Frequently Asked Questions - New Israel Fund Australia

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn More About NIF

Over the last 10+ years NIF Australia has built a strong community based on a shared commitment to Israel and its future as an open, inclusive and democratic society.

What is the New Israel Fund Australia?

Founded in 2011, the New Israel Fund Australia is a partnership of Israelis and supporters of Israel worldwide, dedicated to a vision of Israel as both the Jewish homeland and a democracy for all its citizens.

We promote freedom, equality and social justice in Israel by funding Israeli non-profits and fostering new discussions in the Australian Jewish community.

We do this 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 US$250 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.

What are NIF’s objectives?

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.”

You can read more in the "Our Impact" page for the areas in which NIF Australia works.

Who are NIF’s donors?

NIF receives donations from individuals and foundations in Israel, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Germany and Austria.

What are NIF’s grant-making processes?

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.

A full list of NIF Australia's grants are available on our website.

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

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.

What is NIF’s position on boycott, divestment and sanctions?

The New Israel Fund is committed to strengthening democracy in Israel, supports freedom of speech and promotes non-violent means of expression of belief and conscience. We oppose any attempt to criminalise the legitimate expression of support for any non-violent strategy or tactic, including the global BDS movement which we do not ourselves support.

NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organisations that have global BDS programs.

However, NIF opposes the occupation and settlement activities. NIF will thus not exclude support for organisations that lawfully discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.

Read more: Op-ed by NIF Australia executive director Liam Getreu in Sydney Morning Herald, "Sydney Festival boycott a blunt instrument that blocks voices of dissent"

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

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.

These are not anti-Israel or anti-Zionist position. For example, countless military and security experts believe that ending the occupation is in Israel's security interests.

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.

What about Palestinian-Israeli organisations?

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 2009-11, 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.

Former supreme court justice Ayala Procaccia had this praise for Adalah:

A significant number of the decisions in principle handed down by the High Court of Justice on human rights issues were delivered on petitions submitted by Adalah. Adalah, under the leadership of Attorney [Hassan] Jabareen, excels in its commitment, determination, and professionalism. It is an organization that works to advance human rights through legal, and not extra-legal, means, with outstanding intellectual ability, strong moral commitment, and an expansive vision of Israeli society in all its diversity. These qualities have given Adalah its unique place in the human rights landscape in Israel.

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 rights of LGBT Israelis and women. Free-flowing debate about such issues is not anti-Israel, it is Israeli democracy in action.

Where does NIF fit in Israeli society?

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.

Who runs NIF?

NIF is run by a governing board, comprising officers and directors from Israel and the Diaspora. You can read more on our website.

Who runs NIF Australia?

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 about our: board, staff, patrons, and Advisory Council.