Learn More About NIF
Over the last seven 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
Does NIF support organisations that promote the global BDS campaign?
No. NIF does not support BDS for a number of reasons, including:
- Elements of the BDS movement have been critical of Israel's right to exist as a democratic home for the Jewish people, contravening the Jewish people's right to self-determination. While it is appropriate to criticise institutional issues facing non-Jews in Israel, we oppose attempts to undermine the right of the Jewish people to a homeland, which are, in any event, counterproductive.
- The source of the most significant and reliable evidence of the injustice of the continued occupation are Israeli organisations, including B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, funded by NIF. Boycotting Israeli organisations which are fighting the occupation undermines the objective of ending the occupation.
- The boycott applies to artists and academics, who are amongst the most articulate critics of the occupation, providing a highly effective voice of opposition. Their voices are integral to mobilising the Israeli (and global) public to oppose harmful policies against Palestinians.
- Significant voices in the Israeli public sphere support an end to the occupation. Their voices need to be harnessed and heard by the Israeli government. A boycott is likely to result in Israelis with moderate views feeling under siege, hardening their attitudes toward the occupation.
NIF also does not support a 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 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.”
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 2009-2011, 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 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?
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.
Did NIF oppose the establishment of a Knesset inquiry into its funding sources?
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 far-right organisation that has been critical of NIF).