Teacher summoned to hearing over leftist Facebook comments

Posted: November 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

A teacher in an Israeli public school, who has become the target of a hate campaign after she expressed leftist views on Facebook, has been summoned to a hearing at the Ministry of Education.

According to the teacher, following some messages she posted on a Facebook debate regarding an “alternative memorial day” (a pro-peace event taking place on the national memorial day for soldiers and terror victims), a group of rightwing Israelis traced her and wrote letters of complaint to the Ministry of Education. She was then asked to write a letter clarifying her position, and was invited to a formal hearing.

In a Facebook status on her wall, the teacher wrote (h/t Slippery Slope blog):

My dear friends, your support is heartwarming (…) for those who don’t have full knowledge of the details – some of you remember the debate on Yoni Rechter’s [an Israeli singer – N.S] wall when he made clear his intention to take part in the alternative Memorial Day… some of my messages on the same wall didn’t please a group of Kahanists of the lowest kind, one of them investigated who is XXX [the teacher's name - N.S.] and found out that I am a teacher and an educator in Israel, and sent a complaint to the Ministry of Education, claiming that among its staff there is a leftist traitor teacher. The school’s principal has learned of this, I was asked to write a letter of clarification, and my hearing is still pending. On top of the complaint to the Ministry of Education, the same group has also disseminated my pictures on the net, with hateful messages. Let’s pray for better days. Again, love and thanks to each one of you.

Last month, a group of settlers recognized another schoolteacher from Jerusalem as one of the participants in a demonstration near the settlement of Anatot (during this event, leftist protesters were attacked and beaten [Video], with the police standing by). The settlers demanded the teacher be sacked, and a campaign against her was launched on Facebook, with many of her students taking part.


The myth of good Israel vs. bad Israel (II)

Posted: January 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Where was “the peace camp” when the Knesset decided to probe human rights NGOs?

As the Knesset is passing one undemocratic law after the other, many people ask themselves where is the famous Israeli Left. I have long argued that supporting the two-states solution (as many Israelis say they do) doesn’t necessarily relate to support of human rights, freedom, equality before the law and other democratic values. Only a small minority in Israel is still fighting for those issues.

Outsiders, especially from the Jewish-Liberal camp, tend to exaggerate the role the left plays in Israeli politics, and to downplay the racist and anti-democratic tendencies in the Israeli center. I guess it makes it easier for them to continue seeing in Israel the model Jewish democracy they dream of. But the truth is that until now, Labor and Kadima members didn’t try to stand up to the torrent of laws and racist moves initiated by the extreme right. At best, they gave some fable remarks to the media or issued condemnation, but they failed to engage in meaningful political action, probably because they felt that their public never demanded it.

Last week, the Israeli Knesset decided – in an overwhelming majority and with the support of Netanyahu and his government – to initiate an investigation of the funding and activities of human rights organizations (or as Roi Maor rightly called it, Knesset Committee on un-Israeli activities).

In the days leading to the Knesset debate on this issue, there was a considerable media build-up. Writers and pundits warned of the damaging effect this decision might have on the Israeli democracy. Yet when the vote came, most Kadima and Labor members failed to show up.

The following members of Knesset – all of them considered among Israel’s “pragmatists” – where among those who had other issues to attend to during what could turn out to be one of the most crucial moments in the history of the Israeli parliament:

Labor: Ehud Barak, Daniel Ben-Simon, Avishay Braverman, Amir Peretz, Eithan Cabel, Einat Wilf, Matan Vilnai, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Orit Noked. Kadima: Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Shay Hermesh, Dalia Itzik, Ze’ev Bielski, Avi Dichter, And that’s just a partial list.

Many of these Knesset Members had official reasons for their absence, but as we all know, they would have showed up if they felt strongly enough about this issue. Politicians don’t miss political events which are important for their constituency. To Livni’s credit, she issued yesterday an explanation for her absence from the vote. She also declared that Kadima would try to challenge the decision in future votes, and still, from the leader of the opposition and the so called “peace camp”, we can expect more, much more.


The myth of “Good Israel” vs. “Bad Israel”

Posted: January 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Left, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Some thoughts following Jeffrey Goldberg’s public doubts regarding the Israeli commitment to democratic values

“What If Israel Ceases to Be a Democracy?” asked the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg a couple of weeks ago. “Am I being apocalyptic? Yes. Am I exaggerating the depth of the problem? I certainly hope so,” he added.

Well, This week Goldberg got his answer from the Knesset: no, you are not exaggerating. As Roi Maor and Yossi Gurvits write, the decision to form a special committee which will look into the activities of human rights organizations is one big step away from the limited democracy Israel used to be. Where does it all lead? I honestly don’t know.

But I wanted to discuss something else. Reading his post, what struck me most was the way Goldberg analyzed the causes for the current political trends in Israel:

I will admit here that my assumption has usually been that Israelis, when they finally realize the choice before them (many have already, of course, but many more haven’t, it seems), will choose democracy, and somehow extract themselves from the management of the lives of West Bank Palestinians. But I’ve had a couple of conversations this week with people, in Jerusalem and out of Jerusalem, that suggest to me that democracy is something less than a religious value for wide swaths of Israeli Jewish society. I’m speaking here of four groups, each ascendant to varying degrees: The haredim, the ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose community continues to grow at a rapid clip; the working-class religious Sephardim — Jews from Arab countries, mainly — whose interests are represented in the Knesset by the obscurantist rabbis of the Shas Party; the settler movement, which still seems to get whatever it needs in order to grow; and the million or so recent immigrants from Russia, who support, in distressing numbers, the Putin-like Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister and leader of the “Israel is Our Home” party.

This is a return to the old “good Israel” vs. “Bad Israel” theory. According to this idea, there are the peace-loving, democratic and liberal Israeli Jews, who represent the “real” values on which the country was born, and there are the “bad”, Sephardic Jews, Ultra-orthodox and Russian immigrants, who are to blame for all the current hiccups what was a model democracy until not that long ago. Goldberg is actually angry with them for taking away “his” Israel. I think he represents many in saying that

the Israel that I see today is not the Israel I was introduced to more than twenty years ago. The rise to power of the four groups I mentioned above has changed, in some very serious ways (which I will write about later) the nature and character of the Jewish state.

Let’s not deal with what some see as latent racism in these assumptions (I don’t think this is the case with Goldberg), and talk politics instead. First, Shas, is actually weaker than at any point since the mid nineties. The party is going through an internal crisis (some say it will split once its spiritual leader, Ovadia Yosef, passes away). The other Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, has five seats – roughly the same number it always had. As for Avigdor Lieberman, the conventional wisdom is that only 60-something percent of his votes were from Russian immigrants and the rest came from ordinary middle class Jews. Pollsters claim that those middle class voters are the reason for Lieberman’s rise in the last elections (and probably, in the next ones).

We are left with Goldberg’s favorite target, the settlers. Contrary to the common belief, the settlers are also weaker than ever: the National Religious Party, which used to represent their interests, split into two, and the only real hard-core, rightwing party (The National Unity) has only four Knesset seats and was left out of the government by Netanyahu.

So, If the settlers and the orthodox might be so weak– or at least, not stronger than ever – how come we end up with the most racist, rightwing Knesset in the country’s history?

The answer is as simple as it is unpleasant: it’s Israel’s “good guys” that turned bad – and maybe they weren’t that good in the first place. The Israeli middle class, the good ole’ boys, are the ones supporting the racist bills in the Knesset and the anti-democratic initiatives. In other words, we always had Rabbis like Shmuel Eliyahu and members of Knesset like Kahane’s student Michael Ben-Ari. The difference is that now, we have Kadima and Likud backing them.

Just like the settlements couldn’t have been built without the active support and participation of the Israeli center-left (including Labor party, which started the whole thing back in the 70′s), the current torrent of racist bills couldn’t have come without the help of Kadima, Labor and Likud members. And with all the ridiculous, xenophobic and undemocratic ideas they came up with, their public can’t get enough. When it comes to questions of human rights and democracy, there is no coalition and opposition in the Knesset: Almost everyone is on the same side.

Israel has always been a place that favored Jews over non-Jews. It was always a country that confiscated and colonized Arab land, on both sides of the 67′ borders. In the past, it was easier to avoid those issues, but today, faced with a choice between democracy and the “Jewishness” of the state, it’s clear what almost all Israelis – and not just the Russians and the Hassidic – prefer.

By now, any reasonable person can understand that the “good guys” won’t save the day. It’s more likely that they will vote again for Lieberman or Kadima – two parties that actually get along quite well ( some Kadima Knesset Members even joined the coalition on the shameful vote this week). Dennis Ross and others can spend another decade in efforts to create the political environment that would allow the peace camp in Israel to take the lead again – without real outside pressure, it simply won’t happen. With the exception of Rabin’s government, this country was led by conservative politicians, all of them but one from the Likud, since 1986. And people still don’t get it: Israel wasn’t hijacked by the right. It was there all along.


Israeli BDS activist detained by internal security upon entering the country

Posted: December 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Matan Cohen was informed he is classified as ‘a suspect of hostile terrorist activity’; he was released after three hours

Israeli activist Matan Cohen was detained by Israel’s internal security agency (ISA, or ‘Shabak’ in Hebrew) at Israel’s international airport yesterday. According to Cohen, his belongings were searched, and he was informed by a policeman that he is considered “a suspect of hostile terrorist activity.” (מוחשד פח”ע)

Cohen, 22, lost his sight in one eye five years ago after being shot by soldiers in an unarmed demonstration against the Separation Wall. He is active in the BDS movement and was one of the four protesters who heckled PM Binyamin Netanyahu during a speech in New Orleans (a video of the incident can be seen here).

Yesterday, Cohen returned to Israeli for the winter vacation. According to his report, two security people waited for him outside the plane and escorted him to passport control. Later, he was taken by a policeman to a side room, where he was held for three hours. Cohen was told by police that his detention was an order from the ISA.

“I wasn’t interrogated and wasn’t charged with anything,” said Cohen in a phone conversation. “They searched my stuff and then asked me to sign a form, on which it was written that I am ‘a suspect of hostile terrorist activity.’” Cohen says that he was told that this sentence doesn’t relate to a specific charge, but rather is a permanent status, determined by the ISA.

“In the past, I’ve gone through special interrogations before boarding planes, but I was never detained upon entering Israel,” said Cohen. “I feel this has to do with my activity in the BDS. I know of international activists who were questioned or denied entry to Israel because of BDS activity. Perhaps it [the detention] had also to do with New Orleans.”

Related Stories:

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack might face 3-6 months in prison

Israel’s Security Agency holds warning talks with activists


The rabbis’ racist letter: many words, little action

Posted: December 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

While public figures in Israel condemned the latest rabbinical Fatwa against renting homes to Arabs, little to no action was taken against its authors. Also, some secular Jewish communities are introducing their own version of the racist letter

Almost two weeks passed since dozens of Israeli rabbis – most of them civil servants, working for Israeli municipalities –signed a letter forbidding renting homes to Arabs. During this period, strong condemnations for the letter were heard from public figures, but little action was taken against the rabbis themselves.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke against the letter, and so did Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and President Shimon Peres. Two very important religious figures – the Ashkenazi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of Shas – condemned the letter. As a result, at least three of the signing Rabbis withdrew their names from it.

Several Jewish research institutes, most of them left-leaning, published an ad on Haaretz against the letter. Many rabbis and 900 hundreds former Yeshiva students signed public letters opposing the racist nature of the rabbis’ ruling. The Israeli Bar Association issued a condemning statement.

These were positive developments that proved that there are still many Israelis that would stand up against racism and hate. We shouldn’t ignore their voice or downplay its importance.

Another encouraging sign was the response the rabbis’ letter got from the American Jewish community. Some 500 rabbis signed a public petition - issued by the New Israel Fund – condemning the letter. This initiative got good media coverage in Israel, including a half-page article on yesterday’s Yedioth Ahronoth.

The problem is that so far, no concrete action was taken against the rabbis who signed the letter (with the exception of the Government Attorney that, under some public pressure, ordered his office to examine whether the rabbis violated a law forbidding racist incitement). With no official action, the nature of the letter remains in the sphere of the legitimate public debate – something that’s similar to discussing the pros and cons of rape.

When public officials announce that renting apartments to Arab citizens is forbidden – and that Jewish communities should outcast those renting homes to Arabs – action is the only solution. It’s not the time for political calculations. In such a moment, real leadership sends the Civil Guard to escort and protect the members of the minority under threat.

So far, Israeli leaders – including Labor party, which insists on staying in this government – fail this test.

The danger of inaction is clear: it makes racism a legitimate political choice (adopted by most of the Jewish public, according to a recent poll). Already, someone opened a hotline for Jews who want to report people who rent Apartments to Arabs (I encourage readers to jam it with made-up information; the number is 0522258183). The result: hundreds more rabbis have added their names to the letter, and there are even reports on a “soft” version of the letter - one which will enable more to sign it.

What’s even worse is that you could also hear voices in the center saying things along the lines of “I don’t support the letter, but…”. Such claim is made in a bizarre op-ed on Haaretz today by Ruth Gavizon, the former head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel who turned into a neo-Zionist. While condemning the racist tones of the rabbis’ letter, Gavizon frames it within “a legitimate debate” over the notion of separate communities:

It would be a mistake to have the public response take the form of indicting or firing the rabbis, separating religion and state or denying the legitimacy of the state’s Jewish character. Ranting and raving could prevent us from seeing the picture in all its complexity and from confronting the authority of the rabbis in this country, both as regards the content and “Jewish” morality of their positions and as regards the residential dwelling patterns of different communities here.

The controversy over desirable living patterns for Jews and Arabs and the use of the law to obtain them is not dictated by religion. Some advocate “color blindness” as the only normative approach to civil equality, on the assumption that this leads to greater integration. Some advocate complete segregation. And some, like me, prefer more diverse social arrangements that would provide different communities with various living options, based on their level of integration and inner cohesiveness.

Gavison is not alone. Just today, Haaretz reported that another Jewish community in the north is working on a charter that would forbid Arabs from joining it. The “separate communities” idea is the upper-class, secular, version of the rabbis’ letter.


Israel’s internal security service going after leftwing protesters

Posted: December 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

Another activist received an invitation to a meeting with Shabak. After refusing, he was warned that it would be in his best interest to come

Yesterday, I reported here on two members of the leftwing group Anarchists against the Wall that were invited to a meetings with a Shabak (Israel’s internal security agency) operator calling herself “Rona”. Apparently, this was the same person who conducted a political interrogation of former IDF pilot Yonatan Shapira a few months ago.

Today (Tuesday), a third activist received a phone call from “Rona”, asking him to report to a meeting with her. The activist refused, demanding to be issued a formal subpoena. According to his report, “Rona” replied that she is aware of his actions, and that it would be in his best interest to come to the meeting. She ended the conversation by informing the activist that she would call him again next week.

The activist noted that the conversation was friendly.

According to the reports of Yonatan Shapira and another activist who attended a meeting with “Rona” last week, it seems that the purpose of these conversations is to send a warning message to leftwing protestors.

The Shabak has declared in the past before the Supreme Court that it follows the activities of foreign pro-Palestinian activists [Hebrew link]. The head of the organization also admitted that it is conducting surveillance activities on organizations that are seeking “to change the Jewish nature of the state” [Hebrew] even when those organizations are not suspected of doing any illegal activities.

The recent warning calls might mark another escalation in the Shabak’s supervision of political activity in Israel.


50 Israeli Rabbis issue ruling forbidding renting of homes to Arabs

Posted: December 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us, war | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

Rabbis signing the public letter are state employees; so far, not one of them was prosecuted or fired

The Israeli media is reporting this morning that some 50 rabbis have signed a declaration calling for Jews not to let Arabs hire apartments in their communities. The Rabbis expressed support for Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, who was the first to issue such ruling.

The rabbis’ declaration states that anyone renting his apartment to an Arab is doing harm – both in the eyes of god and for his fellow men. The Rabbis state that it is not allowed to have Arabs hire apartments in Jewish communities outside Israel as well. The Letter urges Jews to boycott anyone renting apartments to Arabs.

From Haaretz (my bold):

The rabbis’ letter, which was first published months ago and reprinted in October, urges Jewish owners of apartments to reconsider renting their properties to Arabs since it would deflate the value of their homes as well as those in the neighborhood.

“Their way of life is different than that of Jews,” the letter stated. “Among [the gentiles] are those who are bitter and hateful toward us and who meddle into our lives to the point where they are a danger.”

The rabbis also urge neighbors of anyone renting or selling property to Arabs to caution that person. After delivering the warning, the neighbor is then encouraged to issue notices to the general public and inform the community.

“The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed,” the letter reads.

Like Rabbi Eliyahu of Safed, the Rabbis signing the letter are serving as “local rabbis” (rabbis in charge of the religious services provided by their municipality), meaning they are state employees that receive their salary from taxpayer money. Among the signers of the letter were rabbis from Rishon Letzion, Ramat Hasharon, Hertzlia Kfar Sava and Hulon (all of them suburbs of Tel Aviv), Jerusalem, and other towns and settlements.

This is more than a racist statement. This is a racist policy, carried out by members of the municipal bureaucracy in Israel. It’s being done in public, and so far – with not one of these rabbis having to pay a price for their actions. Dealing with this issue becomes a test for Israeli society and for the Israeli government.

UPDATES: MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) and MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) calling to fire, prosecute racist Rabbis. But who will be the first coalition member to speak?

UPDATE II: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) issued this statement following the Rabbis’ rulling:

“Rabbis who are civil servants have an obligation to the entire public, including Israel’s Arab citizens. It is unthinkable that they would use their public status to promote racism and incitement. Human rights day will be marked around the world this Friday and it should serve as a reminder to all our leaders of their responsibility to the citizens of the State and their obligation to take action against racism and similar worrying trends”.

In November, ACRI intervened before Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, urging him to remove Zafed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu from his public post, following his racist remarks against Arabs and his support of a campaign calling on Zafed residents not to rent out apartments to Arab students.

The organization is preparing a similar intervention against the above case.

UPDATE III: PM Netanyahu also condemned the Rabbis’ ruling, saying it was racist and offending. Yet one could expect of the head of the executive authority to do something – not just speak.


Israeli security forces practice dealing with “riots following population exchange”, mass detentions of Israeli-Palestinians

Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

IBA Radio is reporting that Israel’s security forces ended Thursday a large national drill, in which the civil defense forces, police, military police, fire department and Israel’s prisons unit trained for large scale riots in the Israeli-Arab public, following a signing of a peace agreement that would include “population exchange” (transfer of Arab population to the Palestinian state).

According to Kol Israel’s report, in such an event, a large detention camp for Palestinian citizens would be constructed in Golani Junction, at Israel’s north, and all illegal aliens would be released from prisons to make room for Palestinians.

Two weeks ago, Israel’s foreign minister was criticizing for presenting his plan for population exchange in a speech at the United Nation General Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later claimed that FM Avigdor Lieberman didn’t represent Israeli government policy in his speech.

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On one hand, I think we should not turn this into a conspiracy item. The fact that the security forces are training doesn’t mean that Israeli leaders have such a plan or that they have a secret deal for population exchange with the Palestinian Authority.

On the other hand, this report does teach us a lot about the way Israel views its Palestinian citizens: while Israeli leaders praise Israeli democracy and claim that Palestinians are equal citizens (within the Green Line borders), policy makers view Arabs first and foremost as a security threat, and as people whose citizenship might be revoked at any given moment.

Some might argue that security forces must train for every scenario, even one that is not very likely to happen, so we shouldn’t deduct much from this item.

Well, how about training for widespread demonstrations and terror attacks following the evacuation of settlements? This is something that can actually take place, but no one would ever consider preparing for mass detentions of settlers right now. The political consequences of even contemplating such idea in public would be disastrous, as they should be.

Arab citizens should be treated with the same respect.

Kol Israel (Israeli public radio) is retorting that Israel’s internal security forces ended Thursday a large national drill, in which the civil defense forces, police, military police, fire department and Israel’s prisons unit trained for large scale riots in the Israeli-Arab public, following a signing of a peace agreement that would include “population exchange” (transfer of Arab population to the Palestinian state).

According to Kol Israel’s report, in such an event, a large detention camp for Palestinian citizens will be constructed in Golani Junction, at Israel’s north, and all illegal aliens will be released from prisons to make room for Palestinians.

Two weeks ago, Israel’s foreign minister was criticizing for presenting his plan for population exchange in a speech at the United Nation General Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later claimed that Lieberman didn’t represent government policy in his speech.

Still, I think we should not turn this into a conspiracy item. The fact that the security forces are training doesn’t mean that Israeli leaders have such a plan or that they have a secret deal for population exchange with the Palesinian Authority.

On the other hand, this report does teach us a lot about the way Israel views its Palestinian citizens: while Israeli leaders are praising Israeli democracy and claiming that Palestinians are equal citizens (within the Green Line borders), policy makers view Arabs first and foremost as a security threat, and as people whose citizenship might be revoked at any given moment.

Some might argue that security forces must train for every scenario, even one that is not very likely to happen, so we shouldn’t deduct much from this item.

Well, how about training for widespread demonstrations and terror attacks following the evacuation of settlements? This is something that can actually take place, but no one would ever consider preparing for mass detentions of settlers right now. The political consequences of even contemplating such idea in public would be disastrous, as they should be.

Arab citizens should be treated with the same respect.


Video proves: Israeli guard lied about shooting that led to East Jerusalem riots

Posted: September 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

New evidence embarrasses Jerusalem’s police, already under fire for having a heavy pro-settler bias

New video, aired on Israeli channel 2, might indicate that the version of the Israeli security guard for the killing which led to Silwan (East Jerusalem) riots last weekend was false.

The protest in East Jerusalem lasted three days and resulted in the death of a Palestinian baby. The demonstrations started after a private security guard for one of the settlements opened fire on Palestinians in Silwan (an East Jerusalem neighborhood, located next to the old city).

The guard later told the police he drove into a Palestinian ambush at 4 am in the morning. The protesters blocked his way, and his jeep wouldn’t start. Fearing for his life, he claimed to have been forced to open fire. Samer Sarhan, father of five, died from the shooting.

The Jerusalem police accepted the guard’s story, released him on the same day and issued a statement supporting him.

But new evidence from a local security camera might indicate that the guard could have drove away from the scene immediately, without opening fire.

Here is Channel Two’s report, with English subtitles (source: Wadi Hilweh Information Center):


Israeli tabloids urging NIF to ditch Palestinian and Lefty NGOs

Posted: September 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Israeli Tabloids Maariv and Israel Hayom, which led the attack on the New Israel Fund in recent months, celebrated yesterday what they believe is a change in the NIF policy regarding its support for leftwing organizations.

A page 4 story in Maariv, written by the paper’s reporter in New York, Tzah Yoked, has declared that “from now on, organizations that reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel will no longer be eligible to receive money from the New Israel Fund.”

The story repeated some of the misleading information Maariv published in the past, claiming that NIF-backed organizations “served as the legal basis for the Goldstone report.” It concluded that:

The change [in NIF guidelines], it should be underscored, is more than merely cosmetic. This is a change that will oblige the New Israel Fund to reassess longstanding relationships it has had with organizations that until now had enjoyed its financial support, despite the fact that they explicitly advocated the establishment of a bi-national state and rejected the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Ben Dror Yemini, a conservative writer for Maariv and one of the leaders of the campaign against the NIF wrote that:

If the New Israel Fund truly does change the criteria for funding—it will be deserving of all praise. Rumors about that have been circulating for a long time.

Yemini also called the NIF to immediately stop supporting Adalah and the Women Coalition for Peace in order to show that it did change its ways.

In the tabloid Israel Hayom, senior columnist Dan Margalit accused NIF of flip-flopping, claiming that by clarifying that it would continue supporting left wing organizations, the NIF “ruined the correction” [of its wrongful policy], after “yesterday it seemed that the New Israel Fund had turned an attentive ear [to the criticism against it].”

It seems that the confusion over the NIF’s intentions got the progressive left worried as well. Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote that:

This is my lowest moment in an ambivalent relationship with NIF.  I cannot in good conscience support its work when it turns it back on its Palestinian grantees and an entire Palestinian NGO community.  I would urge these grantees to unite and protest this terrible formulation of the guidelines.  I can’t help but think if most of the Palestinian and even perhaps a few Jewish grantees refuse to apply for funding that this will send a shock through the system.

Silverstein also urged his readers to withdraw their support from the NIF until it changed its guidelines.

I don’t agree with Richard on this one. The NIF never backed from its support of Palestinians NGOs. In fact, it actually re-affirmed its commitment to them. As I wrote in an answer for Richard’s comment on my blog, I think we should give the NIF people more credit, and judge them according to their actions, not (only) their words.

I cannot overstate the importance of the NIF for those who still believe that the work of civil society organizations matters. The battle here is much larger than the argument over the new guidelines or the misquotation of someone. This is the front line of a war on the future of democracy in Israel. The NIF is under tremendous pressure these days, and so far they have dealt with it honorably. So though I have my own issues with some of the NIF’s statements and actions, I would wait a bit before I join those casting stones at it (even when it’s done for the best intentions).

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Didi Remez has contributed for this post.