I have supported the New Israel Fund my entire career, primarily because the work they do supporting the ongoing development of an Israeli civil society for all its citizens is a value deeply imbedded in Israel's Declaration of Independence. Even as the War of Independence was beginning, the Declaration stated:
"We appeal - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."
That always made me very, very proud.
What is happening today, however, in an effort to totally delegitimate the Goldstone Report on last winter's war in Gaza, is radically misquided. An effort led by several members of the Knesset and funded by, among others, right wing Christian minister Rev John Hagee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Israel Religious Action Center, and the New Israel Fund, are under attack--and being blamed for funding groups that gave information critical of Israel to the Goldstone Report.
What a perverse irony that "Diaspora" money is being used to undermine the work of civil rights in Israel because those civil rights are being defended in part from "Diaspora" money. What a perverse irony that Israel, a beacon of democracy and hope in the Middle East, is now eating its young by attacking those institutions which insist on holding Israel to its highest values, as encoded in its foundation document. What a perverse irony that Israel, established so all Jews could be free, is allowing its state apparatus to be used to harass, intimidate and arrest those who are exercising their rights as free citizens.
(The newsblog Coteret has offered great coverage of this whole debacle.)
I applaud Daniel Sokatch, the NIF CEO, along with Naomi Chazan and several others for bravely facing this onslaught and call upon Jewish leaders in the United States to condemn these deeply misguided attacks.
The NIF website has some ideas for ACTION HERE.
Israel without its vision of an open democracy is just another state--political prose that I refuse to read. Israel's values are vital to the very foundation of its existence and especially in tough times, those values see us through to the essence of who we are as a people.
I'm on the side of the NIF and the signatories to the Declaration of Independence. Im Tirzu and the various Knesset members who are using McCarthy-like tactics are the ones destroying Israeli democracy and I expect American Jewish leaders to fearlessly say so.
JJ Goldberg of the Forward weighs in with a solid OP-ED right HERE.