The New Israel Fund (NIF), the American based progressive organization that sponsors social justice projects in Israel, is the victim of a new smear campaign launched by the right-wing movement “Im Tirzu” (אם תרצו) and picked up by Israeli media. Im Tirzu, together with right-wing MK’s and even IDF and Shin Beit seniors, are demanding Knesset and government actions that will prevent the NIF from transferring funds to Israeli human rights and peace organizations – and possibly even ban the organization altogether.
Im Tirzu’s campaign against NIF started in the cover story of Maariv’s political section this weekend. An article by Maariv’s senior political correspondent, Ben Caspit, quoted a claim put forward by Im Tirzu, according to which human rights and peace groups are responsible to more than 90 percent of the evidence against Israel in the Goldstone report. This was a gross misrepresentation of the facts to begin with, because as even Im Tirzu’s representatives admit, the Goldstone report was based mainly on evidence collected form Palestinians and international sources. From the data provided by Israeli sources, 42 percent came form human rights groups. It didn’t bother Mr. Caspit to make it sound like it was Israeli NGO’s who were behind the entire report.
Israel’s image is at an all-times low. International pressure is mounting, and with it the calls for boycott. All this was fueled by the Goldstone report, which was in itself fueled by Israeli sources. The funding for these sources is provided by, amongst others, the NIF. The question is whether the New Israeli Fund is indeed for Israel.
Caspit mentions 300 grassroots and social organizations receiving funds through the NIF, and asks: “is all this activity just intended to serve as a front for radical subversive activity, acting against the very foundations of the state?”
Caspit never bothered to call anyone in the INF or other NGO’s to discuss this story. The fund was only given a few words of official comment at the bottom of the article, and the notion that “more than 90 percent of the Goldstone report is based on Israeli sources” has become a “fact” used by the mainstream media.
During the weekend, Im Tirzu activists demonstrated in front of the house of former MK and the chairman of the NIF, Naomi Hazan. They were dressed with Kafia’s and carried signs saying “I hate the IDF, and I support Naomi Hazan.”
Today (Sunday), the popular host of channel 2 news, Avri Gilad, interviewed on his morning show one of the heads of Im Tirzu, and while doing so, referred to this demonstration as a left wing one against the IDF. “The signs say it all,” Gilad said. “They hate the IDF.” Had channel 2 bothered to check the clip before airing it, or to host in their studio someone from the NIF, they would have found out immediately that this is a right wing hoax. But Gilad was in such a rush to denounce the left, such details never bothered him, and he even repeated his mistake on his radio show on the IDF station.
You can watch the interview here. The protest comes after 4:40 min.
Today, Im Tirzu wrapped things up in a Der Strumer-style add at the Jerusalem post aimed against Naomi Hazan and the NIF (shown above). Meanwhile, in Maariv, Ben Caspit reported that the Knesset will discuss “the involvement of the NIF in the Goldstone report”. MK Yisrael Hasson (from opposition party Kadima!) called to investigate all NGO’s “which aid Hamas with their activities.”
As Didi Remez pointed on Coteret blog, Maariv’s story this morning reveals that even IDF and Shin Beit officials are involved for sometime in efforts to introduce measures against Israeli human rights organizations:
Now it turns out that the materials exposed on the weekend are familiar to the IDF authorities and the legal authorities in Israel. Some of them were given half a year ago to the Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit.
He checked the material and gave it to the Atty. Gen., with a recommendation to open an official investigation. No such investigation has been made so far. The Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet; GSS] is also familiar with the material and the sensitive issue. Taking action against this is not simple because NIF is a registered association in the US. Also, it is noteworthy that a large part of the fund’s activities in Israel are devoted to social and public issues of the first order.
At the time of writing, following Maariv, other right wing media organizations in Israel are joining the campaign, and even the Examiner is now claiming NIF and Naomi Hazan (“former Member of Knesset for the semi-Marxist Meretz Party”, as they refer to her) are in fact front men for Hamas.
I will report more on this issue in the next few days.