Event: Join Israeli social justice activist Anat Hoffman for an exclusive Q&A
at Emanuel Synagogue (Sydney), TBI (Melbourne), or live from home
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ACRI: Discriminatory Prawer Plan Approved

Bedouin villageNew Israel Fund's flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, alerts us to the approval of the appalling Prawer Plan:

The plan outlines implementation of the Goldberg Commission Report of 2008 to deal with the problem of unrecognized villages and the Bedouin community in the Negev. Rather than recognizing the systemic violations of the rights of the Bedouin, the Prawer plan continues the discrimination of one of the most disenfranchised communities in Israel, during a period in which a mass Israeli protest movement has been calling for social justice for all citizens.

The Prawer Plan, which was prepared without representatives of the unrecognized villages, will lead to the unnecessary uprooting of tens of thousands of Bedouin from their homes, in clear violation of their historical and proprietary rights. An alternative master plan, submitted by the Regional Council of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages and Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights, proposes to keep all 35 unrecognized villages intact and to connect them to infrastructure and services, while saving Israel massive amounts of resources necessary for uprooting villages that have existed since before the State was established.

ACRI is working vis-à-vis policy makers to ensure that this plan is implemented, rather than the Prawer plan. Only a plan based on respect for the human rights of the Bedouin population and that includes them in the process will bring about a lasting solution for all residents of the Negev, both Arabs and Jews.

For more information on the Prawer Plan, you can consult this ACRI policy brief. You can also view an alternative position, written by ACRI with Bimkom, and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages, which proposes "a just solution that will resolve one of Israel's most painful examples of ongoing systematic violation of human rights, and one of the most stubborn open conflicts between the state and its citizens."

If you would like to receiving continuing updates from ACRI about the Prawer Plan and other civil rights issues in Israel, subscribe to ACRI's mailing list.

NIF Recent Achievements, August 2011

You can now download a copy (PDF) of NIF's Recent Achievements flyer, August 2011 edition. This includes:

  • Israel's Affordable Housing Protest Catches Fire
  • Shavuot Tikkun Encompasses the Entire Spectrum of Israel Society
  • Knesset Rejects “Investigation” of Human Rights Groups
  • ACRI Wins Prestigious US Human Rights Award
  • Israeli Government Recognizes Civil Marriages
  • Racism Declines in Israeli Soccer

Media Statement: Support for Jewish State

Dr Ron Weiser has made a number of incorrect and misleading public statements about NIF this year and his latest article in J-Wire contains more. 

NIF has expressly based itself, from its foundation in 1979 to the present day, on Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which speaks unequivocally of a Jewish state that is also democratic and does not discriminate against minorities, Jewish or non-Jewish.

That commitment is a matter of record, was restated publicly on several occasions by Prof Naomi Chazan, speaking as President of NIF, during her visit this year to Australia and was underlined by her in highly public fashion at the Sydney Opera House in June when, again speaking as NIF’s President, she emphatically rejected the Palestinian speakers’ demands for a Palestinian right of physical return, because implementation of a physical right of return could mean the end of the Jewish State and “we are not in the business of committing suicide”.

It is simply not correct to say, as Dr Weiser does, that the statement NIF issued this week is “a first and is a radical departure from previous NIF positions” or that NIF’s Australian branch needs to be convinced “to also come on board with the same vision”.

Six weeks ago, four representatives of NIFAu explained NIF’s longstanding support for a Jewish democratic state in detail at a open meeting with Dr Weiser and I then sent him a lengthy email (see below) which referred to the Opera House debate, listed other similarly emphatic public and private statements by both NIF and NIFAu in support of a democratic Jewish state, and concluded on this topic with the following words:

"Now that you have read the above analysis of the NIF principle [stated on NIF’s website], and been reminded of these multiple public statements, I trust you will not assert again, as you did at Emanuel Synagogue on 17 July, that NIF or NIFAu does not support Israel as the Jewish State.

You also agreed at our meeting last Thursday that if we do support Israel as the Jewish State, we are within your red line, from which it follows that disagreements between us and you about whether or not NIF should be funding certain grantees – there are sure to be some – should fairly be characterised as disagreements between well-intentioned people about what is the best way to support Israel as the Jewish State. I hope that will be acknowledged by you in any future discussion you participate in about NIF or NIFAu."

Mercifully, in his latest comment, Dr Weiser has at last conceded that NIF does support a Jewish state and is thus within his only “so called red line”.

Now that this “red line” sideshow is over, we in Australia will continue to support the important work that NIF does as the leading organisation committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis.  Recent developments in Israeli civil society offer encouragement and renewed hope in that regard. 

Robin Margo S.C.
President, New Israel Fund (Australia)

** **

Full text of e-mail from Robin Margo to Ron Weiser:

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NIF Statement: Wikileaks and Anti-Democratic Legislation

In response to the Wikileaks cable recounting a February 2010 discussion about pending anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset, the New Israel Fund issued this statement.

Support Israelis Pursuing Social Justice

This New Israel Fund Australia ad ran in this week's Australian Jewish News in both Melbourne and Sydney:

NIF-AJN-ad-Sept-1-2011.jpg

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This Sunday: NIF Melbourne goes to see the Israeli movie "Blood Relation"

It would be great to see you at the screening of Blood Relation this Sunday, part of the AICE Israeli Film Festival. For more information about the film, you can read this article from Ha'aretz Magazine in 2010.

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1 Million Israelis

The events of the last week have been a sobering reminder of the bloody toll that continues as a result of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But while Israel looks yet again to her security, on yet another border, Israelis are continuing their democratic life undeterred. 

In just over a week, on September 3, one million Israelis are expected to go out into the streets to stand for values that we also believe in -- social justice, equality and democracy.

Here’s our chance to show them we are aware and care: NIF is collecting signatures from supporters of Israel worldwide, to be published  in a large circulation Israeli newspaper the  day before the scheduled demonstration.

Add your voice. Show your support for a better Israel.

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Tent city is a beacon of social justice and optimism for all Israelis

Did you see Robin Margo's op-ed in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald?

Now is the time to be involved in NIF Australia and to support this movement of Israelis. Like NIF Australia on Facebook, tell your friends to subscribe to our updates, and consider donating and supporting this important cause.

Shabbat shalom,

The New Israel Fund Australia team.

Tent city is a beacon of social justice and optimism for all Israelis

tent protestsImagine Martin Place and Hyde Park transformed into a tent city and Oxford Street impassable by vehicles as hundreds of thousands of Australians unroll swags and stage a mass sit-in that spurs copycat protests at Federation Square in Melbourne and Southbank in Brisbane.

It may be hard to imagine tent cities sprouting across this country but that's been Israel's reality for almost a month as a critical mass of protesters have set up camps in Tel Aviv's city centre and elsewhere, refusing to leave until the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, acts on their grievances.

No, they're not up in arms over continued rejectionism by Hamas extremists, or the nuclear ambitions of Iran's ayatollahs, or where a UN vote over Palestine might lead.

Their main complaint is something Sydneysiders know about: the unaffordability of housing and the spiralling cost of living.

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NIF Australia Launch

View the media releases associated with our launch.

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NIF Supports Israel's Affordable Housing Protests

More than 150,000 have been protesting in Israel this past week. What started as a protest for more affordable housing has now transformed into a national campaign for more government accountability in health care, education and other public services, all of which are currently neglected. NIF is proud to support them in their protest.

In fact, for the past several years, NIF has been at the forefront of these issues, helping to spark this new Israeli awakening. NIF has helped co-ordinate the protests not just in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but also in cities right across Israel.

Prices for housing in Israel, both purchased and rented, have risen relentlessly over the past few years. According to the Bank of Israel, the price of the average Israeli home has risen nearly 50 per cent since December 2007 with rent prices also climbing sharply. Over the past year alone, apartment prices have risen 15 per cent.

Despite Israel's impressive economic growth, more and more Israelis, especially the young and disadvantaged, simply cannot afford to buy or even rent a home.

NIF Israel Executive Director Rachel Liel said, "What began as a local protest has grown as the Israeli public has stood for its rights and demanded a more equitable division of resources from the government. NIF is proud that it has supported every struggle by civil society in the past decade and is proud to be supporting this struggle - morally, as well as with advice and resources.”

Learn more about New Israel Fund's support of these protests.

Amos Oz in Melbourne - Tomorrow Night

Amos Oz spoke last night in Sydney, and is speaking again tomorrow, this time at the Melbourne Town Hall, in association with the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation and the Wheeler Centre. Don't miss out on your tickets. Also, make sure you read his article in today's Ha'aretz, where he has written about the housing protests.

More from NIF Australia