FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Naomi Paiss
202-513-7824 / 301-503-0399
In response to attacks on NIF and Israeli attorney Michael Sfard focusing on Israeli victims of terror attacks, the New Israel Fund issued the following statement:
“In another attempt to smear the New Israel Fund and the Israeli human rights community, certain extremist commentators and publications have asserted that Israeli attorney Michael Sfard, who often represents NIF-supported human rights groups, testified in defense of terrorists in a lawsuit asking for damages for Israeli victims of terrorist attacks.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Sfard, an internationally respected attorney and a brave voice for human and civil rights, was asked for a professional opinion regarding the Israeli justice system, on which he is expert, and to explain to the jury how Israeli law defines “security offences” and “security prisoners.” He provided that opinion, without in any way suggesting that there was or is any justification, legally or morally, for attacks on Israeli civilians.
In fact, Mr. Sfard, when asked if suicide bombings were war crimes, said he thinks they are worse than war crimes and can be classified as crimes against humanity. Although the right-wing press covered the case extensively, this key comment has not been reported.
The New Israel Fund has always condemned terrorist attacks unequivocally and of course did not participate in any way in the New York lawsuit. As a matter of principle we support the right of every victim of violence, whether Jewish or Palestinian, to seek legal redress. Mr. Sfard also states that claims for compensation of terror victims are a legitimate legal strategy and that those who are responsible for such crimes should be both punished and pay compensation.
The latest attempts to attack NIF through Mr. Sfard’s legal opinions in this case are of a piece with the increasingly vicious attempts to smear and delegitimize progressive organizations – and, in the election campaign, politicians – in Israel and the U.S. From suggesting that a Zionist Camp win would result in an ISIS takeover of Jerusalem to falsely accusing NIF and its organizations of partisan political activity (for which Likud’s attorney had to apologize), to calling out respected NIF donors in extremist publications, these attacks appear to be coordinated attempts to destroy opponents of the most hard-line government policies and to continue to stifle dissent.
The New Israel Fund will seek legal opinion regarding the possibly libelous nature of these attacks in both Israel and the United States.”