Israeli soccer star and Captain of Premier League Hapoel Hadera F.C. Menashe Zalka, last week withdrew from the Israel Football Association’s “Social Responsibility All-Star Team” initiative after learning that it was co-sponsored by the New Israel Fund (NIF), Israel Hayom reported.
NIF has been accused of a long list of collaborations with Israel’s enemies, including providing—through its supported NGOs—the bulk of negative reporting from within Israel in the 2010 Goldstone report. NIF also torpedoed in 2018 an Israeli deal to deport illegal African workers to Rwanda.
The US-based NIF is one of the largest funders of Israel’s highly controversial NGOs, including Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, and Adalah. It also provides substantial funding to NGOs that defend terrorists and their families in court.
The initiative, a joint project of the Israel Football Association, the Israel Football Players’ Association and the New Israel Fund, features 14 of the country’s top soccer players and aims to promote integration and coexistence.
Zalka, an Ethiopian-Israeli athlete who was an honoree at last year’s Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony, served in the IDF in the paratroopers special forces unit, and to this remains on reserve duty, explained on Facebook that he was pleased to take part in the initiative until he learned of the NIF’s involvement.
“Once I found out, I decided to withdraw from the project,” wrote Zalka. “There is no chance that I will cooperate with the ‘New Israel Fund.’ If in the future there will be projects that the New Israel Fund is not involved in, I will be happy to participate.”
Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu, called the NIF a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and praised Zalka for his courage.