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  • Voting for human rights, with our feet!

    08 December 2011

    By Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of flagship NIF grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel

    This Friday, Tel Aviv will witness the country's third annual Human Rights March. Thousands of people from different backgrounds will come together for the most diverse event of the year, united through one universal message: all human rights for all human beings.

    In an uplifting initiative, Haifa too will witness such a march – for the first time ever. Activists seasoned in the summer's social justice protests, joining hands with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and many others, will take to the streets of what is not only one of Israel's best examples for a shared society, but also happens to be my hometown, in a joint march for equality, rights, and justice.

    Clearly – more Israelis are standing up for human rights. That is good news in a country where fewer members of Knesset are doing so.

    In recent weeks, the assault on democracy in the Knesset reached new lows. It is a broad assault – targeting the High Court of Justice, civil society organizations, freedom of speech, and the rights of Israel's largest minority – the Arab citizens in this country. In a deeper sense, much of this legislation is either inspired by the occupation or meant to enable its prolonging. Sometimes the bills presented by MKs seem like a parody of their dogmatic initiatives, such as the bill requiring a loyalty oath in order to get a driver's license (I didn't make this one up). Sometimes it is simply plain embarrassing, such as when MK Akunis recently stated, on camera, that "[Senator Joe] McCarthy was right about everything." (I didn't make this one up either).

    Self-inflicted parody aside, the danger to democracy thus created is very serious – coming from a stable coalition government that has already succeeded in advancing some of these bills into law, that is running all the key committees in the Knesset, and that seems relentless in its pursuit to change the rules of the game, even mid-game, in order to get what it wants. Constitutional principles? These are the days of the tyranny of the majority here. Democratic values? "It is democratic because we have the majority now," so goes the answer.

    Fortunately, such answers have not resulted in the public giving up on continuing to fight for a different future here. After a summer of massive public demonstrations for social justice, the Knesset indeed seems to not only ignore all that, but also to be back to its anti-democratic agenda. But we have a different outlook.

    We believe that Israel shouldn't be competing internationally to be the most socioeconomically unequal nation, or the one with the highest poverty rates. Recent OECD figures put Israel together with the U.S. amongst the worst such societies of the developed nations, with gaps in Israel growing faster than in almost any other OECD country. We believe that housing, education, and health are human rights – not commodities. We will continue fighting for these rights.

    We believe that all Israelis are equal – fully equal. That the systematic discrimination inflicted on the Arab citizens of Israel is as shameful as it is illegal. That the rising expressions of racism in this country can easily be traced back to statements made by the Foreign Minister, and to the proper actions not being taken by the Prime Minister. That when some of us are less equal than others – none of us are equal. We will continue fighting for full equality.

    We believe that the realization of human rights is incompatible with a prolonged military occupation. We will continue fighting not for a "better" occupation, but for nothing less than its end.

    We believe that freedom of speech is for all of us, certainly not only for those expressing what the government enjoys hearing. We believe that discrimination and segregation in public spaces against women in Israel has reached levels that render us aghast – but that even a single such instance is already too much. We believe in human rights.

    So if you are in Israel, come to the annual Human Rights March. If you have friends or family here, tell them to come to stand up for our rights with the many others that are similar to you and the many more that are different. When we stand up together for all our rights, we not only demand a more just future: we create it.

  • We Are Proud To Support Human Rights And Democracy

    13 January 2014

    Since the massive asylum seekers demonstration in Tel Aviv on December 28th, there has been a coordinated and unprecedented right-wing campaign accusing NIF/SHATIL and its grantees of instigating the asylum seekers as part of a wider strategy aimed at transforming Israel into a "state of all its citizens." This is one of the most concerted attacks on NIF for quite some time. For example, Ronen Shoval, who this week announced that he was resigning as Im Tirtzu chair, wrote the following in an op-ed: "Lurking behind the infiltrators is a series of organizations that seek to delegitimize Israel that are financed by foreign countries and funds (such as the New Israel Fund), whose goal is clear: to do away with Israel’s Jewish and democratic character." Similar allegations have been made by a number of other right-wing figures.

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  • We Are Stronger - But Are We Strong Enough?

    01 May 2014

    From lessons learned to hope for the future, Hagai El-Ad reflects upon the past 6 years as head of flagship NIF grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

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  • We Know, We Know

    14 November 2013

    "We who are active in the American Jewish community know that the conversation has moved on from ‘Israel-right-or-wrong’ to asking a deeper question: How can we help our Israeli cousins build an Israel that is right?"

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  • We mourn. We don't avenge.

    02 July 2014

    There are many Israelis working toward a vision of an Israel in which every voice and every life is respected. They need our support now.

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  • We Must Not Be Silenced by Spin

    12 February 2014

    Rachel Liel responds to recent campaigns designed to intimidate progressive voices in Israel.

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  • We Will Not Be Deterred

    29 April 2014

    It seems silly at first. 100 men and women are planning to blow shofars outside the UJA-Federation office in New York this evening. They're calling on the UJA to exclude NIF, Partners for a Progressive Israel, and B’Tselem from New York's Celebrate Israel Parade based on the phony charge that we support the global BDS movement.

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  • We Won the Battle...

    06 April 2011

    But the war for democratic values in Israel will go on.

    Yesterday, the leadership of the Kadima party decided not to support a proposed Committee of Parliamentary Inquiry into the New Israel Fund and the human rights organizations it supports. The proposed inquiry, initiated by a Kadima MK, was in response to a vicious campaign launched against NIF two weeks ago by a new right-wing group, attempting to blame Israel’s human rights community for the Goldstone report on Gaza. The immediate threat of a Knesset inquiry has abated for now.

    Because of the outcry of thousands of people of conscience like you, and hundreds of Israeli and American Jewish leaders, journalists, academics and activists across the political spectrum, extremists in the Knesset will not at this time hold NIF and democratic values hostage to a frightening ideological agenda. But those in Israel and elsewhere who equate the work of human rights groups, the monitoring, reporting and self-examination so critical to the functioning of a democracy, with treason will not stop their efforts to shut us up and shut us down.

    So we, too, cannot stop fighting.

    The New Israel Fund has never invested resources in “building its brand” or PR for the sake of PR. Every dollar we raise that is not spent on basic operations goes towards building a better Israel, in direct or indirect investments in grassroots social change. But the days of being the strong, silent type are over.

    In the coming days and weeks, we will work with you, our friends and supporters, and with the organizations we support in Israel to take a positive stand on behalf of human rights and social justice. In Israel and in the U.S., in Canada and the UK, we will take every step to emphasize the vision of Israel founders, the Jewish and universal values that must underlie a democratic state, and the real reasons that Israel can refer to itself as the “only democracy in the Middle East.”

    Please, continue and increase your support. Be ready to contact the Prime Minister and Ambassador Oren. Involve your friends and families, your temples, youth groups and other progressive organizations. If ever there was a time to take a stand for the Israel we can be proud of, that time is now.

    Your help last week made a huge difference. Stand by to speak out again.

    Sincerely,

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    Daniel Sokatch
    Chief Executive Officer