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The Article that the Jewish News Refuses to Print

March 5, 2010 – 2:11 pm20 Comments

Image source: israel.foreignpolicyblogs.com

The following article by Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel was written as a reponse to Gerald Steinberg’s op-ed on the New Israel Fund in the AJN. The AJN declined to publish it; it was first published by the AJDS, and we re-publish with their permission.We leave you to judge why the AJN published Steinberg’s original essay but not Indyk’s reply.

The Truth About the New Israel Fund
When I served as U.S. Ambassador in Israel in the 1990s, and as an American Jew committed to Israel’s survival and well-being, I became deeply concerned about the failure to adequately address the problems of inequality in Israel. I could see that Israeli governments were so preoccupied with war and peace decisions that they had little time to attend to the needs of Israel’s Arab and Bedouin minorities. Although growing into a robust Jewish state, Israel was falling short of Ben-Gurion’s standard that Israel should also be a state for all its citizens with equal rights for all, as called for in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. I feared the effect on the basic health of Israel’s democracy.

That’s why, when I left my post there and re-entered private life, I joined the board of the New Israel Fund (NIF). I had witnessed first-hand how NIF worked effectively to strengthen Israel’s civil society by training and funding those who lacked the ability to advocate on their own behalf. From the first laws to defend children’s rights to equity in land sales, from Israel’s first rape crisis centers to its first comprehensive law protecting the disabled, from the passage of Clean Air laws to Freedom of Information laws, NIF plays a unique role as the driving force behind positive social change in Israel and the defense of the human rights for all its citizens. And it does so not just for Israeli Arabs but for every disadvantaged sector of Israeli society, from orthodox women trapped by the Agunah, to Ethiopian immigrants struggling against discrimination, to Bedouin villages seeking government funding for basic infrastructure.

When Israel’s supporters rightly declare that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, NIF’s achievements are proudly cited as proof of that claim.

That is why I am so troubled by the attacks in Australia against NIF and the decision by the UPJ and the Zionist Council of Victoria to disinvite NIF’s president, Naomi Chazan from speaking to them. The apparent consequence is that the only voice in this “rip your arm off” discourse about NIF that Australian Jews now hear is that of NIF’s right-wing critics. How ironic that the organization that champions freedom of speech in Israel is denied the ability to defend itself through free speech in the Australian Jewish community!

Instead, Australian Jews are treated to the paranoid analysis of Gerald Steinberg and other self-appointed guardians of Israel’s virtue. I knew and respected Gerald when he was an academic for his work on arms control issues. Pity that he didn’t stick to that profession – he would have made a much greater contribution to understanding the real threat to Israel from Iran, rather than diverting attention of Australian Jews to the imaginary threat from civil and human rights organizations in Israel.

As a board member, I know that NIF maintains a thorough process for grant-making including clear criteria, ongoing evaluation and review. NIF demands accountability from its grantees and upholds complete transparency in its sources and uses of funds. That’s why NIF welcomes the proposed Knesset investigation into foreign sources of funding for Israeli NGOs, as long as all groups are investigated, across the spectrum, including for example, Mr. Steinberg’s NGO Monitor, and Im Tirzu, the shadowy right-wing front organization that has launched a vicious campaign against NIF and Naomi Chazan.

NIF does not support or fund divestment, boycott or sanction activities against the State of Israel. NIF opposes extremism, intolerance and ultra-nationalism in all its manifestations, both within Israel and among the nations and organizations that relate to Israel. NIF proudly supports Israel’s internationally- respected human rights groups which uphold the very best of Jewish and democratic traditions.

That does not mean NIF agrees with everything these groups do or say. Inevitably, some of them, especially in the Arab sector, will take positions that, as an individual, I strongly oppose, since they cannot be expected to buy into every aspect of the Zionist narrative. But I will at the same time strongly defend their right to speak out as long as it is in responsible ways.

NIF-funded human rights groups carefully monitored Operation Cast Lead. The IDF itself used their reports in evaluating its own conduct and has sought active collaboration from NIF grantees such as B’tselem in helping to formulate the response that was recently submitted to the UN Secretary General. The assertion that “without NIF there would be no Goldstone Report,” is based on bogus statistics. In fact, Goldstone based only 14% of his report – not 92% as claimed – on reports of Israeli human rights organization. Another 19% was based on other Israeli sources including statements made by Israel’s own military and political leaders.

These human rights groups were the first to call for an independent Israeli investigation, something which many now advocate in Israel, including the outgoing Attorney General Meni Mazuz, and Deputy Prime Minister and former Justice Minister, Dan Meridor. Such investigations have taken place after every major Israeli military operation. Far from weakening Israel by supplying ammunition to its critics, these investigations demonstrate the health of Israel’s democratic institutions, particularly in their ability to undertake and learn from self- criticism.

The New Israel Fund has vital work to do, promoting a more just, socially cohesive, and democratic Jewish state. I hope that Australian Jews, who have a proud tradition of open- mindedness and generous support of human and civil rights will see, as I do, that this work strengthens Israel much more than it strengthens Israel’s critics.

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  • ariel says:

    “Im Tirzu, the shadowy right-wing front organization”
    in that case, B’Tselem is a shadowy, left-wing front organisation designed to demoralise Israelis and the IDF

  • Chaim says:

    Israeli Apartheid Week: NGO Connections and their EU/NIF Funders
    Pro-Palestinian activists have organized events for “Israeli Apartheid Week” (IAW — March 1-14) on college campuses and in major cities in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Since 2005, IAW has been a powerful forum for exploiting “apartheid” allegations to demonize and delegitimize Israel, and to advance the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign. BDS is the core of the “Durban strategy,” formulated at the NGO Forum of the UN’s 2001 Durban Conference.
    NGO Monitor’s research reveals that many of the speakers listed for the 2010 events are officials of NGOs funded by European governments, including the European Commission and the New Israel Fund.

  • I’d like to quote Daniel Sokatch, NIF’s CEO, to settle the matter of NIF’s position on apartheid week:

    But being pro-Israel also means more than speaking out against those who would delegitimize NIF and the precious values it stands for.  It also means speaking out against those who would delegitimize Israel’s very existence.
    This week, some of those voices are promoting an “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses and elsewhere, aiming to promote the movement for boycotts, sanctions and divestment (BDS) from Israel.  We couldn’t disagree more.  NIF opposes the BDS movement, and we have voiced our objections within our own family of organizations as well.  While we support an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories as a central tenet of the strategic framework in which we operate, we believe that BDS tactics are inappropriate, unproductive and ineffective, and serve primarily to delegitimize Israel, not end the occupation or promote human rights and social justice.
    In addition, we deeply disagree with the use of “apartheid” in the Israeli context.  It is a historically inaccurate and inflammatory term that serves only to demonize Israel and alienate a majority of Jews around the world, including those who care deeply about issues of democracy, human rights, social justice and peace.
    In the end, we believe that “Israel Right or Wrong” and “Israel Is Always Wrong” are both wrong.  There is a third way, and that is to work for an Israel that is right.  That is the NIF way.  And that is pro-Israel.

    Ariel: Im Tirtzu’s funding is hidden and they are unwilling to come forward in transparency as they have demanded NIF to do — and as NIF and our grantees already do. B’Tselem is entirely transparent and Im Tirtzu is not.

  • SJ says:

    Chaim, I wouldn’t trust NGO Monitor’s “research” which in a highly partisan right wing organisation linked to Dore Gold’s, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs. 

    I’m surprised the AJN didn’t publish the response. I am pretty cynical of Gerald Steinberg and what he has to say, and his analysis does strike me as Indyk states as somewhat paranoid.  Is it me, or perhaps I can’t recall – but jewish community organisations of late have been bringing to Australia only right, or right of centre speakers – ie – Steinberg, Melanie Phillips, Daniel Pipes etc. Other than the Aust. Centre for Jewish Civilisation, I can’t recall any left of centre speaker being brought out to Aust. by jewish organisations.

    [Eds: Hi SJ, we certainly welcome your comments, but it would be helpful if you used an email address (real or fake) so that the software would create an avatar for you. This will protect someone stealing your identity on this site, as well as avoid any confusion with the Sensible Jew and any other SJs. Or even better, we recommend you (and everyone else) consider using gravatar.com, so that you can have a personalised avatar. Thanks again for your contribution to the dialogue thus far]

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Perhaps the complete embarrassment of the ‘establishment’ is one reason why, amazingly, there has been no follow up through the Jewish  media, even the online media such as the AJN or Jwire, to Indyk’s comments, which can’t, despite Ariel and Chaim’s comments, be dismissed in such a silly way.
    Neither the Newish Jews or Jwire can really, in that case be called ‘newspapers’, in the sense of following up on anything except social life, gold, hatches, matches, and dispatches and business news  (a bit of an exaggeration, but there is a lot happening in the real world out there).
    It really is Anatevka on the Yarra, or better still, Chelm (I did some rapid gematria: the Hebrew letters squared and divided by 3161 equal the total of Caulfield if the Latin letters are assigned numbers working backwards from z) .
    In this threatened community, which in my worst moments of paranoia has transformed itself into a messianic settlement on the west bank , the shtetl elders prefer to keep dissenting ideas, even from erstwhile favourite sons like Indyk  kept in brine in case they jump out of the barrel and infect the general population.   Thus, they only let the hot metal type run once a week, and then, past some sort of political mashgiach or commissar with a big blue pencil.
    And there might be another practical reason.  There may  be such a fear of alienating donors who keep the grand edifices going that  silence, in the face of truth seems to be the best strategy.
    I’m going to start reading Kafka again. It might help to keep me sane.

  • ariel says:

    I actually don’t know why the article wasn’t published. I don’t see anything incendiary in there. It does, however reveal Martin Indyk’s naivete as held by the entire US state department and diplomatic corps for decades, in a vast array of areas, not just the Middle East.
    Indyk himself revealed this in a talk last year in Sydney where he said that he thinks maybe the US needs to learn that there are other cultures and nations out there that don’t necessarily understand Western language of diplomacy and that you can’t trust everybody.

  • alex fein says:

    Firstly, congratulations, Galus (and AJDS), on publishing Indyk’s piece. It’s an important counterweight to what’s been available in the traditional media.
    Secondly, to avoid possible confusion, the commenter, “SJ” is not me. It may be someone whose initials are the same as those of my blog.

    [Eds: Thanks Alex, we have now left a suggestion to SJ to use a personalised avatar to avoid confusion with you, or any other SJs]

  • Ben,

    You wrote: “NIF opposes the BDS movement, and we have voiced our objections within our own family of organizations as well.”

    As someone that provides funding to some organizations that support the BDS movement, perhaps you need to do more than voice objections, and vote with your wallet instead? That is the a voice they will more likely listen to!

  • ariel says:

    I agree David W.
    It’s like a child who wants to graffiti his parents’ house (and in some cases demolish it while their still in it) and expects them to pay for his/her “artistic expression”.

  • Reality Check says:

    David, ariel, call it what you will, but it’s still censorship. It’s not Holocaust denial stuff or anything quite as objectionable. It’s censoring because it’s giving a different point of view, and it smells to high heaven

  • RC – I don’t get it. Ariel & my comments were on the quote from Ben of NIF. For NIF to refuse to financially support orgs that support BDS against Israel is censorship?

  • ariel says:

    Reality Check, you seem to be of the same school as many other commentors on this site who don’t actually read what others say.
    I said earlier that I have no idea why the article wasn’t published.

  • Reality Check says:

    David, ariel – What I meant was why get involved in this argument. The AJN censored that piece by Martin Indyk and you guys throw your 2 cents worth in. Just admit it and leave it at that.

    By the way, you’re right; I don’t read half of what you guys say.

  • RC,

    Actually, I didn’t get involved in the argument … I made a side comment about something Ben from BIF said. Agree that the AJN censored Indyk’s response.

  • ariel says:

    I feel that if a person can’t communicate – listening/reading what others have to say – then the very least he can do is to be quiet.

  • Reality Check says:

    ariel, do you really think what you have to say is going to make a difference! I don’t think so. And don’t you try and censor me because I don’t take you and your out dated, head in the sand, right wing views seriously.

  • SJ says:

    It finally seems the AJN did publish Indyk’s reponse, albeit a little late. Could it have been due to the fact that Galus Australis alerted people to this? Interestingly, I didn’t see Indyk’s criticism of AIJAC’s recent guest, Gerald Steinberg included in the AJN edition.

  • Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth says:

    I support J Street f or its commitment to both sides in this conflict! Hamas is their  common enemy, and both shoud unite to combat it more effectively
     Amb. Indyk- yea!
     Saalam and shalom!

  • frosh says:

    Hi Morgan,

    While I appreciate your ideals and committment to peace,  I find the activities of J-Street, at least as they are reported (and please correct me if you feel they have been misreported) somewhat concerning, not to mention redundant.

    Do we really need yet another organisation to lobby the US President to be tougher on Israel? After all, several such organistion already exist, such as The US State Department, as well as large oil companies and many Arab states (many of which are also large oil companies).

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  • JimmyDaGeek says:

    NIF uses proxies to do it’s left-wing dirty work, just like Russia uses proxies to stir up unrest in the world. They can lie all they want. Watch what they do, who they support, not what they say.

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