We at the New Israel Fund, the largest private funder of the Israeli human rights community, are deeply concerned by the latest attacks on the organizations we support. The verbal assaults on Breaking the Silence, an organization of IDF combat soldiers reporting their experiences in enforcing the occupation in the territories, play on Israelis’ deepest fears and uncertainties about what is asked of their own children during their army service. The new campaign by the extremist Im Tirtzu group, naming and inciting against four human rights leaders, is designed to further delegitimize the proper work of human rights organizations while endangering the personal safety of these leaders who are our friends and allies. Not for nothing did an Israeli judge deem Im Tirtzu to have “fascist attributes.”
What is behind the resurgent attacks? We at NIF know that our recent New York conference with Haaretz, attended by President Rubi Rivlin and congratulated by President Obama, enraged and alarmed the ultranationalist right in both Israel and the U.S. even in its planning stages. The spectacle of more than 1000 American progressives building bridges with Israel’s center-left leadership had to be attacked.
As important, the recent investigative reports by Ha’aretz and by Peace Now conclusively detailed the enormous amount of foreign and Israeli government funding, much of it opaque or surreptitious, going to Israel’s most hardline NGOs. The self-dealing and corruption, the lack of transparency and the tangled web of donors, staff, volunteer leadership and supposedly independent institutions in both Israel and abroad is all too obvious. As the settler Jewish Home party tries to hammer legislation constricting progressive NGOs through the Knesset, the new reports make a mockery of the right’s stated objective of transparency, not to mention its self-righteous disdain for foreign funding.
Finally, Israel’s hardliners are looking for scapegoats. They control Israel’s governing coalition and are still unable to provide Israelis with security or stop the deterioration of its international standing. The EU’s decision to label settlement goods, the Obama Administration’s refusal to allow Congress to lump the settlements in with sovereign Israel for trade protection, the continued terrorist attacks — all these contribute to an understanding by the settler right that it is beleaguered, that it is losing, and that it needs to give Israelis somebody else to blame.
In the long run Israelis will not sacrifice their Jewish and democratic homeland to extremists. At the same time, we know that these extremists will continue their desperate attacks on President Rivlin, human rights groups and NIF, as well as on the judiciary, on independent media, and on other democratic institutions. We will protect ourselves and our friends, we will continue our fight for Israeli democracy, and we will not – not one of us – be silenced.