New Israel Fund (NIF) executive vice president Rabbi David Rosenn took disingenuousness to new heights during a talk held Wednesday evening, June 18, at the Jewish Center of Princeton, when he told the audience he refrained from using the term “occupied” territory to avoid “the hot button.”
In fact, Rosenn admitted that areas beyond the ‘green (1949 Armistice) line’—or Judea and Samaria, more accurate Biblical references he refused to use—are not considered Israel proper by him or NIF and therefore the NIF does not sponsor organizations which operate or are headquartered there. Yet NIF continues to be one of the largest funders of B’Tselem—the Israeli Information Center of the Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Either Rosenn missed B’Tselem’s actual name (it includes ‘in the Occupied Territories’) or he simply omitted the distinction between Jewish organizations in the territories – which they don’t fund – and non- or even anti-Jewish organizations, which they do fund.
B’Tselem is also the organization responsible for giving Arab Palestinians video cameras to record IDF responses (but only the IDF responses) to disrespectful and sometimes violent instigation. The number of recorded alleged IDF ‘violations’ dropped dramatically once the IDF armed soldiers with cameras to capture entire (rather than partial) incidents.
Despite a polite, restrained albeit particularly well informed line of questioning—this is Princeton, after all—Rosenn resorted to semantics, suggesting a distinction exists between organizations supporting the international Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel (BDS) movement—a clear violation of NIF’s stated policy—and organizations located in Israel calling for the boycott of “Settlement” products.
Really? After fielding several questions to clarify the NIF position, Rosenn, who had earlier claimed that the NIF needed to be “vigilant” in deciding which organizations to fund, attempted to dismiss concerns saying “if [NIF] focused on BDS, we wouldn’t be able to realize our mission.”
Perhaps it would surprise Rabbi Rosenn to know that NIF-grantee Adalah provides legal representation for several Arab organizations that promote BDS in Europe as well as in Israel. Perhaps not.
The NIF is also a “proud sponsor” of Breaking the Silence (BtS), an organization of former IDF soldiers apparently so damaged by the effects of war that they were unable to go through chain-of-command to report abuses and IDF policy violations, but found themselves more than capable of confiding in the UN commission that produced the fraudulent and now-debunked Goldstone Report.
Even HaAretz, Israel’s widely read left leaning daily, discredited the group in 2009 citing the BtS agenda as “purely political.” How a political agenda, particularly one based on fictional events, “supports issues that are in the public good”—the primary definition of an NGO—is anyone’s guess.
There’s no doubt that some NIF grantees are doing respectable, perhaps even good work. The problem is NIF is funded from outside of Israel and some of the sources are sketchy at best. This concern precipitated new legislation in Israel that has forced the NIF to be more diligent in adhering to its own guidelines. Even so, the relationship between NIF and the historically anti-Semitic Ford Foundation drew the attention of investigative reporter Edwin Black who follows NIF money in “Financing the Flames.”
How NIF funding decisions are made remained elusive, with Rosenn saying only that a professional grant department was responsible.
The biggest surprise of the night came when Rosenn asserted that all criticism of the NIF emanated from reports in NGO Monitor, a respected watchdog group that was instrumental in bringing the NIF funding to the Israeli public, and from JCC Watch founder Richard Allen. Allen’s gripe, according to Rosenn, with NYC Federation’s John Ruskay is what led to his attacks on the NIF.