- What is the New Israel Fund?
- What are NIF’s objectives?
- What is SHATIL?
- Who are NIF’s donors?
- What are NIF’s grant-making processes?
- What kinds of organisations are ineligible for NIF grants or support?
- Does NIF support organisations that promote the global BDS campaign?
- Does NIF support some organisations that have been critical of Israel?
- What about Arab-Israeli organisations?
- Who runs NIF?
- Who heads NIF Australia?
- What are some examples of recent achievements of NIF grantees?
- Did NIF oppose the establishment of a Knesset inquiry into its funding sources?
- Did NIF-supported organisations contribute to the Goldstone Commission?
Established in 1979, the New Israel Fund (NIF) has become the leading organisation committed to furthering equality and democracy for all Israelis.
NIF is a partnership between Israelis and supporters of Israel worldwide dedicated to a vision of Israel as the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people, and a shared society at peace with itself and its neighbours.
NIF raises funds for Israeli, government-recognised, not-for-profit organisations that comply with Israeli law and respect the principles of the NIF.
In the three decades since its inception, NIF has provided over $US250 million to more than 850 government authorised Israeli NGOs. NIF is widely credited with building Israel’s progressive civil society from scratch.Find out more about NIF and NIF Australia by visiting http://www.nif.org/ and http://www.nif.org.au/.
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 Arab 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.
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.
NIF receives donations from individuals and foundations in the United States of America, Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Australia.
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’s current grantees are listed here and in its financial accounts.
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 fulfill 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.
Six NIF-funded projects currently selected for particular focus by NIF Australia are:
- The Israeli Human Rights Organisation of People with Disabilities
- The Yerushalmim Movement
- The Coalition for Affordable Housing
- The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality
- Friends of the Earth Middle East.
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 disputed 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 within Israel, or
- the rights of Arab 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.
No. 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 organisations that engage in global BDS activities against Israel.NIF opposes the continued occupation of the disputed territories and settlement activities. NIF does not advocate boycotts of goods or services from settlements but will not exclude support for Israeli organisations that discourage the purchase of goods or services from settlements.
NIF supports some organisations that oppose settlements and the continued occupation of the disputed territories captured in 1967, and some human rights groups that report on alleged human rights abuses by the Israeli government, the IDF and others.
Most credible surveys show that a majority of Israelis want an end to the occupation of the disputed territories. This is not an anti-Israel or anti-Zionist position. An end to the occupation is an outcome that NIF hopes can be achieved in the interest of a better Israel, and without sacrificing Israel’s security needs.
A healthy democracy respects and protects human rights. As Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein 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 has given 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, for example, expressly acknowledged the contribution made by human rights monitors to improving the IDF’s protocols for minimising civilian casualties in urban warfare.
Arab Israelis constitute some 20% of Israel’s population and the Israeli government acknowledges 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 ground-breaking work in achieving equal rights for Arab Israelis.
Defending NIF's support of Arab-Israeli organisations in general, and Adalah specifically, 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.
Arab Israelis cannot reasonably be expected to share the Jewish perspective on the Zionist narrative. For example, some Arab 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 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.
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 Martin Indyk (former US Ambassador to Israel). Other board members include prominent Israeli and US academics, businessmen and philanthropists. You can see the full list of 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 is to sustain involvement of past board members and to educate, motivate, and nurture future leadership for the NIF.
NIF Australia was formed following a visit to Australia by Martin Indyk, a Fellow of the Brookings Institution and member of NIF’s Board. 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 is now one of two patrons of New Israel Fund Australia, along with Ronni Kahn.
NIF Australia’s board comprises:
- Robin Margo (president) – Robin is a senior barrister, has served in several Jewish leadership roles and is the immediate past president of the NSW Board of Jewish Deputies.
- Ric Benjamin (deputy president) – Ric is the CEO of Foodbank Victoria and the immediate past president of Jewish Aid Australia.
- Lee Ann Basser - Associate Professor at La Trobe University.
- Anthony Hollis – a graduate of Habonim in South Africa and former CEO of the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce.
- Mandi Katz – former Victorian chair of the Australian Union of Jewish Students and married to Ashley Browne, a former editor of the Australian Jewish News.
- Ilona Lee AM – a former president of the Shalom Institute and member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies social justice committee.
- Karen Loblay – businesswoman, founder and director of the Matana Foundation for Young People.
- Irving Wallach – a barrister, former head of Betar, former Secretary-General of the World Union of Jewish Students, former executive member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and former chair of the Zionist Youth Council of NSW, and married to Ronni Kahn, the founder of Oz Harvest.
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 39% decrease in the incidence of racist chanting during the Israeli 2010-11 soccer season.
NIF welcomed the (now 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 has campaigned against human rights groups in Israel) and Im Tirzu (a student organisation that has been critical of NIF).
NIF-funded 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. (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.