Jerusalem: Ben Caspit, a leading Israeli journalist who exclusively broke the first major attack “report” on the New Israel Fund in 2010, yesterday said that he regretted his role in platforming the accusations from the extremist group Im Tirtzu. The report erroneously accused NIF and its human rights grantees of being the primary sources for the controversial Goldstone Report on the actions of the Israeli military in the first Gaza operation in 2008. It quickly set off a firestorm in Israel, accompanied as it was by a major ad campaign featuring a caricature of then-NIF President Naomi Chazan with a horn on her head.
“Enough with these ridiculous slogans, by the way I am the one who published the investigation piece about the New Israel Fund, so go bark up a different tree, and I regret it,” said Caspit in an interview with Oren Chazan on the Chamash B’Erev program on Radio Tel Aviv. Chazan was attacking Caspit for not being hard enough on leftists, as well as defending a new video, sponsored by the Samaria Settlers’ Committee, portraying NIF and other progressive organizations as a hook-nosed Jew betraying Israel in exchange for European money. Even Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-right, settler Jewish Home party, repudiated the video and told the Samaria Committee to apologize.
The statement from Caspit follows an official apology earlier this month from the attorney for the Likud party to NIF, after Likud had erroneously claimed that the V15 campaign operation was funded by NIF. Meanwhile, in the wake of the withdrawal by several right-wing politicians from the Ha’aretz Democracy conference tomorrow, purportedly because of its co-sponsorship by NIF, several conservative journalists have criticized those withdrawals as wrongheaded and cowardly.
“We at the New Israel Fund have always understood that the attacks on us and our partners are politically motivated,” said NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch. “Our opposition to the occupation, our strengthening of the weakest sectors in Israeli society and our core values of equality and democracy threaten the extremist, nationalist narrative of the hard right.”
“It is no accident that in the election season the attacks are again accelerating, and it is heartening that honest journalists and political leaders are exposing or admitting the agenda behind them.”
In 2014, the New Israel Fund launched its New Initiatives For Democracy (NIF-D) program, designed to build a new infrastructure and institutions to serve and unite the progressive sector, as well as expand the progressive camp with innovative outreach. In its initial stages NIF-D is partnering with and incubating think tanks, online organizing and constituency-building organizations. Because of the scope of the new program and growing concerns among progressives outside Israel regarding the increasing dangers to Israeli democracy, in 2014 the New Israel Fund had the most successful fundraising year in its history, with a 14% increase over its robust 2013 totals.
“This week we are holding our semi-annual NIF board meeting in Jerusalem,” Sokatch continued. “Our spirit of commitment, among our lay leadership, staff and partners, has never been stronger. And, as I told our Board, if we were not continuing to attract attacks from extremists in both Israel and the U.S., it would mean we were doing something wrong.”