Charity funded groups that ‘assisted Goldstone’

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 4, 2010

The New Israel Fund has come under fire for financing human rights groups that supplied the Goldstone Commission with information regarding alleged war crimes by the IDF.

A student organisation, Im Tirzu, which bills itself as a “centrist” movement “working for the renewal of Zionist ideals”, this week published an analysis of the Israeli sources in the UN report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Im Tirzu’s researchers counted 450 quotes from Israeli sources in the Goldstone Report. Two hundred were from either official government sources or the local media, and the rest were from independent organisations. According to the report, over three quarters came from information provided by 16 organisations that receive funding from the New Israel Fund (NIF).

Since its foundation in 1979, NIF, which describes its aim as “promoting equality for all Israelis”, has provided almost £100 million to hundreds of groups active in Israeli civil society.

The Im Tirzu report classified the quotes from Israeli sources in the Goldstone Report as “positive”, “neutral” and “negative” and found that out of the 207 “negative” quotes that criticised the IDF and the Israeli government, 191 came from the 16 NIF-funded organisations.

They include the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), B’tzelem — one of the first groups to draw attention to Palestinian civil rights in the territories — and the Adallah Centre, one of the main groups working on Arab civil rights in Israel.

The report also details the groups’ activities during and after Operation Cast Lead, when they called on the international community to intervene and investigate Israel’s actions.

The report precedes a wider campaign which will include posters and demonstrations against the NIF and its president, former Meretz MK Naomi Hazan. Im Tirzu members demonstrated at the weekend outside Professor Hazan’s home, wearing keffiyehs and holding up placards with cartoons of a horned Naomi Hazan-Goldstone. She has also been disinvited from a visit to a synagogue and community centre in Melbourne this month.

Ron Shoval, Im Tirzu’s chairman, said: “NIF also supports a lot of wonderful organisations but these 16 have been working hard against the IDF and its legitimacy and the legitimacy of the state of Israel.”

He accused the NIF of trying to change Israel’s Jewish identity.

The heads of NIF and the organisations mentioned in the report claimed this was part of a wider campaign orchestrated by the government to silence the civil rights movement.

An NIF statement said: “The recent attacks are only the last barrage in a planned attempt to delegitimise the civil society in Israel, to suppress the human rights community which enjoys wide international support and to weaken Israeli democracy in favour of an extreme ideology.”

The foundation defended the groups it funds, saying that “they take upon themselves the difficult role to examine issues connected to the occupation, military operations and human rights”.

Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of ACRI, added: “A democratic country does not support the deliberate silencing of the critical voices that operate within it but deals honestly with what needs to be corrected.”

Last updated: 6:32pm, February 4 2010