- Where does NIF stand on issues of religious pluralism?
- Does NIF fund programs in the Occupied Territories?
- Why does NIF focus substantial resources on supporting Arab organizations in Israel?
- What is NIF’s position on boycott, divestment and sanctions?
- What is NIF’s position on attempts to prosecute Israeli officials outside Israel?
- Jewish Nation-State Basic Law
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NIF stands for freedom of and from religion and the right to individual decision and conscience.
We oppose religious coercion and the monopolistic practices of the ultra-Orthodox- controlled Rabbinate in Israel, which curtails personal and religious freedom in such matters as Jewish identity and citizenship, marriage, divorce and burial. NIF supports a variety of strategies to combat this monopoly, and to promote the rights of all Jewish streams to receive official recognition and equal allocation of State resources. NIF is currently the only major funder with a dedicated program promoting pluralistic voices in the Orthodox community; the seed-funder of Israel’s first secular yeshivot; and the promoter of several initiatives against religiously-based racism targeting Israel’s minorities.
NIF funds “amutot” (non-profit organizations) that are registered with and approved by the Israeli government. However, given the huge impact of the occupation on Israeli democracy and society, NIF does support Israeli amutot that work on human rights and social justice issues in the Occupied Territories, or work to constrain the settlement enterprise.
Why does NIF focus substantial resources on supporting Arab (Palestinian-Israeli) organizations in Israel?
The New Israel Fund was among the first funders of Palestinian-Israeli civil society – the organizations that have won groundbreaking victories for civil and human rights for Israel’s most disenfranchised minority. As documented by the Israeli government in the Or Commission Report, the 20% of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian have suffered de facto and de jure discrimination since the founding of the state. The New Israel Fund serves on the steering committee of the Task Force for Israeli-Arab Issues, a group that includes many American Jewish mainstream groups who have come to recognize the importance of this issue.
We support Arab as well as joint Jewish-Arab civil society organizations that work to protect and promote the rights of Arab citizens on issues ranging from land and water rights to equal access to education, employment and housing. Our work in the Bedouin community, Israel’s most impoverished, has resulted in the recognition of previously unrecognized villages, the rejection of government-enforced dislocation and the slow but steady provision of basic infrastructure and services to this dramatically underserved population. From incubating micro-enterprise to uniting women against honor killings, no one has done more to empower Palestinian women than the New Israel Fund family.
Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens live together in one small nation, but bring dramatically different narratives to their shared land and citizenship. Understanding the Arab minority narrative means that we do not demand adherence to Zionist principles as a condition of our support. Achieving meaningful coexistence between these two populations will require patience, dialogue and mutual respect, including the freedom to disagree about Israel’s most difficult and existential issues.
The New Israel Fund is committed to strengthening democracy in Israel, supports freedom of speech and promotes non-violent means of expression of belief and conscience. We oppose any attempt to criminalize the legitimate expression of support for any non-violent strategy or tactic, including the global BDS movement which we do not ourselves support.
The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland.
NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.
However, NIF opposes the occupation and settlement activities. NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that lawfully discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.
NIF respects the principle of universal jurisdiction as an expression of the universality of human rights and as a means of safeguarding rights in undemocratic regimes. But as the leading organization advancing democracy in Israel, the New Israel Fund strongly believes that our job is to work within Israel to ensure democratic accountability and ensure that those who break or circumvent Israeli laws are brought to justice in Israel.
With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts or apply the generally-accepted principle of universal jurisdiction against Israel or Israeli officials.
The New Israel Fund opposes the passage of the Jewish nation-state bill, in all its iterations, as it will undermine the principle for equal rights for citizens of the state as well as harm the delicate fabric of life in Israel. Israel’s Declaration of Independence clearly asserts that Israel is both the Jewish homeland and a democracy that confers equal rights on all its citizens – no further legislation is necessary.
At a time when Jewish-Arab relations in Israel are particularly difficult, this proposed Basic Law would damage the democratic nature of the state by creating a precedent whereby Jews could be legally favored over non-Jews. Potentially, this new Basic Law would provide for the establishment of two tiers of Israeli citizenship, one for Jewish citizens and one for everyone else. Additionally, this legislation allows for the possibility of allowing Jewish religious law to influence legislation and court decisions. This violates fundamental democratic principles regarding religious pluralism and freedom of religion for Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis alike.
We join with President Reuben Rivlin, dozens of legal experts, political scientists, and leaders of mainstream organizations in both the U.S. and Israel in opposing this legislation as harmful and unnecessary.
For additional information, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.