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NIF Australia FAQ

  1. What is the New Israel Fund Australia?
  2. What are NIF’s objectives?
  3. What is SHATIL?
  4. Who are NIF’s donors?
  5. What are NIF’s grant-making processes?
  6. What kinds of organisations are ineligible for NIF grants or support?
  7. Does NIF support organisations that promote the global BDS campaign?
  8. Does NIF support boycotts of products from West Bank settlements?
  9. Does NIF support some organisations that have been critical of Israeli government policies?
  10. What about Palestinian-Israeli organisations?
  11. Where does NIF fit in Israeli society?
  12. Who runs NIF?
  13. Who runs NIF Australia?
  14. What are some examples of recent achievements of NIF grantees?
  15. Did NIF oppose the establishment of a Knesset inquiry into its funding sources?
  16. Did NIF-supported organisations contribute to the Goldstone Commission?

Q: What is the New Israel Fund Australia?

A:

Founded in 2011, the New Israel Fund Australia Foundation aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of civil and human rights, social and economic justice, democracy, diversity, reconciliation and peace.

NIF Australia is a home of progressive engagement with Israel that seeks to create active and deep connections between Australian Jews, their communities and Israel.

We also raise funds to empower Israeli civil society through the New Israel Fund. Founded in 1979, NIF is a partnership between Israelis and the Diaspora, and is the leading organisation committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis.

In Israel, NIF is widely credited with building Israel’s progressive civil society from scratch, and has provided over $200 million to more than 800 cutting-edge organisations over the last three decades.

NIF strengthens organisations and leaders that work to achieve equality for all the citizens of the state; realise the civil and human rights of all, including Palestinian citizens of Israel; recognise and reinforce the essential pluralism of Israeli society; and empower groups on the economic margins of Israeli society.

You can read more about the New Israel Fund at www.nif.org.

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Q: What are NIF’s objectives?

A:

NIF works to realise the vision of a Jewish democratic state contained in Israel’s Declaration of Independence:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Israel has been forced to fight defensive wars for most of its history. Its army is a citizen army and there is barely a family in Israel that does not know the human and economic cost of Israel’s security needs. It is to Israel’s enormous credit that under such adverse conditions it has accepted thousands of refugees, become a global leader in technology and innovation and built a strong economy and a vibrant, robust democracy.

But, as the Israeli government itself acknowledges, much remains to be done to realise the vision of Israel’s founders. 

To that end, funds raised by NIF are provided to organisations that work to:

  • realise the civil and human rights of all Israeli individuals and groups including Palestinian Israelis, Ethiopian Jews, Bedouin, Druze and other marginalised minorities, and to oppose all forms of discrimination and bigotry;
  • achieve equality and social and economic justice for all the citizens of the state regardless of religion, national origin, race, gender or sexual orientation;
  • recognise and reinforce the essential pluralism of Israeli society and tolerance for diversity;
  • empower and protect civil society in Israel as a fundamental part of an open society;
  • and protect Israel’s environment.

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Q: What is SHATIL?

A:

SHATIL was founded in 1982 to complement NIF's grant making by providing grantees and other social change organisations with hands-on capacity-building and training in the basics of non-profit management.  More than 1000 organisations currently receive assistance from SHATIL.

With more than 100 ethnically diverse professionals working in Jerusalem, Haifa, Be'er Sheva, Lod, and the ‘Triangle’, SHATIL embodies a bottom-up community organising approach, reaching out to constituencies on the economic and geographic periphery, helping them create and run their own programmes when existing institutions fail to act, and maximising their strength by building coalitions among them.

You can read more about SHATIL at http://english.shatil.org.il/.

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Q: Who are NIF’s donors?

A:

NIF receives donations from individuals and foundations in Israel, North America, Europe and Australia.

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Q: What are NIF’s grant-making processes?

A:

NIF has a thorough process for grant-making and ongoing evaluation and review of grantees. It demands accountability from its grantees – including audited financial reports – and upholds complete transparency in its sources and uses of funds.

NIF recognises that for some donors, the work of particular NIF grantees is of a higher priority than others. To enable donors to NIF to fulfil their own personal priorities, they are able, if they wish, to direct that their donations be used to fund NIF grantees or sectors that they nominate.

NIF Australia focuses its efforts on four areas: human and civil rights, women’s issues, religious pluralism and tolerance, and leadership training. You can read more in that section of our website.

You can see a full list of NIF’s grants on the New Israel Fund’s US website.

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Q: What kinds of organisations are ineligible for NIF grants or support?

A:

It is NIF’s policy not to support or provide funding to organisations that:

  • participate in partisan political activity;
  • promote anti-democratic values;
  • support the continued occupation of  Palestinian or other territory acquired  in 1967 and subsequent settlement activity;
  • violate the human rights of any group or individual, advocate human rights selectively for one group over another or reject the principle of the universality of human rights;
  • condone or promote violence or use violent tactics;
  • employ racist or derogatory language or designations about any group based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation;
  • work to deny:
    • the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination embodied in the State of  Israel, or
    • the rights of Palestinian Israelis or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel; or
    • engage in activities at odds with the positions, principles, or vision of NIF.

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Q: Does NIF support organisations that promote the global BDS campaign?

A:

No. NIF will not fund or support organisations that engage in global BDS activities against Israel.

NIF opposes the global BDS movement, views its use of these tactics as inflammatory and counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the State of Israel. NIF will not fund or support an organisation that works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination in the State of Israel.

Max Blumenthal, a prominent anti-Zionist author and blogger, has described the New Israel Fund as the “front line of the opposition to BDS.”

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Q: Does NIF support boycotts of products from West Bank settlements?

A:

No. NIF does not support boycott of settlement goods. No grantee of the New Israel Fund promotes a boycott of settlement goods.

NIF supports the civil right of Israeli citizens, like citizens in any other country, to express their political, ethical or other values in deciding how they wish to spend their money. NIF will therefore not restrict funds to an organisation that chooses not to purchase goods produced across the Green Line.

In April, 2015, Israel’s High Court of Justice upheld the so-called ‘Boycott Law’ which makes it illegal for Israelis to advocate for a boycott of settlement goods along with offences and penalties. The law also enables any Israeli advocating such a boycott to be sued for damages.

NIF opposes a boycott of settlement goods, and no NIF grantee promotes such boycotts. Nevertheless NIF opposes the law. A number of NIF grantees initiated the challenge to the law in the High Court on the basis that it unduly restricts freedom of speech and impinges on the civil rights of Israelis to spend their money as they wish.

Further, NIF takes the view that the effect of the law is to blur the distinction between Israel proper and the occupied West Bank territory as has been unjustifiably done by some of Israel’s worst critics. On the occasion of Yom Ha’atzmaut 2015, NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch wrote that:

“As we all know, Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the West Bank do not enjoy the same rights as the Israeli settlers there. While Israel proper is a democracy, nobody can credibly argue that this is true in the territories. By blurring the distinction between Israel and the occupation, as this law insists on doing, the Knesset (and now the High Court too) are contributing to the acceleration of Israel’s delegitimization on the world stage.”

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Q: Does NIF support some organisations that have been critical of Israeli government policies?

A:

NIF’s purpose is to help promote the civil and human rights of Israelis and social and economic justice in Israeli society. Inevitably, ending injustices requires first bringing them into the public spotlight. NIF grantees have done this by undertaking social action campaigns and through legal actions in the High Court of Justice. Their campaigns have included countering gender discrimination and promoting religious pluralism and the civil rights of Palestinian-Israelis and Bedouin citizens.

NIF supports some organisations that oppose settlements as well as the continued occupation of territories captured in 1967. NIF also supports some human rights groups that report on alleged human rights abuses by the Israeli government, the IDF and others.

Most surveys show that a majority of Israelis would like to see an end to the occupation of the territories. This is not an anti-Israel or anti-Zionist position. An end to the occupation can be achieved in the interest of a better Israel without sacrificing Israel’s security needs.

A healthy democracy respects and protects human rights. As Israeli Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has said: 

“One of the characteristics of a democracy is the protection of human rights. For that reason in Israel, as in every other democracy, human rights organizations are allowed to operate freely.”

If a human rights abuse is shown to have occurred, it is not the Israeli human rights community that gives ammunition to Israel’s detractors, it is those who committed the abuse in the first place. The fact that an enquiry into such acts takes place reflects well on Israeli democracy.

The IDF itself acknowledges the vital work that Israeli human rights organisations perform. It has expressly acknowledged the contribution made by Israeli human rights monitors to improving the IDF’s protocols for minimising civilian casualties in urban warfare.

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Q: What about Palestinian-Israeli organisations?

A:

Palestinian Israelis constitute some 20% of Israel’s population and successive Israeli governments have acknowledged that, by comparison with other sectors of Israeli society, if not with Arabs in neighbouring countries, they have suffered decades of discrimination and neglect. 

As Avishay Braverman, Israel’s Minister of Minorities from 2009-2011, said:

"Equality and partnership is not only written in our Declaration of Independence, it is not only moral, but it is also essential for the State of Israel, for its sustainable growth. If we do not do what is right and wise, we will be pushing the young Israeli Arabs into adversaries.“

That is why NIF funds and supports organisations such as Adalah, that have done and continue to do groundbreaking work in achieving equal rights for Palestinian Israelis.

Defending NIF's support of Palestinian-Israeli organisations in general, and Adalah specifically, former Deputy Attorney-General Yehudit Karp wrote on the Times of Israel website in March 2012:

“We can’t allow the attacks on Adalah to succeed. The survival of Israel’s democracy depends on allowing the voices of unpopular minorities to be heard. We, the majority, will not always like what Adalah has to say, or the light they shine on discriminatory practices. It doesn’t matter. Living up to our own best interests and values means that we must engage with our fellow citizens when they stand up for their rights. The attacks on Adalah may hurt that organization. In the long run, they will hurt Israel more.” 

Palestinian Israelis cannot reasonably be expected to share the Jewish perspective on the Zionist narrative. For example, Palestinian Israeli human rights groups that receive NIF funding have called for Israel to become a bi-national Jewish-Arab state. NIF does not support that view (though some Jewish and Israeli organisations and thinkers do) but NIF considers it reasonable for this to be the subject of free and open debate in a democratic society.  

If a grantee’s main activity strengthens Israeli society by promoting civil and human rights, pluralism and democracy, NIF will not cut it off on account of statements inconsistent with the Zionist narrative. In a similar way, NIF does not stop funding its Orthodox grantees, who think differently than NIF about the rights of gays and women. Free-flowing debate about such issues is not anti-Israel, it is Israeli democracy in action.

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Q: Where does NIF fit in Israeli society?

A:

Israel is a complex, modern society and it faces challenges not dissimilar to other advanced Western economies, like a growing gap between rich and poor and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. In addition, Israel is a state with a large minority group – 20% of the country’s citizens identify as Palestinian citizens of the state – and the country faces very difficult regional security issues.

NIF Australia believes it is important for Diaspora communities to engage with the whole of Israeli society – to celebrate its incredible achievements, as well as understand its challenges.

Whenever NIF identifies an issue that Israeli society faces, it seeks to be part of a solution. Just as we rejoice in Israel’s technological advancements, we celebrate instances where an NIF grantee successfully petitions the High Court of Justice to correct an injustice.

Over the 35 years of NIF’s work in Israel, this has happened on numerous occasions, and as a result each time Israel has become a more equitable, just and inclusive Jewish and democratic state – true to the vision of its Declaration of Independence.

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Q: Who runs NIF?

A:

NIF is run by a governing board, comprising officers and directors from Israel and the Diaspora. Board members include Naomi Chazan (former Member and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset), Itzhak Galnoor (former head of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s office) and Daniel C. Kurtzer, former US Ambassador to Egypt and to Israel. Other board members include prominent Israeli and US academics, businessmen and philanthropists. You can see the full list of NIF International’s board members here.

NIF also has an International Council, an advisory group established in 2002 to supplement the work of the organisation’s governing board. The role of the international council - co-chaired by Amb. Kurtzer and Adv. Talia Sasson, academic and former legal advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - is to sustain involvement of past board members and to educate, motivate, and nurture future leadership for the NIF.

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Q: Who runs NIF Australia?

A:

NIF Australia is run by a small board and staff.

NIF Australia was formed following a visit to Australia by Martin Indyk, a Fellow of the Brookings Institution and former United States Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations. Martin was educated in Australia and served as the US Ambassador to Israel and as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the Clinton administration. He and Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest, are co-patrons of NIF Australia.

You can read more on the “Who We Are” section of our website.

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Q: What are some examples of recent achievements of NIF grantees?

A:

The list of achievements by NIF-funded organisations is impressively long. The following are a few recent outcomes of work by organisations supported and funded by NIF:

  • A ruling by the Israeli High Court that publicly funded buses cannot compel or enforce gender-segregated seating.
  • Establishment of a Coalition for Affordable Housing that contributed, with other NIF-funded organisations, to a mass movement of Israelis calling for greater social justice in Israel – which included 450,000 people marching in the streets of Tel Aviv in September 2011.
  • Resolutions passed by municipalities in Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Ra’anana initiating new housing projects to ensure access to affordable housing for Israelis with limited financial means.
  • A District Court ruling allowing a gay man and his partner to be registered as parents of twins born with the assistance of a surrogate mother.
  • A High Court order requiring the recognition of a civil (non-religious) marriage that took place in a foreign embassy in Israel.
  • A campaign and lobbying effort that led to the passage of the Clean Air Law, imposing strict emission standards and establishing procedures for monitoring air quality.
  • A huge decrease in the incidence of racist chanting during the Israeli 2010-11 soccer season.

Many other achievements are referred to on NIF Australia’s website.

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Q: Did NIF oppose the establishment of a Knesset inquiry into its funding sources?

A:

Not in principle. NIF welcomed the (later abandoned) proposal for a Knesset investigation into foreign sources of funding for Israeli NGOs, as long as all groups receiving such funding were to be investigated, including, for example, settler organisations, NGO Monitor (which campaigns against human rights groups in Israel) and Im Tirzu (a student organisation that has been critical of NIF).

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Q: Did NIF-supported organisations contribute to the Goldstone Commission?

A:

NIF-funded Israeli human rights organisations carefully monitored Operation Cast Lead. The IDF used their reports, worked with those organisations in evaluating its own conduct and has expressly acknowledged their assistance.

Some of these organisations provided information to the Goldstone Commission. But the claim made by some  that “without NIF there would be no Goldstone Report” is incorrect. Just 1.3% of citations in the Goldstone Report originated from NIF grantees. Many more than that were from publicly available Israeli government , agency and other sources. For further information, click here.

These grantees provided the same information in dozens of subsequent investigations by the IDF. Those investigations, in turn, led the IDF to improve its operational procedures and caused Richard Goldstone to revisit his conclusions in an article he published in the Washington Post on 1 April 2011. 

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