Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Brewing Controversy over NIF (New Israel Fund), Goldstone, and Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech cuts both ways. As Yaacov Lozowick blogs below, there are some thorny issues here that can make one uncomfortable; the right to openness and freedom of speech in a democracy, but also responsibilities when that freedom may veer into aiding and abetting the enemy in times of war. Several other takes as well, including Ben-Dror Yemini of Ma'ariv and notes from the JPost's firing of NIF head, Naomi Chazan.
david brumer

The New Israel Fund has turned itself into yet another body, one among many in the world, that are party to global deception. There are a million and one attacks on human life and human rights in the world. Israel, as a state in the midst of conflict, makes fewer attacks than any other element. This has been verified. This is anchored in numbers. But it is Israel that absorbs most of the criticism. This is called demonization, delegitimization and obsession.
Ben-Dror Yemini--Ma'ariv

NIF, Democracy, Decency and Other Problems
Earlier this week I wrote about the New Israel Fund (NIF) affair that just blew up (here and here). As it was easy to foretell, the usual suspects immediately swung into action to portray the attack on the NIF as a bold attack on Israel's democracy. That was a no-brainer. Haaretz takes it one step further, and is digging deep into the matter of who funds Im Tirzu, the organization which launched the attack. If memory serves, it was only a few months ago that questions were raised about the sources of funding that benefit left-wing organizations, at which time they branded such questions as.... A threat to democracy. All of which seems to me a fine demonstration of democracy in action.
We don't like you, you don't like us, we think you're stinkers, you think we're funded by Bad Guys, we're convinced your backers are Evil... that's what freedom of speech is all about. That the tones in Israel are harsh and strident is because Israelis have a culture of discourse which is not at all like what they teach in Oxford. The rancor of American political discourse these past 15 years (or is it 50?) can't hold a candle to the vitality (nice name) or vehemence (realistic name) of standard Israeli fare. Just as the Israeli ability to come together at times of crises is quite unimaginable in America or Europe. (Well, the Americans didn't do badly on 9/12). This is the Jewish way: the Talmud has many examples of scholars bad-mouthing one another while simultaneously engaging each other in complex discussions, and uniting in the face of external enemies.The Arabic word which has been adopted (colonized) by modern Hebrew is dugri: when you tell your interlocutor what you really think about them. Israelis are extremely dugri; this also means they know where they stand with one another, and can get on with living together.

Which is not to say there's no substance to the present spat. There is.The decision by Im Tirzu to attack Naomi Hazan personally is bad taste and enables the NIF to change the subject; it may or may not be a good tactic, however, since it's certainly generating a lot of attention, and attention is what Im Tirzu wanted. So if it was a good tactic or not, the PR people will have to say.The decision of the NIF to respond as they're responding, however, is telling. They've got two official responses up, one in English, on the American NIF website, and the other in Hebrew on the Israeli NIF website. The English one is signed by an American, the Israeli one by an Israeli, and if you compare the two it's pretty clear they were both written by the same person. How does the NIF defend itself? Poorly. First, they're the victims. Second, democracy in Israel has been their doing (you might even think: almost only their doing). Third, the attack on them is part of a purposeful undermining of democracy in Israel. Fourth... well, I'd like to tell you that fourth is some sort of response to the allegations against them, but alas, it isn't. Naomi Hazan (in the Haaretz link above) says there's nothing to respond to (she's a professor, so she knows); the rest of her colleagues don't even go that far. The historical reality has been that NIF-funded organizations indeed have made valuable contributions to the Israeli political and social sphere. They have and hopefully will continue to play an important role. A democracy really does need as many voices as possible, and theirs is sometimes a valuable one. Sometimes, it isn't. That's the crux of the matter. Some of the same NGOs which participate positively in Israel's democracy, also take positions which are legal but morally and of course factually indefensible. Pretending this is not so is delusional. Claiming that they are above reproach is anti-democratic. Finally, there's the comic aspect of how thin their skin is. Remember, the NGOs in question dish out criticism, harsh criticism and sometimes rancid animosity; they often intentionally supply Israel's enemies with rhetorical ammunition against it at time of war. They've got a serious case to answer, and preening that requiring them to do so is antidemocratic, is silly.

New Israel Fund Head Naomi Chazan Fired from Jerusalem Post
In case you missed the reference in Hillel's post below, here's an article about Namoi Chazan's firing from the Jerusalem Post: Amid row over contentious ad, Jerusalem Post fires Naomi Chazan of New Israel Fund
The trouble with the NIF is not that they support groups that are simply critical of Israel out of love, they support groups that would like to see Israel fundamentally changed until the word had no meaning anymore, and it's good to see the matter finally getting the wide spread attention it deserves so people have all the facts before they decide to either give money or have the NIF at the table.
Also, see Caroline Glick: The New Israel Fund and the next war

Ben-Dror Yemini: 'The New Israel Fund is part of the global deception campaign.'

The following piece by Ben-Dror Yemini first appeared in Maariv Hebrew, here. Here is the English translation that's circulating:
by Ben-Dror Yemini, Ma'ariv, 2.2.10
The New Israel Fund is part of the global deception campaign. It does not deal with human rights but with denying one people's right to self-determination.
The New Israel Fund is angry. It thinks that it is correct to spread false testimony about the State of Israel. It thinks that it is OK to participate in the demonization campaign of groups whose goal is to eliminate Israel. It thinks that it is OK to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission, even though it was established by the automatic majority of dark countries that controls the "UN Human Rights Council." It thinks that it is OK for Israel to cooperate with the Commission even though no country in the free world supported its establishment. It is certainly legitimate, in a democratic country, to do all these things. But there is something else that is also legitimate: Expose the truth about the Fund and the groups that falsely carry the description "human rights." If most of the political groups that are supported by the Fund do not recognize the State of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state - do not say human rights. Tell the truth: Denial of rights only for Jews. The Palestinians have the right to a state, a national state, of their own, just as the Croats, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and other peoples do - but not the Jews.
For example, the New Israel Fund supports the Zochrot non-profit association, which openly aspires to eliminate the State of Israel via the realization of the "right of return." Not that there is any such right and not that there has been even one precedent of a mass "return" after post-war population exchanges - but this does not bother the Fund. It always jumps at the slogan "human rights."

None of this is to say that Israel is exempt from criticism. Among the hundreds of claims, there are those that have merit. But many sane people abhor the human rights bodies, not because they abhor human rights, on the contrary. It is because most sane people are fed up that human rights have become a weapon for dark forces.

The New Israel Fund has turned itself into yet another body, one among many in the world, that are party to global deception. There are a million and one attacks on human life and human rights in the world. Israel, as a state in the midst of conflict, makes fewer attacks than any other element. This has been verified. This is anchored in numbers. But it is Israel that absorbs most of the criticism. This is called demonization, delegitimization and obsession.
There is no defense of human rights here but rather an orchestrated campaign in the service of Iran and Hamas. This is not the Fund's intention but this is the result. Things should be called by their name. Most of the groups supported by the Fund deal in the delegitimization of Israel. But the Fund rolls its eyes and whines: What is wrong with human rights? There is nothing wrong. There is something wrong with those who clearly aspire to deny the Jews' right to exist in the only place where they have sovereignty, in order to turn Israel into a "state of all its citizens," in which the majority will be Hamas supporters. There is something wrong with those who want to perpetrate politicide on only one people in the world. There is something wrong with those who collaborate with dark forces and try to sell the lie that it is all about "human rights."

How is it that so many people, mainly Jews, support the Fund? How is it they facilitate this systematic campaign that masquerades as humanitarian and is, in effect, demonic? They are not anti-Semites. They are people with good intentions. Their rhetoric deals with human rights and minorities. Jews are sensitive to this and good for them. Most are simply unaware. Most truly and innocently want Israel to be more enlightened and more progressive, and stricter about human life and human rights. But they do not know that the money goes to other goals.
Even Professor Naomi Chazan, who heads the Fund, does not hate Israel. But what has happened to countless bodies that deal with "the rights talk" has happened to them. In the end, they serve the agenda of Iran and Hamas.
Human rights groups can restore the confidence in themselves. They need to support human rights, not groups that deal in denying Israel's right to exist. In the meantime, these groups, including the New Israel Fund, are the major enemy, not only of Israel but of the free world and human rights.


George Jochnowitz said...

The controversy over the New Israel Fund is a part of a much bigger problem. Gross slanders against Israel are appearing in newspapers everywhere. A recent example, one that has received some attention, was the story in the Swedish paper Aftonbladet alleging that Israeli soldiers hunted down Palestinian children in order to kill them and harvest their organs. When people objected to the story, they were accused of opposing freedom of speech. However, correcting an error is part of freedom of speech--one would hope.
The allegation about Mohammed al-Dura has dropped out of the news, but it circulated for a long time. It was almost certainly a libel. The news explaining why the original report seemed false was given almost no attention in the press.
Phyllis Chesler has reported an incident of a girl in Turkey being buried alive as punishment for talking to a boy:
Where is the press? The perpetrators, the girl's father and grandfather, have dishonored themselves, their family, their country, and their religion. Hardly anybody knows.

Uzi Silber said...

an Israeli/American friend of mine refuses to acknowledge that the Al Durrah story was fraudulent. He wrote several articles about the viciousness of the IDF and what they supposedly did to Al Durrah. When i recently suggested that he issue a mea culpa in one of his published articles he got very angry, and kept on saying that General Yomtov Samia, commander of the southern front in 2000 had confirmed the truth of the story at the time. He still refuses to admit it may have been a bog lie.