By George Birnbaum, Hank Sheinkopf and Ronn Torossian
Two very different events took place in the Jewish community of Atlanta on June 8. The first: a board meeting of Israel Bonds, an organization committed to investment in Israel and the Jewish state. The second: a discussion hosted by the New Israel Fund, an organization committed to divestment in Israel as well as delegitimizing Israel and the Israel Defense Forces in the international community.
What is sad is that the second event was hosted at Congregation Shearith Israel, and no synagogue, Jewish organization or individual supporting Israel can also support an organization like NIF.
NIF has done a great job the past few years to try to hide the truth from the broader Jewish community about its overall goals. The problem for NIF is that it cannot change or hide the facts in the public domain, and it’s time to unmask NIF for what it really is: an organization dedicated to and supportive of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, as well as an organization that continually supports those who try to undermine Israel at the United Nations, in the European Union and before other international bodies.
A quick look at the NIF website (www.nif.org) would have one believe that it opposes the BDS movement in “general,” yet NIF spokeswoman Naomi Paiss recently noted that NIF-funded organizations “have the right to make their own decisions.” A close look at the organizations that NIF funds clearly shows how NIF is helping to promote BDS and undermine Israel.
Two of those organizations, Adalah (which received over $1.6 million from NIF) and Physicians for Human Rights (which received over $700,000 from NIF), were instrumental in helping the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict recently recommend including the IDF on the black list of countries and bodies accused of systematically compromising the welfare of children, alongside al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Islamic State, the Taliban and others of the most egregious human rights violators of our time (www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/72860-150528-un-envoy-put-israel-on-blacklist-for-harming-children).
Another recipient of funding from NIF, +972 Magazine (which received over $125,000 from NIF), regularly features stories that accuse Israel of being an apartheid state and taking part in ethnic cleansing. Other NIF-supported groups, such as Mossawa (which received over $700,000 from NIF), continually refer to the creation of the state of Israel as a “disaster.”
NIF even supports groups in Israel that are considered to be anarchists by the Israeli police. The deputy Tel Aviv district commander, Brig. Gen. Yoram Ohayon, was quoted by Yedioth Ahronoth, a leading newspaper, as saying that anarchists funded by NIF are behind the recent violence during what were intended to be peaceful protests by the Ethiopian community.
Two of these anarchists organizations, Hamaabara and Lo Nechmadim, are singled out by NIF (www.newisraelfund.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/nif-annual-report-2013.pdf) as “giving voice to public engagement” in Israel and hence being worthy of NIF support.
There is a simple reason why well-regarded organizations such as Birthright refuse to partner with NIF and why Knesset Deputy Speaker Yoni Chetboun said NIF was bent on “erasing the Jewish identity from the Jewish state”: NIF funds and supports groups that harm the IDF, promote BDS and try to undermine the Jewish nature of Israel.
Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled recently that the finance minister may “impose fines and withhold funding from Israeli NGOs calling for boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel” and has the power to file lawsuits against those nongovernmental organizations. Justice Hanan Meltzer described boycotts as “political terrorism.”
Two billionaire Jewish Americans and major political donors, Republican Sheldon Adelson and Democrat Haim Saban, held a high-profile conference the first weekend of June, gathering countless Jewish organizations and leaders to discuss the need to stand united against boycotts of Israel. While they acknowledged domestic political differences, Adelson and Saban said that “when it comes to Israel, we are absolutely on the same page.”
Leading Israeli politician and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid said this month that the BDS movement “is actually a puppet in a theater operated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” He also described BDS supporters and leaders as “out and out anti-Semites.”
We publicly urge synagogues and Jewish organizations to stop hosting events on behalf of NIF. We also urge donors to NIF to stop funding NIF’s boycott of Israel.
Any boycott of the state of Israel is horrible and helps to make all of Israel a demonized pariah. Those carrying out the boycotts see all of Israel as “occupied.”
We stand with Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson, and we stand with both right-wing and left-wing members of the Knesset in saying that a boycott is unacceptable and that anyone who supports the state of Israel must not support any boycott of Israel.
George Birnbaum is an international political consultant and the partner of Arthur Finkelstein. Birnbaum formerly served as chief of staff for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hank Sheinkopf is the CEO of Sheinkopf Communications and a leading Democratic strategist. His clients have included former President Bill Clinton. Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of the 20 largest independent PR firms in the United States.