New Israel Fund: boycott is “inflammatory and counterproductive”

By Kubbeh

The New Israel Fund is a Jewish Israeli not-for-profit-organisation that, in its own words, is “committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis”. In the past year, NIF has found itself in an unusual position – under attack from all sides: from both right wing activists in Israel, as well as international left and  anti-Zionist activists calling for the boycott of Israeli civil society.

In a recent article in Zeek magazine (Don’t Divest; Invest), NIF’s Naomi Pass slammed boycott, sanctions and divestment as a “blunt force” that “penalizes the innocent” and contributes to the rightwards shift among moderate Israelis:

“We see global BDS as a tactic that embodies the message that Israel cannot and will not change itself, and for that reason, we think it is inflammatory and counter-productive. We see proposals that would ban Israeli academics, no matter what their personal and political views may be, from participation in the free exchange of ideas in international conferences. We see artists and musicians, who often come bearing badly-needed messages of peace and tolerance, being urged to take Israel off their tour itineraries…

“And we disagree. The way to change Israel is not to divest, but to invest in Israelis and Palestinians who are struggling every day to change the status quo.”

Read the full article, Don’t Divest; Invest.


21 Responses to “New Israel Fund: boycott is “inflammatory and counterproductive””

  1. Hawkeye Says:

    Kubbeh

    It would seem that NIF’s statements on BDS seem to contradict their actions in particular their funding of Adalah, one of the leaders of BDS. According to NGO Monitor, over $1m went to Adalah from NIF in the years 2006-2008.http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/adalah

    One may also want to ask themselves for example why to this day donations in the US for Adalah go through the NIF http://www.adalah.org/eng/support.php.

    Just wondering ya know.

    P.s. I would have thought that a site like Engage that purports to oppose BDS would join those “right wing activists in Israel” in condemning NIF and exposing them for the fraud that they are. Or am I missing something.

    • Kubbeh Says:

      Thanks for your comment Hawkeye. You say that Adalah is “one of the leaders of BDS” – please can you provide some evidence for this claim? (there is no mention of this on your NGO Monitor link)

      • Hawkeye Says:

        Kubbeh [and Brian]:

        You are indeed right. I was getting my Adalah’s mixed up.

        However the Adalah funded by NIF supports something even more insidious than BDS – the one-state solution. How does NIF reconcile funding of such an organization when it says on its website “The New Israel Fund was founded more than 30 years ago to actualize the vision of Israel’s Founders, that of a Jewish and democratic state”?

        Do you support the one-state solution Kubbeh? Do you think that it is appropriate for the NIF to support such a platform? Do you think its appropriate for Engage to be touting the NIF – and its not the first time I’ve seen it.

        As for NIF’s support of BDS you can see evidence of that under the heading “NIF Funds Groups Promoting Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)” in the following document
        http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/nif_detailed_research.

        And please don’t respond with a shoot the messenger type argument attacking NGO Monitor.

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    According to Hawkeye, “Adalah [is] one of the leaders of BDS.”

    Okay, so I clicked on the link provided, and then followed the further link to Adalah’s own website, where it described itself. Not a whisper (no matter how paranoid one is) of support for BDS.

    Perhaps Hawkeye can enlighten us with a proper link to show this alleged support.

  3. Margie Says:

    Wish you were right Bryan Goldfarb
    Unfortunately you will read this
    Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East and the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI) are pleased to announce their merger and reformation as Adalah-NY:’
    at the website http://boycottisraelnyc.org/category/857/nycbi-merges-adalah-ny

  4. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Given Kubbeg’s response to Margie above, the request to Hawkeye stands. And a mere reference to Margie’s link is no evidence. Far more than this is needed.

  5. Philip Says:

    I’m all in favour of investing in Israelis and Palestinians who are struggling to change the status quo. The problem is that far greater sums are being spent on investing in people who want to keep the status quo. The boycott compaign is a reaction, god or bad, to the stark reality. It’s about trying to redress the balance.

    Now boycott might be a terrible idea, but it’s important to understand the underlying reason. I suspect that many will be sympathetic to that reason.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “Now boycott might be a terrible idea, but it’s important to understand the underlying reason. I suspect that many will be sympathetic to that reason.”

      Depends on the reason, doesn’t it, Philip? Would you still support BDS if it was overwhelmingly clear that the reason for proposing such steps was antisemitism?

      • Philip Says:

        I don’t support BDS.

        If I thought it was being proposed because of antisemitism I would not support it. I was unaware that this was the official position of Engage? I thought that the problem was the danger of falling into patterns of antisemeitism rather than antisemitic motives. Do you have any evidence that the BDS campaign is motivated by antisemitism that you’d care to present?

        Care to address my other point?

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Care to answer the question posed to you, Philip, or are you going to continue your habit of ignoring any points that appear to be uncomfortable? Further, I didn’t mention BDS, you did in your response. Thus, you give the impression of changing the focus of my comment. I’m sure you didn’t mean to.

          You gave the clear impression that you would support a boycott (which I took to be in general terms and not specific to the Middle East, but you might have meant in the context of the focus of this website), depending on the reason for it. Do you or don’t you?

          Simple enough question.

          Then we have this: “If I thought [BDS] was being proposed because of antisemitism I would not support it.” So, you _would_ support BDS if you were satisfied that the reason(s) for such a proposal were other than antisemitic? Another simple question, I would have thought. However, given that the proponents of BDS pursue no other state to boycott, divest from or impose sanctions on than Israel, the one Jewish state in the whole wide world, and that they have yet to produce any (let alone any credible) evidence that Israel is either guilty of the alleged crimes they lay on it or is the worse offender in the field of human rights than any other state in the whole wide world, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that their campaign might just be based on the fact that Israel is the only Jewish state.

          (Sorry for the long sentence, but it is grammatical and it does make linguistic sense.)

          That makes the BDS campaign suspect in the antisemitism field. Not necessarily guilty, just prima facie suspect .

          Now, as for “I was unaware that this was the official position of Engage?”, this is yet another example of you indulging in faux naivety, Philip. You know very well what Engage’s ‘official position’ is: it’s up there in the top left-hand corner of this and every page under “About us”. Just click on it and you will taken to the Engage mission statement.

          Now if that’s too complicated for you, I’ll lay it out for you in simple terms: this site was founded to oppose the proposed boycott of Israeli universities by the then AUT. Inter alia, this was on grounds of the sanctity of academic freedom, on the basis (in a phrase I sort of coined) that an attack on academic freedom anywhere was an attack on it everywhere. I was not a founding member or editor of the site, but I was a “founding commenter”, and I fully subscribe to that mission statement, as well as to the Euston Manifesto, of which I am a signatory.

          It rapidly became clear that at least some of the proponents of the boycott (and the wider ramifications of the D & S as well) were, if not antisemitic, not averse to using antisemitic tropes, as well as making outrageous statements, totally unsupported by evidence.

          “Do you have any evidence that the BDS campaign is motivated by antisemitism that you’d care to present?” More faux naivety. I have already answered that point immediately above, and large numbers of others have also, throughout these columns addressed this point. If you refuse to accept this evidence, then we can’t make you do so. We can only highlight your refusal or failure to acknowledge this evidence for what it is. That’s your problem, not ours. But if you really insist, and the moderators allow, I’ll happily answer in a separate comment in more detail.

          “Care to address my other point?” Gladly. What was it? I see no other point that I and numerous others haven’t addressed before. My comment in the paragraph above about acceptance of evidence applies here, too.

        • Philip Says:

          You asked: ‘Would you still support BDS if it was overwhelmingly clear that the reason for proposing such steps was antisemitism?’

          I answered: ‘If I thought it was being proposed because of antisemitism I would not support it‘. That’s a pretty clear answer. I do not, however, believe that I have seen any evidence to suggested that BDS is motivated by antisemitism, which is the key rider in your question. Nor does engage suggest that BDS is motivated by antisemitism. The rest of your comment therefore seems odd and redundant.

          On your other points, no, I would not support BDS if I thought it was not antisemitic. The only grounds upon which I would support it is if I thought that it had a good chance of dealing with the injustices perpetrated by the Israeli state, and a good chance of furthering peace in the Middle East. Simply because a person expresses a view contrary to a position, does not mean that they endorse the opposite. If you think I hold a position, please give evidence, not an assertion, and not dodgy logic.

          My other point was: The problem is that far greater sums are being spent on investing in people who want to keep the status quo.

  6. Hawkeye Says:

    Kubbeh:

    Here is NIF’s support of BDS in their own words:

    “NIF will not fund BDS activities nor support organizations for which BDS is a substantial element of their activities, but will support organizations that conform to our grant requirements if their support for BDS is incidental or subsidiary to their significant programs.”
    http://www.nif.org/about/selected-nif-policies.html#14

    So as long as it is incidental its ok. Very principled.

    I would like to know why such a great website like Engage which purports to be anti-BDS and campaigning against antisemitism and demonization of Israel is misleading its readers about NIF.

    Perhaps an article exposing the truth about NIF would be appropriate to clarify matters.

    • Kubbeh Says:

      Nowhere has Engage “mislead its readers about NIF”.

      I am still waiting to see evidence of where NIF has given money to an organisation that campaigns for BDS against Israel (Coalition of Women for Peace is nowhere to be seen on NIF’s grantee list). Personally, I don’t have a problem with divesting from companies that work in the settlements since I believe that they are against Israel’s best interests.

      Ultimately, the scorn poured on NIF by NGO Monitor and other right-wing groups that forensically analyse every word NIF says is based on an opposition to democracy, equality and social justice in Israel, not the wording of one statement on their website.

      • Hawkeye Says:

        Kubbeh:

        You obviously didnt read the link that I provided from NGO Monitor because if you follow through the links it will take you to for example the Coalition of Women for Peace’s website that thanks among its donors the NIF – http://coalitionofwomen.org/home/english/donations/thanks_to_friends

        In any case you condemn yourself with your own words by openly supporting BDS.

        All I can say is shame on you. And shame on Engage for giving you a platform.

  7. Hawkeye Says:

    Kubbeh:

    You’ve gone silent…

    In the meantime, read how Jeffrey Goldberg weighs in on the quote I posted earlier today.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/11/the-new-israel-fund-dipping-its-toe-into-the-bds-swamp/66699/

    As Goldberg says:
    “This is one of those bright-line issues, and if NIF wants to get on the wrong side of that line, it should not call itself a pro-Israel organization.”

  8. Gentile Zionist Says:

    Israel should prosecute NIF & Adalah for treason.

    • Yehuda Erdman Says:

      Gentile Zionist “Israel should prosecute NIF & Adalah for treason.”

      A preposterous remark. Vanunu and Amir were traitors according to Israeli legal code. Personally I see Vanunu as a whistle-blower but that is my opinion.
      The NIF is a worthy fund-raising organisation, which I have personally contributed to and intend to again. They reach those parts of Israeli society that the KKL does not have the guts to touch.
      The so-called “Im Tirzu” movement who vociferously campaigned against NIF and its leader Naomi Hazan were shameful. They took the famous mxim which is the Hebrew translation of the first two words of Herzl’s iconic phrase (English translation from the original German), “If you will it, it is no legend”, as their “nomme de guere”.
      They had no right to besmirch the names of Herzl or Hazan for that matter. If you are of their way of thinking stop to reflect where censorship of legitimate debate will lead to in Israeli society.

  9. Absolute Observer Says:

    One good thing about GZ’s comment. It shows precisely the type of ignorant fascist nonsense NIF confronts both within Israel and outside of it.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, this is why NIF and similar groups are needed, to stop this type of racist bigotry,
    “The chief rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliahu, has ruled that Jewish flat-owners are forbidden from renting lodgings to Arab students.”

    One should also note the mature response to this racist intimidation,

    “Safed is not an isolated case,” says Fadi Abu Younes, the chairman of the National Arab Students Union, “it is only the most prominent one now. You hear rabbis and politicians saying similar things in other towns.”
    ‘The media debate does not relect what is happening’
    Despite the media attention, he actually believes that the situation in the town can easily be resolved. “We have had good meetings with the mayor and with the college president,” he says, “and there are plans to locate dependable lodgings for Arab students and also improve transport between the town and the Arab villages. I believe we can marginalise the racist minority.”
    But Mr Younes has a wider concern for Israeli society as a whole. “It is not just the racist legislation that is being proposed in the Knesset, it isn’t even just the anti-Arab feeling. There is a growing wave of intolerance that is sweeping the country, affecting also Jews. We saw it in recent months in the growing voices to push left-wing professors out of universities.”

    For the full story.
    http://www.thejc.com/news/israel-news/41381/segregation-row-israeli-town-safed

    And here,
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/13/AR2010111303776.html

    “Several days later, a building that houses Arab students was attacked by a group of young Jews, and an elderly Holocaust survivor renting a room to students received threats.”

    “Eliahu Zvieli, an 89-year-old resident of the old city who rents a room to three Arab students, said he had received numerous phone calls and visits, including from Rabbi Eliahu, urging him to remove his tenants. One caller threatened to burn down Zvieli’s house, he said. A sign was posted on the gate calling the Arabs’ presence “a shameful disgrace.”

    Zvieli, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary who endured forced-labor and prisoner-of-war camps, said he was not fazed. “I’ve been through a few things, and I’m handling it,” he said. “You can’t surrender to terror.”

    So, on the one hand, you have GZ calling for the law of treason to be applied to NIF, and on the other hand, those like Mr Younes as well as many many Israeli Jews (and not only university “left-wing” professors and authors) including these students,
    http://www.nif.org/issue-areas/stories/nif-forms-pluralist-forum-to.html
    who refuse to bow to such politics.

    “Treason”? yeah right.

  10. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, above makes the following point: “I do not, however, believe that I have seen any evidence to suggested that BDS is motivated by antisemitism, which is the key rider in your question. Nor does engage suggest that BDS is motivated by antisemitism. The rest of your comment therefore seems odd and redundant.”

    The first point to be made is that, of course, not everyone who is in favour of BDS directed against Israel (or, indeed, one or two of those elements) is motivated by antisemitism, nor do they resort, wittingly or otherwise, to the use of antisemitic tropes. However, some (I refuse to attach a percentage or any other measure of magnitude) are. Philip needs to read only to read the very first article on this page, relating to the Morning Star, to see a prime example of the use of antisemitism and antisemitic tropes in support of (in some cases) vicious anti-zionism and worse.

    Then we have Tom Hickey. He is one of the prime movers of the AUT/UCU drive to get boycott motions on the table at AUT/UCU Conferences year after year. He has been often mentioned and linked to on these pages. Here is the link to his (in)famous article in the British Medical Journal back in 2007.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/335/7611/124

    The critical quote from this article is the following:
    “In the case of Israel, we are speaking about a society whose dominant self image is one of a bastion of civilisation in a sea of medieval reaction. And we are speaking of a culture, both in Israel and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora, in which education and scholarship are held in high regard. That is why an academic boycott might have a desirable political effect in Israel, an effect that might not be expected elsewhere.”

    Regrettably, by conflating Jews in the Diaspora and Israelis, Hickey uses a well-known antisemitic trope. It may well be, and probably is, unwitting, but he has never revisited this phrase, never sought to explain or excuse it. Regrettably, that compounds the error.

    Further, Hickey also uses, again, I’m sure, unwittingly, a racist trope, by essentially dismissing as of no account the desires of all others for better education for their children. Note that he is talking in a context of why boycott Israeli universities and not those of other countries, to many, equally bad or worse breachers of human rights.

    Much other evidence on this point has been cited, much of since since Philip started commenting here, so presumably he has seen it. Why he chooses to keep demanding repetition of it is a mystery, but it is there and it does answer his repeqted requests for such evidence as to this aspect of the background to the BDS movement.

    Philip continues in the comment above: “Nor does engage suggest that BDS is motivated by antisemitism. The rest of your comment therefore seems odd and redundant.” Actually “Engage” as an entity may not, but many who comment here (including the Founding Editor) have both actually suggested this and produced evidence in support of such a claim, much as I have done immediately above. Thus my comment is hardly redundant, although to some it may well be odd, especially if they are coming from a different direction.

    However, if Philip were to take 5 minutes or so to read “About us” up there at the top left hand corner of every page page, then he would no longer be able to wonder at what Engage stood for or what it believes or is setting out to achieve.

    On his final point in that comment “My other point was: The problem is that far greater sums are being spent on investing in people who want to keep the status quo,” were Philip to read “, as urged, “About us”, then he would know that many here are in agreement with this point, and would wish to seeit otherwise.

    It’s nice to know we can agree on _something_, however small.

  11. Law 101 Says:

    According to standard rights and equality practice, motivation, whilst important is not the be all and end all.
    If something is, in its effect, but not in its motivation discriminitory, then that will suffice for purposes of rights and equality. One need only think of part-time pay and its gendered effects. Or, again, the effect of not having wheelchair access to a building may not be motivated by discrimination, but its effect is.
    Unfortunately, Philip is using the same justification as those whose acts (but not motives) seek to keep the disabled out of public buildings and women earning less than men.
    Fortunately, the world has moved on since those unenlightened times.


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