The New Israel Fund (NIF) has defended a conference sponsored by three Palestinian groups it funds, which allegedly “demonised” Israel.
The poster publicising the conference, held in Haifa on Monday, shows the hand of an IDF soldier grasping the breast of a woman wearing a traditional Palestinian dress.
The poster reads: “Her husband needs a permit to touch her. The occupation penetrates her life everyday.”
The groups behind the event received NIF funding last year. Mada Al-Carmel was given $100,000 (£59,000), the Arab Forum for Sexuality was given $23,000 (£14,000) and Women Against Violence was given $217,000 (£129,000).
The conference, My Land, Space, Body and Sexuality: Palestinians in the Shadow of the Wall, was part of a campaign in 11 countries highlighting the attack on sexual rights in Muslim societies.
Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said: “NIF presents itself as a Zionist organisation and claims to have red lines regarding funding. Yet NIF officials sometimes ignore these boundaries, and grant funds to groups that blatantly are involved in the demonisation of Israel as a democratic Jewish state.”
NIF chairman Nicholas Saphir defended the conference, saying there is a “real humanitarian problem” in Israel, where it is illegal to grant citizenship to Palestinians married to Israeli citizens.
“NIF supports free expression of the various views of our broad spectrum of grantees — whether we agree with all their positions or not,” he said. “As long as the work is within the framework of Israel’s charity law and other Israeli laws, NIF will continue to support them in the interests of sustaining its vibrant democracy.”
Conference organisers insisted that they were not claiming that IDF soldiers rape or sexually violate Palestinians.
Dr Himmat Zuabi, a researcher at the Mada Al-Carmel centre, which carries out studies on the Israeli Arab society, said: “We didn’t talk about actual rape and sexual harassment, we tried to show how the political issue, which is what everybody talks about, has a daily effect on the lives of Palestinian women. The poster was just an artistic device to convey a message.”