The New Israel Fund is committed to a democratic Israel in which progressive voices are not intimidated, threatened and misrepresented. The coarsening of discourse in Israel is an issue that many thoughtful commentators have raised, as is the unprecedented series of attacks on the Israeli-Arab community exemplified by the proposed Nakba and loyalty-oath legislation. Disgraceful behavior by some who disagree with our values or actions only demonstrates their real objective – to silence dissent and mute unpopular voices, particularly in the human rights community.
Recently the New Israel Fund family has experienced some particularly virulent attacks by our ideological adversaries. As the leading organization committed to equality and justice for all Israelis, we’ve survived 30 years of criticism, and we accept that innovating and supporting cutting-edge social change is not a business for the thin-skinned.
There is a difference, however, between legitimate debate and incitement, fraud and fabrication. We are issuing this statement to set the record straight on some issues that continue to be debated in Israel and elsewhere.
- Last week, in response to the report from NIF grantee Breaking the Silence regarding IDF conduct in the Gaza war, two hosts for Israel’s official Army Radio station suggested “breaking the bones” of Breaking the Silence. Other inflammatory remarks by those hosts, in that broadcast and later in response to NIF Executive Director in Israel Eliezer Ya’ari’s official letter of complaint to the IDF, are clearly beyond the pale of legitimate commentary on the IDF’s official radio station. As noted by David Grossman, AB Yehoshua and others, it is appropriate to hear the testimonies of the Breaking the Silence soldiers with careful attention, and to consider their veracity in light of the tremendous implications of their statements. Inciting violence against an organization that takes on the most difficult issues on behalf of those with every reason to stay silent is a blemish on Army Radio and by extension the IDF.
- In June, the Internet site known as the Israel Resource News Agency published an attack on the Arab-Israeli organization I’lam, and on NIF as one of I’lam’s funding sources. I’lam has carefully refuted the substance of the article in its own report. However, the so-called journalists associated with IRNA founder David Bedein who contacted I’lam and the New Israel Fund used fraudulent methods to request information and to produce their “report,” including using faked identities, secretly recording conversations, disguising the organizational affiliation of the “journalists” and lying about NIF’s ‘refusal to comment.’ NIF does not cooperate with the uncredentialed, Kahanist IRNA and the other pseudo-organizations it uses as fronts for an extreme agenda, which certainly must have provoked but does not excuse the fraudulent approach.
- As JTA reported on June 17 and 18, the NGO Monitor regularly ‘plays fast and loose’ with the facts regarding NIF, its partners and grantees. Gerald Steinberg and the NGOM are entitled to their viewpoint – with the understanding that it is indeed a viewpoint and not in any way the product of objective “monitoring” of NIF and its affiliated organizations. This is, as the article noted, not the first time NGOM has deliberately or carelessly misrepresented our relationships to other organizations and our own funding sources. We expect the NGOM to get its facts straight, as well as be more honest with its readers about its own particular, right-of-center agenda.
We intend to raise our voice and that of our extended family of organizations on behalf of the values that Israel cannot abandon, the values of freedom of conscience, individual rights, minority rights and free and fair discourse. And we ask Israelis and progressive lovers of Israel around the world to join us, now. The stakes could not be higher.