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ZFA Public Affairs Committee Chair Ron Weiser Sets Record Straight on NIF

Australian Jewish News (24 July 2015) p23

To the Editor:

Having recently returned from Israel, I read with some interest the letters regarding the New Israel Fund (NIF).

Contrary to the impression presented, NIF is a United States based organisation with branches in a number of countries including Israel. NIF’s CEO Daniel Sokatch only emphasised this when he wrote in an April opinion piece “We Americans have an important role to play……”

It is true that NIF also operates legally in Israel and the fact that such a wide array of organisations legally operate in Israel is testament to the depth and breadth of Israeli democracy. Being a legally operating organisation however, does not mean that an organisation is either automatically pro-Israel, pro-Israel as a Jewish State, or working for a better Israeli society. Many organisations operating in Israel, including some NIF grantees, openly oppose Israel as a Jewish State.

NIF and many of its grantees oppose what they call the “occupation”. Again, that is their right under Israel’s wonderful democracy. However, some 99% of Israelis who live over the Green Line live there not only legally, but at the behest of successive Israeli Governments. Mainly Labor ones at that. The vast bulk live in the settlement blocks that are not only legal, but are under a consensus of succeeding Israeli governments of left and right colour. They are part of Israeli policy and contribute to the health and wellbeing of the State.

Some NIF grantees oppose both government and opposition policy, working only on the extreme edges of Israeli society. Contrary to NIF statements, some NIF grantees, such as Breaking the Silence, are very active outside of Israel in many places around the world, including lobbying the White House against the code of conduct of the IDF.

Recently Yair Lapid, the centre left leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, had this to say on the anniversary of Operation Protective Edge:

 “radical groups like Breaking the Silence seek to undermine Israel’s name internationally with anonymous testimonies. Breaking the Silence is an anti-Zionist organisation which isn’t fighting for human rights. All it wants to do is to darken Israel’s image before the international community. There isn’t another army in history which invested so much effort in preventing harm to civilians.”

One wonders how long the New Israel Fund will want to continue to support an organisation that even people like Yair Lapid call “anti-Zionist”.

Pointing out these NIF shortcomings is neither anti civil nor anti-democratic. It is a right and indeed an obligation.

Dr Ron Weiser AM

Hon Life President

Zionist Council of NSW