New Israel Fund

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New Israel Fund
New Israel Fund logo.jpg
Founded 1979[1]
Type Non-profit
Focus Social rights, political rights
  • 6 East 39th Street, Suite 301, New York, NY 10016-0112, United States.
    International Offices: Israel, Canada, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia[2]
Area served
Key people
Brian Lurie (President)[4]
Daniel Sokatch (CEO)[3]
US$32 million (2008)[5]
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"[5]

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".[6] 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.'"[1] 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."[7] 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."[8]

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.[9]


The New Israel Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic organization in the U.S, with headquarters in New York City.[1] The NGO also has offices in Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, London and Basel.[2]


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. Rabbi 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.[10] Attorney Talia Sasson, best known for her authorship of the report detailing Israeli government support of illegal settlements, will succeed Rabbi Lurie as NIF president in June 2015.[11] The board consists of 23 community leaders, activists, academics and philanthropists from the U.S., Israel and the U.K.[12]

Other board members include Ambassador Dan Kurtzer, law professor Peter Edelman, economist Franklin Fisher, and Bedouin scholar Amal ElSana Alhjooj.[12] International Council members include 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.[13]



In 2008 it contributed about US$30 million to groups in Israel.[5]

In September 2010, NIF published guidelines defining who is eligible to receive its grants on its website for the first time.[14][15]

Naomi Paiss, NIF’s vice president of public affairs, says that it is the actions of grantee organizations that are looked at to determine whether they qualify for funding, and not the personal views of individuals involved. In her words, NIF “won’t support organizations working to deny the Jewish people’s right to sovereign self-determination.” She explains that it is not relevant whether the “leaders of (Israeli-)Arab organizations prefer a multinational, multicultural state” so long as the work by the grantees is not “designed to change the State of Israel.” [16]

In 2014 NIF had a budget of $31,057,80, and awarded $14.7 million in grants to grantees including Adalah, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Council for Peace and Security, Molad: The Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy, Mossawa Center and Alliance Israélite Universelle; in addition, NIF directs "donor advised" grants in which supporters make gifts directly to NGOs on advice from NIF grant experts.[17][18]

Israel-US Civil Liberties Law Program[edit]

The New Israel Fund has trained more than 46 Israeli lawyers over the course of 20 years in human rights law. The lawyers are provided with the opportunity to get a LLM degree at the American University Washington College of Law specializing in human rights law. Graduates of the program have successfully argued cases in Israel around social justice, for environmental protections, to curb police brutality, and against discrimination.[19]

New Initiatives For Democracy[edit]

In September 2014, the New Israel Fund announced a new initiative, New Initiatives for Democracy (NIF-D), that will provide for the seed-funding, partnering and incubation of new programs to construct the missing architecture for the progressive movement in Israel, as well as building bridges to non-progressive constituencies who share values and interests. Initial funding stood at more than $2 million in 2014, granted or seed-funded to eight new initiatives, from think tanks to media monitoring to online engagement and leadership training.[11][20]


The New Israel Fund was established in 1979 and is credited with seed-funding "almost every significant cause-related progressive NGO in Israel".[1] Since its inception the fund has provided over US $250 million to more than 900 organizations.[1] 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."[21]

Gender Segregation and Women's Rights[edit]

In 1994, a pair of NIF grantees successfully petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice to force the Israeli military to stop discriminating on the basis of gender when it came to allowing women to qualify for flight training. The decision, known as the Alice Miller case, opened the door for women to serve in many combat roles within the Israeli army.[22][23]

In January 2011, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that publicly–funded buses cannot enforce a policy of gender segregation.[24] IRAC, a grantee of NIF,[25] 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.[26]

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.[27] 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."[28]

NIF also supports Women of the Wall[29] which fights for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.

Social Justice Protests[edit]

In the summer of 2011, as hundreds of thousands of Israelis protested for social justice, NIF reportedly raised $35,000 on behalf of the demonstrators.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32][33]

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.[34]


A leaked U.S. government cable revealed that a former NIF staff person hypothesized that in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and said that this change would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic. [35] The New Israel Fund acknowledged that this individual left the organization because her personal views diverged from the organization's perspective. [36]

Response to Mosque Arson[edit]

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.[37] The torching was reported to be a part of the Price tag policy.[38] 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.[37]


NIF is opposed to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.[39][40] 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".[41] 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".[39]

Torture Ban[edit]

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the Israel Security Agency, also known as Shin Bet, could no longer use various means of physical torture in its interrogations.[42] The matter was brought to the court by three NIF grantees: Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, HaMoked, and Association for Civil Rights in Israel.[43] The decision by Chief Justice Aharon Barak concluded "A democratic, freedom loving society does not accept that investigators use any means for the purpose of uncovering the truth." [44] Eitan Felner, executive director of Btselem said that "The importance of this decision is that it says that certain ends, even crucial ones like fighting random violence against civilians, can't justify every means." [45]

However, some of the groups who brought the case to the court claim that some forms of torture continue to be practiced.[46][47]


In November 2014 Birthright Israel cancelled a planned trip the two groups had been collaborating on. [48] [49]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Pamela Geller[edit]

Pamela Geller has put pressure on some of the New Israel Fund's donors to stop funding the group because she says the organization is anti-Israel. Geller says the New Israel Fund "are leftists aligned with the jihad force" and that they are "21st century kapos, but worse." She announced a national advertising effort to place the names of donors in ads on transit systems. [50][51] These efforts were criticized by Deborah Lipstadt and Rabbi David Ellenson, who wrote in The Forward that the campaign amounts to McCarthyism. They also wrote that "it is simply wrong to question the commitment and loyalty of this organization and its supporters to the Jewish state."[52]

Im Tirtzu[edit]

In January 2010, Im Tirtzu placed newspaper advertisements depicting then-NIF President Naomi Chazan with a horn sprouting from her forehead (as a pun, since both the words "horn" and "fund" use the same Hebrew word "Keren") 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.[53]

Im Tirtzu's campaign drew criticism, as well as praise. 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".[54][55] 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."[53]

NIF estimated that 1.3% of the citations in the UN report originated from reports by organizations supported by the New Israel Fund.[56]

Chemi Shalev, writing for Haaretz, defended the NIF, writing "one cannot really overstate what an utter travesty this fanatic jihad against the NIF was".[57]

Ford Foundation funding[edit]

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.[58]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "frequently-asked-questions". New Israel Fund. 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Contact Us". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Sanders, Edmund (8 February 2010). "Israeli conservatives attack U.S.-based philanthropy as unpatriotic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  4. ^ Pine, Dan (8 September 2011). "Local leader Brian Lurie named next president of New Israel Fund". Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "Mid-Year Report" (PDF). New Israel Fund. 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  6. ^ "We Are NIF". New Israel Fund. 
  7. ^ "New Israel Fund Principles". New Israel Fund. 
  8. ^ NIF In the Hot Seat
  9. ^ New Israel Fund, With More Partners, will March Again in New York’s Annual ‘Celebrate Israel’ Parade
  10. ^ Chemi Shalev, 'New NIF head Brian Lurie: "The occupation is a cancer that is eating us",' at Haaretz, 2 August 2012.
  11. ^ a b Guttman, Nathan (18 September 2014). "New Israel Fund Shifts Cash in Push for Progressive Politics". The Forward. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Board of Directors". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "International Council Members". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Shefler, Gil (20 September 2010). "NIF denies plans to change funding policies". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 8 October 2010. 
  15. ^ "NIF Funding Guidelines". New Israel Fund. September 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2010. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "NIF Grants – 2014". NGO Monitor. 20 August 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ "New Initiatives for Democracy". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "The Paradox of Ethnicity and Citizenship". New Israel Fund. 
  22. ^ [3]
  23. ^ [4]
  24. ^ Johnson, Jenna (15 July 2011). "Israeli 'Freedom Riders' ensure women's place at front of the bus". The Washington Post. 
  25. ^ "2010 Annual Report". issuu. 7 September 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "Chanukah Candle-Lighting at Western Wall Protests Gender-Segregation". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  27. ^ Bronner, Ethan; Kershner, Isabel (14 January 2012). "Israel Faces Crisis Over Role of Ultra-Orthodox in Society". The New York Times. 
  28. ^ Sztokman, Elana (10 January 2012). "Women-Only Fertility Conference Is No Answer". The Sisterhood. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Guttman, Nathan (26 August 2011). "New Israel Fund Alone in Funding Israel Protests". The Forward. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  31. ^ Guttman, Nathan (26 August 2011 (online), issue of 2 September 2011). "New Israel Fund Alone in Funding Israel Protests". The Forward. Retrieved 23 April 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  32. ^ "New Israel Fund Comes Clean on Role in Tent Protests By: Jewish Press Staff". The Jewish Press. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  33. ^ "A Letter from SHATIL Director Ronit Heyd". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  34. ^ "Full-Page NIF Ad in IHT Israel Edition". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ [5]
  37. ^ a b "New Israel Fund Australia receives praise from Muslim leaders". J-Wire. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  38. ^ Shaalan, Hassan (3 October 2011). "Price tag: Mosque torched in Upper Galilee". Ynetnews. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  39. ^ a b Paiss, Naomi (28 October 2010). "Don't Divest; Invest". ZEEK (The Jewish Daily Forward). Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  40. ^ A Leftist Critique of BDS
  41. ^ Goldberg, Jeffrey (17 November 2010). "The New Israel Fund, Dipping Its Toe Into the BDS Swamp". The Atlantic. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  42. ^ [6]
  43. ^ [7]
  44. ^ [8]
  45. ^ [9]
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  48. ^
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  52. ^ [14]
  53. ^ a b Kampeas, Ron (9 February 2010). "Breaking down the Im Tirtzu report on New Israel Fund". JTA. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  54. ^ Baskin, Gershon (9 February 2010). "A dark day for democracy". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  55. ^ "Christians fume over ad showing Chazan wearing horn". The Jerusalem Post. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  56. ^ "Lies, Damn Lies, and the Im Tirtzu Report - Analysis of the Im Tirtzu Report on the New Israel Fund". New Israel Fund. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  57. ^ Shalev, Chemi (6 November 2011). "An evening in New York with the enemies of the state". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  58. ^ Guttman, Nathan (6 April 2011). "Ford Foundation, Big Funder of Israeli NGOs, Pulling Out". The Forward. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 

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