismembered. Anshel Pfeffer did a good job in Ha’aretz:
“What is being said here? Im Tirzu is not claiming that any of the information supplied by these organizations was false. It is simply questioning the very legitimacy of free speech in Israel.”
In support of Israeli democracy
NIF is a philanthropic organisation that funds over 300 organisations working to make Israel a better country, in line with the vision of its founding fathers. NIF grantees pursue social justice, civil and human rights, religious pluralism and safeguarding the environment.
One need not agree with every position of every organisation that NIF funds, which range from Breaking the Silence and B’tselem to Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. But supporters of democracy should stand up for the New Israel Fund – and many already have, including journalists from Ma’ariv itself.
Ori Nir from Americans for Peace Now said it succinctly:
“The New Israel Fund is an asset to Israel‘s democracy, as are its grantee organizations. Attempts to silence them should not be tolerated by the Israeli public and by friends of a free and democratic Israel worldwide.“
But this sorry episode has left me with a feeling of déjà vu.
One thing that struck me is how many NIF grantees would find themselves boycotted by anti-Israel activists here in the UK. For instance, Israeli groups that promote cooperation between Jews and Arabs.
There’s an uneasy parallel between the recent McCarthyist attacks on NIF and the British Left-Islamist coalition’s campaign to silence and boycott those who fail to tow their party line of an Israel-free Middle East. It seems that the two sides have more in common that they would like to admit.
- New Israel Fund UK on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/newisraelfunduk?ref=ts
- New Israel Fund (Israel website) http://www.nif.org/
- coteret.com Hebrew news from the Israel media in English
- Prof Naomi Hazan sacked by Jerusalem Post. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1147998.html
See also my Greens Engage post, New Israel Fund needs international solidarity; Jews outside Israel need theirs.