Much has been written this past week on Breaking the Silence, one of NIF’s many grantees. The crux of what they do has been obscured however in the fog of debate about this or that modus operandi or whether a particular press story was sufficiently contextualised.
Former US Ambassador to Israel and New Israel Fund of Australia co-patron Martin Indyk said this to a gathering of NIF supporters in Sydney this week:
BtS is trying to sensitise Israelis to the ways in which the occupation is having an impact on Israel's values, how it is growing like a cancer within Israel, affecting the way Israelis view Palestinians and Israel's Arab citizens, and the way they treat them. That's the heart of what BtS is about.
It's controversial. It shines a light on some Israeli practices that make us feel uncomfortable. But in the end I think it's very important to do that, to shine the light on these things...Something needs to be done about it. It's not going to get addressed unless there is some light shone on the problem. So what do we do in this situation? Do we ignore it because Israel has so many enemies and why should we give its critics more ammunition? Or do we say: Israel is a strong country and its real weakness will come from failing to confront these problems. I think the latter is the way we should address these things. That's a far more effective way of helping Israel than to attack the messenger and say how dare they do something to weaken Israel.
The New Israel Fund is not an organisation for everybody because it's inevitably going to be involved in edgy stuff. It can't achieve social progress otherwise. So there are going to be people who will feel more comfortable supporting more establishment organisations. And that's as it should be. We are all working for the same basic objective -- Israel's well-being. But there are others who care about social issues, who care about the strength of Israel's democracy, who care about equality in Israel. And for those people NIF is the best possible way to help Israel.
Viewed from Australia, what Breaking the Silence does may be confronting for some. But BtS is recognised as a legitimate NGO by the Israeli Government and we support, and acknowledge the courage of, these soldiers and former soldiers. They are all Israeli citizens and they serve their country in many ways, including by drawing attention to the corrosive effects of the occupation on all involved.
NIF and NIF Australia will continue to support Israelis working in hundreds of civil society organisations, including BtS, to uphold the democratic principles in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
President, New Israel Fund Australia Foundation