New Israel Fund
|Tax ID no.||94-8607722|
|Focus||Social rights, political rights|
|Key people||Brian Lurie (President)
Daniel Sokatch (CEO)
|Revenue||US$32 million (2008)|
|Slogan||The New Israel Fund is the leading organization committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis.|
|Mission||"advancing democracy and equality for all Israelis"|
The New Israel Fund (NIF) is a U.S.-based non-profit organization established in 1979, and describes its objective as social justice and equality for all Israelis.
NIF describes itself as "the leading organization committed to democratic change within Israel". Its stated objective is "to actualize the vision of Israel's Founders, that of a Jewish and democratic state that, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, 'ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.'" It views Israel as "the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people and as a democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities." It advocates for civil and human rights, religious tolerance and pluralism, and closing the social and economic gaps in Israeli society, especially those among Jews and Arabs.
In addition, Daniel Sokatch, CEO, says that in line with their "core values of democracy and equality, we support two states for two peoples and we oppose the occupation and the settlement enterprise." In June 2012, NIF marched with a "progressive cluster" in the New York Celebrate Israel parade; the cluster included Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, B’Tselem USA, Partners for Progressive Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights-North America.
NIF's headquarters are in New York City. The NGO also has offices in Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, London and Basel. The New Israel Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic organization in the U.S.
In October 2009, Daniel Sokatch became the new CEO of the New Israel Fund, after working as the executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and the San Francisco Jewish Federation. Rachel Liel, formerly director of Shatil, became Israel Executive Director on 1 November 2009. Brian Lurie, former Executive Director of the San Francisco Federation and executive vice-president of the UJA, chairs NIF's board, following the term of Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset. The board consists of 23 community leaders, activists, academics and philanthropists from the U.S., Israel and the U.K.
Other board members include Ambassador Dan Kurtzer, law professor Peter Edelman, economist Franklin Fisher, and Israeli attorney Talia Sasson. International Council members include acclaimed Israeli novelist Amos Oz, Nobel Prize winner Aaron Ciechanover, former Deputy Attorney General Judith Karp, former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, Michael Walzer, and Rabbi David Saperstein.
The New Israel Fund was established in 1979 and is credited with seed-funding "almost every significant cause-related progressive NGO in Israel". Since its inception the fund has provided over US $250 million to more than 900 organizations. NIF states that while its position is that "Israel is and must be a Jewish and democratic state" it says it was "among the first organizations to see that civil, human and economic rights for Israeli Arabs is an issue crucial to the long-term survival of the state."
The fund's grantees include the Adva Center, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Green Environment Fund, the Israel Religious Action Center, the Israel Women's Network, the Masorti Movement, the Forum for Freedom of Choice in Marriage, the Movement for Freedom of Information, Adalah, Breaking the Silence, B'Tselem, the Coalition for Affordable Housing, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, Kav LaOved, +972 Magazine, the Council for Peace and Security,  and the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights.
NIF's action arm, Shatil (lit. "seedling") is an internationally recognized capacity-building organization that trains nascent NGOs in organizational growth and management. Shatil has four offices in Israel and employs more than 100 professionals.
Gender segregation and women's rights
In January 2011, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that publicly–funded buses cannot enforce a policy of gender segregation. IRAC, a grantee of NIF, initiated the legal efforts to integrate the bus lines. NIF-backed efforts against gender segregation in public spaces included a Chanukah candle-lighting to protest gender segregation at the Western Wall plaza.
In late 2011, in response the disappearance of the images of women from advertisements in Jerusalem because of Haredi pressure, NIF launched the "Women Should be Seen and Heard" campaign. In winter 2012, NIF convened "30 social justice organizations" who put pressure on organizers of a fertility and gynecology conference from which women were banned from speaking, and that "nine out of ten Israeli doctors scheduled to speak had withdrawn."
NIF also supports Women of the Wall which fights for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.
Social justice protests
In the summer of 2011, as hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to call for social justice, NIF was the only major American Jewish organization to support the protestors. NIF reportedly raised $35,000 on behalf of the demonstrators. NIF also organized a petition signed by nearly 4,000 people in support of the protesters. The petition was published in the Israeli edition of the International Herald Tribune. The NIF praised the social justice protest as an autonomous, grassroots movement. It said its own participation was limited in scope, which included providing tens of thousands of dollars in small grants to activist groups. It also acknowledged other activities, including "mapping the initiatives, which were initiated by Shatil and the New Israel Fund" and in terms of providing advice to the protesters and providing funding for the tent cities in the periphery.
Response to mosque arson
In October 2011, following the arson of a Mosque in the Galilee village of Tuba-Zangariyye, NIF mobilized more than 1,000 rabbis from around the world to sign a statement condemning the torching. The torching was reported to be a part of the Price tag policy. The NIF-backed statement was presented on 6 October by a delegation of dozens of rabbis and peace activists to the imam of the mosque.
NIF is opposed to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. It has stated that it does not support global BDS and will not support organizations with BDS programs but that its policy allows NIF the discretion to "engage in dialogue with an important organization that signs one letter supporting divestment rather than summarily dismissing them". Naomi Paiss, Director of Communications, described the campaign as "a tactic that embodies the message that Israel cannot and will not change itself, and for that reason, we think it is inflammatory and counter-productive". The NIF does not fund organizations with BDS programs, and removed the Coalition of Women for Peace from its list of authorized donor-advised organizations in early 2011, which led to a heated response by CWP.
Criticism and controversy
In January 2010, Im Tirtzu placed newspaper advertisements depicting then-NIF President Naomi Chazan with a horn sprouting from her forehead as part of a campaign which accused NIF of responsibility for the Goldstone Report. Im Tirtzu alleged that 92% of all Israel-based negative reporting in the Goldstone report came from NIF-supported groups.
Im Tirtzu's campaign drew criticism. Gershon Baskin, writing in The Jerusalem Post, accused Im Tirtzu of using an "anti-Semitic motif" as part of a "witch-hunt" that "is reminiscent of the darkest days of McCarthyism".
A report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) challenged Im Tirtzu's allegations, saying, "according to Im Tirtzu's own study, 16 NIF-affiliated groups comprise just 14 percent of all the sources for the Goldstone report." JTA also reported that the "16 NGOs named in [the Im Tirtzu] report are a small portion of the more than 300 groups funded by the NIF, many of them having to do with building infrastructure, assisting immigrants, and defending the rights of women, the disabled and religious and ethnic minorities."
NIF estimated that 1.3% of the citations in the UN report originated from reports by organizations supported by the New Israel Fund. A fund spokesperson said the human rights groups were doing their jobs, that "they are supposed to monitor and report", and that NIF did not necessarily endorse their positions.
Chemi Shalev, writing for Haaretz, defended the NIF, writing "one cannot really overstate what an utter travesty this fanatic jihad against the NIF was".
Ford Foundation funding
In 2003 and 2008, the Ford Foundation provided five-year grants worth $20 million each to NGOs in Israel through the New Israel Fund. The foundation was the focus of criticism because most of its donees are liberal. The foundation adopted new, stricter funding guidelines after the World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001. At the beginning of the second five-year grant, the Ford Foundation said it would not renew its grants to Israeli NGOs, which had provided roughly one-third of the New Israel Fund's donor-advised giving, citing its policy of creating sustainable funding, which is also being applied to much of its NGO funding worldwide.
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- Shaalan, Hassan (3 October 2011). "Price tag: Mosque torched in Upper Galilee". Ynetnews. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- Paiss, Naomi (28 October 2010). "Don't Divest; Invest". ZEEK (The Jewish Daily Forward). Retrieved 7 December 2010.
- A Leftist Critique of BDS
- Goldberg, Jeffrey (17 November 2010). "The New Israel Fund, Dipping Its Toe Into the BDS Swamp". The Atlantic. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "CWP responds to NIF". Coalition of Women for Peace. 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
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- Baskin, Gershon (9 February 2010). "A dark day for democracy". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
- "Chrisitians fume over ad showing Chazan wearing horn". The Jerusalem Post. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
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- Guttman, Nathan (6 April 2011). "Ford Foundation, Big Funder of Israeli NGOs, Pulling Out". The Forward. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
- New Israel Fund — Official website
- Shatil — Official website
- Against All Odds — TV talk show produced by NIF, featuring leaders from Israel's social change movement
- "Fighting for Israel's soul" - Naomi Chazan interview Haaretz, 22 July 2011