Israel’s achievements in the face of acute challenges over the past 60 years are unparalleled. Yet the sobering reality also exists that the Zionist project is a work in progress — we see a society still striving to “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens,” as envisaged in the Declaration of Independence. All of which naturally leads to the question of what Israel’s future may hold. Interestingly, this vision is a matter of some confusion for one of the most prominent Israel charities.
The New Israel Fund exists to promote the values of justice, democracy and equality in Israel. Unlike some civil society groups, this is not mere lip service and NIF can justly be proud of an impressive record of achievement. Their work to promote civil rights, women’s rights and minority rights has secured their reputation as an anchor of Israel’s voluntary sector. It is therefore all the more worrying to discover that among the initiatives supported by NIF is the extreme NGO Adalah, whose vision for Israel undermines some of the very foundations upon which the state was founded.
Ostensibly, Adalah’s purpose is the laudable protection of rights for Israel’s Arab minority. But beneath the rhetoric of human and civil rights, Adalah promotes an extreme and dangerous agenda. They routinely accuse Israel of implementing “apartheid” and of committing “war crimes” in Gaza. But most disturbingly, in 2007, Adalah published a proposed “Democratic Constitution” for Israel, which calls for an end to Israel as a state with a specifically Jewish character.
Under their plan, Jewish immigration to Israel would only be permitted for “humanitarian reasons” and Israel’s Jewish cultural framework would be replaced by an amorphous “democratic, bilingual and multicultural” state. Adalah shamelessly exploits human rights discourse to promote a plan that, if adopted, would spell the end of the Jewish State.
Shockingly, NIF sees fit to subsidize Adalah, to the tune of $105,396 in 2007 (down from $430,000 in 2006) and it even facilitates tax-exempt donations for those wishing to contribute to Adalah’s back-door destruction of Israel. Clearly NIF would refuse funds to those promoting Israel’s physical destruction, yet they willingly subsidize a group advocating Israel’s annihilation as a Jewish state.
NIF may argue Adalah’s legitimacy based on the NGO’s legal accreditation by the Israeli non-profit regulator. However, legality is hardly reason enough to actively plow significant funds into an organization. Besides, courts make legal decisions, philanthropic organizations like NIF make funding decisions based on their own priorities, beliefs and values. In Israel’s vibrant democracy, Adalah clearly has the right to express dissident views, but far from being obliged to accept these views, a true democrat should challenge them and reach appropriate conclusions.
Perhaps the mere mention of equality and civil rights by Adalah is enough for NIF to blindly reach for its checkbook, but it is hard to imagine that NIF’s donor base views the attempt to delegitimize Jewish statehood as a sound investment. By supporting Adalah with any amount of financial support, NIF strikes the double blow of adding significant legitimacy to Adalah’s destructive agenda while simultaneously undermining its own impressive achievements. Support for human and civil rights can never be reconciled with the denial of Jewish sovereignty.
We all share NIF’s vision of an Israel which is a true “light to the nations,” an example of equality and justice to the world. But this cannot be compromised by identification with those who seek to deny a central tenet of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.”