Our family, like many others in Pittsburgh, contributes to the United Jewish Federation’s annual fund drive and supports the New Israel Fund to sustain democracy and human rights in Israel. This week we made a special additional contribution to the New Israel Fund. We were probably not alone, because the online donations server was very busy. Why?
The New Israel Fund came under attack last week from a critical report by Im Tirtzu, a group on the Israeli right, about the organizations that NIF supports. Several of those organizations, which include B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch, offered quotable statements to the Goldstone
Commission and many of those statements appeared in the report. Im Tirtzu wants to hold NIF responsible for the Goldstone Report. It wants to shoot the messenger who brings the bad news, but the Israeli government itself has moved to a more accommodating position.
The Jewish Chronicle, on Feb. 4, reported in a JTA dispatch that the government of Israel had changed its position on the Goldstone report, acknowledging violations, announcing the internal investigations in progress, and meeting the deadline for a response. According to the dispatch, the government admitted that of the 34 incidents outlined in the report, the army had been investigating 22 before the report was published and that Goldstone’s research led to another 12 inquiries. The government’s response also acknowledged that nongovernmental organizations such as B’Tselem had been helpful in the investigations.
Nonetheless, on the basis of the Im Tirtzu report, proposals were made in a Knesset committee last week for a parliamentary investigation of the New Israel Fund, on grounds that the fund was an agent of a Hamas conspiracy and anti-Zionist. Wiser heads on the right prevailed and American Jewish leaders were reported to have weighed in to quash such an inquiry. The fear was that opening up investigations of Jewish philanthropies, their sources and their recipients, was not in Israel’s national interest. (It should also be noted that Im Tirtzu has been a recipient of $100,000 from the John Hagee Ministries.)
The New Israel Fund supports organizations that are committed to democratic change and it helps to build Israel’s civil society. For more than 30 years it has been working to foster pluralism and toleration, defend the rights of women and children, increase access to the courts, find remedies for poverty, and defend the rights of Israel’s Arab and Bedouin citizens.
Maintaining a Jewish and democratic state is becoming ever more difficult. The government is a fragile coalition whose dependence on minority parties discourages leadership and new initiatives. It has been more than two years since there were direct discussions about peace with the Palestinians. And a number of unresolved internal conflicts need a legal and peaceful resolution. There are frequent confrontations over land rights, residence permits; enforcement of court rulings, religious and state interests; civil liberties; immigration, and citizenship rights. You can understand why we stepped up our support for the New Israel Fund.
(Daniel P. Resnick lives in Oakland.)