NIF denies it will stop supporting Israeli organizations criticizing the Jewish character of the state

Posted: September 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

The New Israel Fund denies that it will change its guidelines in ways that might end the support for organizations such as Mossawa Center and Adalah, who are openly calling for turning Israel into “a state for all its citizens” or a bi-national state.

The concern over the so-called new guidelines rose after an interview given by NIF director Daniel Sokatch to JTA. Sokatch was quoted saying that:

If we had an organization that made part of its project, part of its mission an effort to really, genuinely organize on behalf of creating a constitution that denied Israel as a sovereign vehicle for self-determination for the Jewish people, a Jewish homeland, if that became the focus of one of our organizations, we would not support that organization.

In recent months, the NIF was under pressure for its support of left wing and human rights organizations in Israel. A students group called Im Tirzu issued a report, claiming that the NIF-backed organizations were behind many of the allegations against Israel cited in the Goldstone Report. The allegations against the NIF were made public by Tabloids such as Maariv and Israel Hayom, and later repeated by members of the Knesset. Some of them are even trying to put limits on the political actions of the NIF.

Today, Maariv quoted Sokatch’s statement and speculated that the NIF has surrendered to the public campaign against it.

After the Yom Kippur holiday, I received an e-mail from an NIF spokesperson, asking to clarify the organization’s position on this issue. Later came an official statement:

The NIF shall continue to support, as it has done in the past, organizations protecting the rights of the State of Israel’s Arab citizens, such as Adalah and Mossawa – which the NIF even assisted to start…. Recent reports on changes in the NIF positions are wrong… The NIF was never a thought police, and it will never be one.

It sounds pretty straightforward, and I must admit that I never thought that the NIF will stop supporting an important organization like Adalah, which is something like the Israeli NAACP. I think that JTA rushed into conclusions here, and possibly even tried to push the NIF into a corner. Now the NIF must publicly declare that they would finance organizations that challenge the Jewish character of the state – something that wouldn’t look good with the Israeli public, and maybe even with their donors abroad – or abandon Mossawa and Adalah, which means betraying everything the NIF stands for. Everything they do could end up hurting them.

In the next few days, the NIF is expected to publish its new guidelines, and I guess that they will offer some more explanations for their future policy regarding the support of civil society organizations.

15 Comments on “NIF denies it will stop supporting Israeli organizations criticizing the Jewish character of the state”

  1. 1 Richard Silverstein said at 11:32 pm on September 19th, 2010:

    How do you reconcile this Sokatch quotation:
    ” Israel is a sovereign vehicle for self-determination for the Jewish people…”

    With your headline:
    “NIF denies it will stop supporting Israeli organizations criticizing the Jewish character of the state”

    I think you’re overreaching & I understand why & sympathize with you. But NIF is trying to have it both ways & satisfying no one. If Israel is a “sovereign vehicle” for Jewish self-determination, then it can’t be a sovereign vehicle for Palestinian self-determination.

    Personally, I think they’re trying to assuage their critics while basically trying to maintain the status quo in terms of the intent of these guidelines. But I think both sides will see through this subterfuge & rightly so.

  2. 2 maayan said at 11:21 am on September 20th, 2010:

    Adalah is the Israeli NAACP?

    The day the NAACP publishes a document rejecting the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in order to establish the US as an African-American state based solely on the memory of slavery in the US, then you can compare Adalah to them. Until then, Adalah is not the NAACP; it is a subversive political movement intent on undermining Israel as a state of Jewish self-determination in favor of a state focused on Arab self-determination.

  3. 3 noam said at 7:57 pm on September 20th, 2010:

    Maayan: If the US constitution would have declared that blacks won’t enjoy the same rights as Jews than Yes, I believe that NAACP would challenge it.

    I don’t see how fighting for equality qualifies for “subversion”, unless its subverting against injustice and discrimination. In that case, I’m all for it.

  4. 4 noam said at 8:04 pm on September 20th, 2010:

    Richard: at worst, I think that the NIF made some bad calls with their public statements. I don’t get any message that they are backing up from their policy, but we will have to wait and see on this one.

    I for once would like to give them some credit. the NIF is under tremendous pressure, and so far they have dealt with it honorably. I prefer to forgive some of their mistakes (assuming they had such), and stand with them at this time. If, however, we will see a change of policy (and not just new rhetoric), than I would have to reconsider my position.

  5. 5 maayan said at 1:19 pm on September 21st, 2010:

    “If the US constitution would have declared that blacks won’t enjoy the same rights as Jews”

    Israel’s declaration of independence says no such thing.

  6. 6 noam said at 2:38 pm on September 21st, 2010:

    But Israeli laws and practics do. This is what Adalah is fighting against, and you would too, if you were an Israeli-Palestinian.

    (btw, have you ever wondered why the Israeli deceleration of Independace is not an abiding document, legally speaking? for that reason exactly: if it was a constitution rather than a declaration, much of the discrimination would have been impossible)

  7. 7 maayan said at 3:55 pm on September 21st, 2010:

    No, Adalah is fighting Zionism and the Jewish state of Israel. It’s narrative is that of those who desire Israel’s destruction, not that of those who support the state. It is an organization that takes advantage of the free speech they would not enjoy under Palestinian rule to undermine Israel’s democracy and freedom of expression so that they could build another Arab state – since those afford so many freedoms.

    As for Israeli laws and practices, if you mean that by declaring a preference for Jewish immigrants over Arab immigrants, then this is the right of the majority. It is a right practiced in all parts of the world, especially the West. Generally, however, Arab Israelis benefit from the same laws as Israelis. One key example would be the former child subsidy the government gave large families. The primary beneficiaries were Haredim and Arabs. Another would be the same voting and civil rights enjoyed by Jews, including having Christian and Muslim control over their communities’ marriages and divorces.

    I’m not suggesting that some laws aren’t discriminatory, some are. I’m also not suggesting some of the challenges facing Arab Israelis aren’t serious, it’s just that they don’t come close to slavery and the NAACP.

    The other day I read that a public school in an Arab village called Faraydis (I’m not sure of the spelling) has the country’s second highest student test scores.

  8. 8 maayan said at 3:56 pm on September 21st, 2010:

    “have you ever wondered why the Israeli deceleration of Independace is not an abiding document, legally speaking? for that reason exactly: if it was a constitution rather than a declaration, much of the discrimination would have been impossible”

    This is nothing but an assumption on your part. Prove it. I challenge you to prove this assertion.

  9. 9 noam said at 4:09 pm on September 21st, 2010:


    1. I won’t argue your first paragraph about Zionism etc. you are entitled to think what you want about Adalah. I don’t thank that changing aspects in the structure of the state is equal to its destruction, but this is clearly debatable.

    so let’s talk facts: please give me one example of a western state with entering laws similar to those of Israel… or ownership of land laws, for that matter (Kakal – a government branch, is forbidden from selling land to Arabs). or a country with a law such as the citizenship order, forbidding Arabs from having people they marry enter the country.

    i can go on, but let’s settle for these issues for now (and this is only legal matters. if I go into discriminating practices, It can take the entire night).

    2. as for the declaration of independence point, it’s not me that have to answer the challenge here. I simply stated a fact: you quoted a document who have no abiding meaning in Israel, while the discriminating laws are very real and present in every aspect of life.

  10. 10 maayan said at 12:22 pm on September 23rd, 2010:

    Similar return laws based on ethnicity or other similar criteria are easy to find. You will notice some Western countries in the mix. For example, Ireland, Germany and Greece.

    Here is a very useful article that speaks about the rights of the Jewish majority in Israel and the definition of the state as a Jewish state:

    Austrian laws make it virtually impossible for a person the Austrians do not want in their country to acquire Austrian citizenship through marriage. You have to have a permit to live in Austria in order to even qualify for the right to reside there for 5 years as a spouse before you can apply for citizenship. That means they can keep you out indefinitely.

    Kakal is not a branch of the government, it is a private entity. It’s true that they have provided the government with land deals and in return received provisions which no other organization enjoys, but that is very distant from what you’re implying. As for Kakal selling land to non-Jews, the issue is that this is a private, charitable organization whose mandate is to purchase and secure land for Jews in Israel. They receive donations on this basis and it is their obligation to honor their mandate and their donors’ expectations.

    As for having foreigners marry Israeli Arabs, you know full well that the law applies solely to Palestinians and that over 100,000 Palestinians emigrated to Israel legally prior to this law’s creation. Israel has every right to determine who should come into its borders and its right to self determination as a state of the Jewish people is part of this natural right to restrict emigration which it deems to be opposed to its own interests.

    Obviously, since you support a single bi-national state, you find these issues offensive. However, they are not. They are within the realm of any group’s right to self-determination and then protecting the society is has created.

    Finally, the issue of the Declaration of Independence is that it is a guiding document for the state and the courts, and the Basic Laws reflect this.

  11. 11 noam said at 1:35 pm on September 23rd, 2010:


    You (and the articles you cite) miss the point: many countries have immigration laws that will let them control who becomes a citizen, but none of them have these laws make distinctions between ethnic-religious sub-groups of those states.

    for example, no one in Austria will say that citizenship laws or citizenship through marriage will apply differently to a Jew and a christian. But this is exactly what Israel is doing. if entry laws to Israel would relate in the same way to all its citizens, than a Palestinian right of return could be possible. clearly, this is not the case…

    the same goes for marriage. A country can regulate its flow of foreigners through marriage and many countries actually do that, but no one divide these regulations to ethnic groups. no one in Germany would say that a Turk can marry and have his wife become citizen and a Greek can’t. Yet this is exactly what Israel is doing.

    2. Kakal receives lands from the government, it’s regulated by the government, and it is having it’s top officials appointed by the government. how is it not a government branch? just because it says so? come on.

    3. so now the Deceleration of Independence is “a guideline”? what does it even mean? the simple fact is that the Israeli legal system prefers Jews to Arabs, in laws and in practice. You might say it’s justified (“this is the only state Jews have” etc…), but it’s hard to deny it.

    Calling everyone who don’t agree with you “bi-national” and thus trying to delegitimize them won’t change the facts.

  12. 12 maayan said at 1:23 pm on September 25th, 2010:

    I thought you supported a single state solution. You don’t?

    The Austrian law most certainly allows the Austrians to discriminate on an ethnic basis, they just don’t write it that way.

    Of course, the Austrians don’t have the same problem the Jewish Israelis do, which is that there is a force out there trying to undermine their ability to define themselves as a Jewish state. This is not a minor issue because it is at the root of self-determination of the Jewish nation. This is why after 100,000 Palestinian people did get to move into Israel on the basis of marriage, the Israelis felt this was a back door to the intent of Israeli Arabs to make Israel into a non-Jewish state (as stated clearly by Zoabi yesterday). There is no reason Israelis should facilitate the destruction of their state as they wish it to be.

    Kakal does not “receive” lands from the government. There is always some form of trade-off. It is a private organization, whether you feel it is or you don’t. Your feelings don’t count, the facts do.

    As for the Declaration of Independence being a guideline, I’m not sure how you’re confused. Judges in courts constantly evaluate numerous documents, previous court cases, laws, the intent behind laws, and other factors when they make a ruling. The Declaration of Independence is given a lot of weight in Israeli courtrooms and with Israeli politicians. Arab Israelis today enjoy freedom of religion equal to Jewish Israelis, equal civil rights, equal access to the courts, equal opportunity in the marketplace. These are facts which you know very well. You ignored my point about Faraydis having the second best scoring school in the country, but that’s a fact.

  13. 13 noam said at 5:14 pm on September 25th, 2010:


    1. I admit I am not familiar with the Austrian legislation so much. I don’t think that the legislation in most democracies allows to discriminate an ethnic group of citizens in who they marry, but I can always be wrong. If you can show a similar example to the Israeli citizenship order from any western democracy, it would be greatly appreciated. Until than, I do believe the Israeli legislation is unique and contradicts basic human rights.

    2. Arab Israelis today enjoy freedom of religion equal to Jewish Israelis, equal civil rights, equal access to the courts, equal opportunity in the marketplace

    How about the equal opportunity to marry who they like, citizen or not? or the queal chance to live where they want (have you heard of the new “Vaadot Kabala” bill, designed to prevent Arabs from living in Jewish settlements?)? and this is just formal discrimination. as I wrote before, the data concerning informal discrimination is extensive, and nobody seriously denies it.

    3. Stating that the declaration of independence is like an Israeli constitution is simply absurd. give me an example of one Knesset bill that was canceled in court because it contradicts the declaration (like they do with constitutions) and we continue the debate from there.

    I know very well that judges tend to quote the Declaration of Independence, and to some extent, they claim it affects their verdicts. But they also quote the Talmud and Jewish laws very often, and in the same context. Yet I wouldn’t argue that Israel is governed by religious laws.

    4. Kakal: I give up. let’s just say that we see things differantly on this one.

    5. One state/Two state: i know that most of my writing leads people to think that I support the one state solution. the truth is that I’m not for one state solution or for two states, and more than anything, I don’t think there will be a “final” solution. one state can lead to two and two can lead to one. I believe that the situation is not a binary one, and there are more possible options than people care to think.

    I know it all sounds very abstract, but this is as honest description as I can give. If you want something simple, let’s just say that I oppose the occupation and leave the solutions to the politicians.

  14. 14 noam said at 7:45 pm on September 27th, 2010:

    I should have looked it up earlier, but I hope this will settle the debate over the Kakal.

    Yes, it is a government agency.

    Israeli law specifically lists Kakal’s land as state land. check out article one:

  15. 15 Christos Georgalas said at 11:22 am on September 28th, 2010:

    Sorry , I missed the part of the declaration of independence stating that USA is the vehicle state of the protestant white anglo-saxon people

    (as opposed to the land of ALL its people -black, white, jew, christian and arabs – the fact that this statement is seen as so provocative- illegal even – in Israel just proves how much of a racist state it has become)