By Audrey Farber
As anyone knows who has actually seen the new NIF guidelines , the mention of the character of the state of Israel doesn’t come until the very end. In fact, as would be expected from a grant-making institution, the majority of the guidelines cover standard funding topics. They require the grant applicants to be in full compliance with laws, to be relevant to NIF, to be a non-profit, and to maintain standards of transparency and accountability. Only at the end to we find the notorious “NIF will never support your organization” clauses which have elicited sensationalist reactions. But if we actually read them, we find that perhaps these are not so sensational.
“Organizations that engage in the following activities will not be eligible for NIF grants or support:
1. Participate in partisan political activity
2. Promote anti-democratic values
3. Support the 1967 occupation and subsequent settlement activity
4. Violate the human rights of any group or individual, advocate human rights selectively for
one group over another and/or reject the principle of the universality of human rights
5. Condone or promote violence or use violent tactics
6. Employ racist or derogatory language or designations about any group based on their
religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
7. Works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel, or
to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a
8. Engage in activities at odds with the positions, principles, or vision of the New Israel Fund.”
So they don’t financially support partisan politics. They don’t support anti-democratic groups. They don’t support the occupation. They support human rights, and won’t support you if you don’t. They don’t condone violence. They don’t support racism. (Skipping number seven for the moment), they only support projects that fit within their mandate. So far, I don’t see what the outrage is all about.
So we’re left with number seven.
Given that the NIF has always acknowledged the Jewish character of the State of Israel, this stipulation is not exactly newsworthy. Perhaps it had never been so explicitly stated before, but I don’t think this one line will put many groups’ funding at risk. Notice that even an organization who doesn’t necessarily agree with Israel as a Jewish homeland/state/“sovereign expression of self-determination” is still eligible for funding as long as their work is dedicated to supporting equality and human rights.
I might not agree with Israel as a Jewish political entity (I am naïvely and passionately pro-separation of church and state), but I do support full and equal rights for all citizens in any state, Jewish or otherwise. I would rather achieve one thing than destroy something I don’t agree with. Because of this, I believe I would be eligible for NIF funding (if I was a non-profit instead of a person). Why?
The pattern evident in these guidelines is that the NIF will support positive and not negative change, and lucky number seven is no different. The NIF guidelines are rejecting negative and destructive work of all kinds and instead encouraging positive construction and creation.
I know first-hand that this is the kind of positive work undertaken by Mossawa and Adalah. I believe it also to be true of all these other organizations named as possible “victims” of new-NIF-guidelines-fallout. Positive change good, negative change bad. That is the critical difference that no one has noted yet. And the NIF still agrees with itself about the nature of Israel.
Ed.: Noam Sheizaf at +972 Magazine seems to agree with Audrey’s assessment.
And here’s New Israel Fund’s response, sent via email:
Audrey Farber demonstrates that she is a sensible, sensitive observer who takes her information straight from the source and puts it into context. (Would that there were many more like her in the progressive blogging world.)
The New Israel Fund has codified the principles that have explicated our values and structured our work since 1979. We’ve clarified and published our funding guidelines so that our grantees, our donors and the interested public can see for themselves exactly what our requirements are, without the distortions promulgated by our critics on both right and left. We will continue to fund important organizations working with us towards civil and human rights in Israel if they disagree with us on a matter of principle, if they fulfill other requirements and do not actively work to undermine our principles. That’s what a “big-tent” funder and advocacy organization does, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
Naomi Paiss, Director of Communications, New Israel Fund
Audrey Farber did her undergrad at UPenn majoring in – after much angst and indecision – Modern Middle East Studies. Her activism has involved resettling Somali, Iraqi, and Burmese refugees in Maine, researching forced migration issues in Amman, and rejecting the “path” by being a ski bum and bakery assistant at regular intervals. She is currently interning at Mada al-Carmel – Arab Center for Applied Social Research, in Haifa. Audrey wants to fix the world and is actively trying to do so through photos and writing in her blog(s). She appreciates your support. The views expressed herein are her own .