‘New Israel Fund’ explains why it opposes BDS

Israel/Palestine
on 17 Comments

Lately Samah Sabawi offered a critique of the New Israel Fund‘s stance on boycott-divestment-sanctions at this site. A response from NIF:

The article by Samah Sabawi, regarding Professor Naomi Chazan’s visit to Australia and our organization’s stance on global BDS, deserves response.

The New Israel Fund arrived at its current BDS policy after much thoughtful debate within our broad-based family of organizations and stakeholders. We do not fund organizations with global BDS programs, although organizations involved in specific boycotts of settlement goods and services are not disqualified from funding.

Contrary to the implications of Ms. Sabawi’s article, NIF does not oppose global BDS to retain “privilege” for Israel’s Jewish majority. We are on record time and time again as insisting on full equality for Israel’s minority Palestinians. We are on record time and time again against the occupation and the settlement enterprise. We were the first funder of civil rights organizations representing Israel’s Palestinian minority and we continue to support those groups despite the extraordinary controversy it entails from those who do not understand why we would fund organizations that reject the Zionist narrative.

We believe that global BDS is a counter-productive and inflammatory strategy, for the reasons Professor Chazan discussed exhaustively in Australia and elsewhere. We think that both the proponents and antagonists of the global BDS movement exaggerate its impact to elevate their own ideologies and the threats of their opponents; as a study by The Forward demonstrated, global BDS has created a lot of heat but very little light. That said, Professor Chazan acknowledged in Australia that it is generally a legitimate, non-violent tool of democratic action. It is not one that we support or fund. We are not “aggressively campaigning” against the global BDS movement – it is a distraction from our job of serious social change in Israel. Every organization working in Israel sooner or later faces the BDS question, and we’ve answered that question to our own, if not to everyone’s, satisfaction. We surely are not defending the American arms industries! We are going about our business, painfully difficult and challenging now, of strengthening Israeli democracy and supporting hundreds of organizations and thousands of activists working in dozens of sectors for equality and justice.

Professor Chazan, a renowned political scientist, would be very capable of making the case that being attacked from all sides is the lot in life of any broad-based, nuanced, big-tent organization or mission. Our principles are clear (http://www.nif.org/about/new-israel-fund-principles) and will not suit everyone. Global BDS is a strategy, and one that we do not believe will bring about the desired result of an egalitarian and just Israel existing alongside an egalitarian and just Palestine.

It is fair to differ with us on our strategic analysis. It is not fair to characterize Professor Chazan, a human rights activist for her entire career, as an “enabler” of inequality. The venomous criticism she has endured, particularly in the past two years, for her bravery and leadership deserve respect, even from her ideological adversaries. Professor Chazan and the New Israel Fund respect civil discourse and empower the disempowered to find and use their voices, even when their conclusions differ from ours. 

We ask the same in return.

Naomi Paiss is Director of Communications for the New Israel Fund.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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17 Responses

  1. Djinn
    July 20, 2011, 11:39 am

    That said, Professor Chazan acknowledged in Australia that it is generally a legitimate, non-violent tool of democratic action

    “generally” this would suggest that there’s been at least a few that are violent which is fantasy. Despite the non violent nature 19 activists were arrested at a recent protest against Max Brenner, after which our slimy Foreign Minister felt the need to make a much publicized visit to the proud supporters of the Golani and Givanti brigades and liken the protestors to Nazi’s.

    link to facebook.com

    Samah made no implications. She stated, accurately that Chazan is the President of the NIF and she gave a speech attempting to undermine the BDS campaign and noted that the NIF has actively campaigned against even limited boycott measures. An implication is what Chazan did.

  2. Sumud
    July 20, 2011, 12:51 pm

    Richard Witty ~ This is the perfect thread for you to provide evidence of the authenticity of the text you quoted several weeks ago claiming that the BDS Movement “revised” their 2005 BDS call in the past year to include “militant warring language”.

    Refresh your memory first here, then here, and finally here.

    Don’t be shy Richard, just provide a source. Or admit you made it up, apologise, and withdraw the accusation.

    Oh, and I have good news! On the thread celebrating your [unwitting] contribution to the movement to end Israeli apartheid I mistakenly said your admirer maximalistNarrative appears to have been dissappeared. I was wrong and he’s back, and in fine form.

    I’ll also take this opportunity to provide the link I had thought was gone because Max had been discontinued. Enjoy:

    I agree with Richard Witty. I think Richard is the most balance and sane voice on this website and he doesn’t deserve all the abuse heaped on him.

    • James North
      July 20, 2011, 12:59 pm

      Richard Witty said, ‘Uh-oh. I thought Sumud would have given up by now. I’m a great one for posing questions to other commenters, so maybe I should try an answer?
      ‘Nope. I would have to admit I manufactured the “revised” BDS call. I’ll just wait Sumud out.
      ‘After all, who remembers that I never said a word about Lucas Koerner, the young kippah-wearing lad whose beating in Jerusalem was caught on video? I hid then and I can hide now.’

      • eee
        July 20, 2011, 2:11 pm

        And perhaps this is a good thread to ask what are the aims of the BDS campaign? It is aimed at forcing Israel to cease to exist? Is it aimed at forcing Israel to do something? If a peace agreement with the PA is signed, will BDS stop?

        I am asking a simple question. If Israel wants to stop the BDS campaign, what exactly does it have to do? Please, no partial answers. I would like to know ALL the things Israel has to do, not just some of them.

      • Shingo
        July 20, 2011, 5:04 pm

        I am asking a simple question. If Israel wants to stop the BDS campaign, what exactly does it have to do?

        What is preventing you and Witty from visiting the BDS web page and reading it for yourselves?

        Do you hasbrats have an in built firewall in your Internet connection that prevents you from doing so?

  3. Ofer Neiman
    July 20, 2011, 6:22 pm

    Well, I sent the article to Prof. Chazan a few days ago. she hasn’t responded, but I guess that now we know she got the email…

    Any chance for a NIF comment on the issue of supporting (or rather, failing to support) some very selective sanctions?

    This still seems to be beyond NIF’s lexicon.

  4. Shingo
    July 20, 2011, 7:24 pm

    Sorry Naomi,

    But this otherwise well written piece (albeit laced with dishonesty) is nothing more than an admission of the inadequacy and irrelevance of the NIF. It is indeed your “strategic analysis”, your false arguments that are being chellenged. Chazan’s takign points were so absurd that any inlteligent would have realized they were baseless.

    I am dissapointed that I didn’t attend Naomi Chazan’s speech, but I would have made the very same arguments that Samah Sabawi raised. Chazan’s arguments were truly pathetic, and bordering on farcical, as Samah points out. Who can take seriously the complaint that BDS singles out Israel – of course it singles out Israel. For crying out loud, who the hell is occupying Palestine other than Israel? and what state was Chazan there to denfend other than Israel?

    Should we take this ludicrous argument to imply that you and Chazan were opposed to the boycott of South Africa on the grounds that South Africa was being singled out? Is it any wonder that you are being attacked on all sides when you stand for nothing?

    And contrary to your claims, the NIF has indeed actively lobbied against BDS, as Ofer pointed out in a number of examples.

    We believe that global BDS is a counter-productive and inflammatory strategy

    A pathetic statement. It is precisely why your organization and other so called peace movements, like J Street, have consigned themselves to being irrelevant.

    Since when is any strategy, short of blowing kisses to Israel, not perceived as inflammatory by Israel? As Chazan’s experience should have illustrated, any challenge to Israeli policies are perceived as inflammatory by Israel. Is that reason to do nothing?

    This is the same justification that Susan Rice offered for vetoing the UN resolution against the settlements. Not that the resolution was wrong, but that Israel would react irrationally and unpredictably if it had been passed. And yet like Rice, you and Chazan are insisting that continunig to treat Israel wil kid gloves is the only way to yield results?

    Simply delusional.

    it is a distraction from our job of serious social change in Israel.

    Yes, why would you consider BDS given what a spectacular success your program of serious social change in Israel has been?

    It is fair to differ with us on our strategic analysis. It is not fair to characterize Professor Chazan, a human rights activist for her entire career, as an “enabler” of inequality.

    Oh yes it is.

    Doing nothing or rejecting any strategy on the basis that the culprit doesn’t like it is indeed being an enabler. Martin Indyk made a very pointed observation recently, that the stratergy behind the US arming Israel to the teeth was persued in the hope that it would empower Israel to make difficult choices. Much to Indyk’s lament, tgis policy had simply convinced the Israelis that they didn’t have to make those choices.

    The NIF is making the very same mistake.

    Your movement is typical of those who are dipping their toes into the water of questioning the status quo, while deluding yourselves into believing that time is on your side and that change can be affected tiny increments.

    It is a well intended but useless exercise.

    • Ofer Neiman
      July 20, 2011, 9:03 pm

      well written, Shingo.

      • Shingo
        July 20, 2011, 9:45 pm

        Thank you Ofer.

        And hats off you for your post on the subject.

  5. Bumblebye
    July 20, 2011, 7:38 pm

    wrt BDS, NGOMonitor has come up with a short vid smearing the campaign:
    link to electronicintifada.net

    • Shingo
      July 20, 2011, 10:03 pm

      That has to be about the most lame video I have ever seen.

  6. Richard Witty
    July 20, 2011, 8:06 pm

    Her response was reasoned, kind, assertive, just, effective.

    Thank you for your work and for your clear definition of the basis of what you regard as effective.

    Thank your for articulating the goal of a viable healthy good neighbor Palestine to a viable healthy good neighbor Israel.

    • Shingo
      July 20, 2011, 9:46 pm

      Her response was reasoned, kind, assertive, just, effective.

      Her response was reasoned, dishonestl, kind, limp impotent and effected no one.

      It is effective if the goal is to maintain the staus quo, much like yourself Witty.

    • eljay
      July 20, 2011, 10:08 pm

      >> Thank your for articulating the goal of a viable healthy good neighbor Palestine to a viable healthy good neighbor Israel.

      She doesn’t articulate anything about a “goal of a viable healthy good neighbor Palestine to a viable healthy good neighbor Israel”. In fact, she says nothing about Israel’s ON-GOING campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

      Instead, she speaks only about the situation within Israel, in keeping with her organization’s statement of Principles:

      ——————-
      The New Israel Fund is dedicated to the vision of the State of 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.

      The New Israel Fund is committed to advancing the values of human dignity ensconced in Israel’s Declaration of Independence which it views as the key to its long-term security and survival.

      The New Israel Fund (NIF) works to strengthen Israel’s democracy and to promote freedom, justice and equality for all Israelis. Its work is designed to
      - Achieve equality for all the citizens of the state regardless of religion, national origin, race, gender or sexual orientation;
      - Realize the civil and human rights of all individuals and groups through the protection of Palestinian citizens and other marginalized minorities, including the advancement of collective rights, and opposition to all forms of discrimination and bigotry;
      - Recognize and reinforce the essential pluralism of Israeli society and tolerance for diversity;
      - Protect the access of minorities to democratic channels for the expression of their interests and identities and the promotion of their rights;
      - Empower civil society in Israel as the fundamental vehicle of an open society;
      - Build and maintain a just society at peace with itself and its neighbors.
      ——————-

      • Shingo
        July 20, 2011, 10:12 pm

        She doesn’t articulate anything about a “goal of a viable healthy good neighbor Palestine to a viable healthy good neighbor Israel”. In fact, she says nothing about Israel’s ON-GOING campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

        Please Eljay,

        Don’t interrupt Witty’s pre-prepared (post not matter how relevant) one liner. He’s thought about this long and hard, so please don;t distrct him by demanding he stay on topic.

      • eljay
        July 21, 2011, 8:19 am

        >> Please Eljay,
        >> Don’t interrupt Witty’s pre-prepared (post not matter how relevant) one liner.

        Couldn’t help it. I read the article and visited the website, and when I saw RW’s post I was stunned by the complete lack of correlation between the contents of the article + website and RW’s *ahem* “creative interpretation” of them.

  7. MHughes976
    July 21, 2011, 9:13 am

    Thanks for letting us see the NIF statement of principles. They do seem very like a conscience-salve. I don’t know if there’s much point in theoretical discussion but would like to ask ‘What is this “Israel” which results from Jewish self-determination’? If it is only within the 48 boundaries then the 67 territories are not the result of Jewish self-determination and Israeli domination of them is either unjustified, so should be ended forthwith, or else justified by some other consideration: one that NIF cannot expect us to take seriously, since they do not even mention it. If it extends into the 67 territories then the NIF principles imply a one-state solution, but I don’t think they mean that. There’s an awful lot of evasion and fine words with little meaning in the NIF zone.
    We could then ask how there can be an act of self-determination affecting a territory which is undetermined? How can you at the same time say ‘This place is ours!’ and not answer the question ‘What place exactly?’
    Not that I’ve ever seen a definition of the alleged right of self-determination in any context that seemed very plausible or was related by serious argument to other recognised principles.

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