New Israel Fund

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is a U.S. based non-profit organization established in 1979, and describes its objective as social justice and equality for all Israelis.

New Israel Fund

New Israel Fund

NIF describes itself as „the leading organization committed to democratic change within Israel“ and its objective as „social justice and equality for all Israelis.“[2] It views Israel as the „expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people and as a democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities.“[6] It advocates for civil and human rights, religious tolerance and pluralism, and closing the social and economic gaps in Israeli society, especially those among Jews and Arabs.


NIF’s headquarters are in New York City.[3] The NGO also has offices in JerusalemWashington, DCBostonChicagoMiamiLos Angeles,San FranciscoCanada, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.[3] The New Israel Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic organization in the U.S.[1], and it is listed as a „foreign company“ in Israel, according to the Israel Registrar of Companies.[7]

In 2011, NIF received 4 stars from Charity Navigator, the highest possible rating. [8]


In October 2009, Daniel Sokatch became the new CEO of the New Israel Fund, after working as the executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and the San Francisco Jewish Federation. Rachel Liel, formerly director of SHATIL, became Israel Executive Director on November 1, 2009. Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, is the volunteer president of NIF, and at its July 2011 board meeting, Brian Lurie, former Executive Director of the San Francisco Federation and Executive Vice-President of the UJA, was named president-elect. The board consists of 23 community leaders, activists, academics and philanthropists mostly from the U.S. with a few from Israel and the U.K.[9]


The New Israel Fund was established in 1979 and says it has seed-funded „almost every significant cause-related progressive NGO in Israel“.[1] Since its inception the fund says it has provided over US $200 million to more than 800 organizations.[1] NIF states that while it’s position is that „Israel is and must be a Jewish and democratic state“ it says it was „among the first organizations to see that civil, human and economic rights for Israeli Arabs is an issue crucial to the long-term survival of the state.“[10]


In 2008 it contributed about US$30 million to human rights and civil society groups in Israel.[5]

The fund’s grantees include the Adva Center, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Green Environment Fund, the Israel Religious Action Center, the Israel Women’s Network, the Masorti Movement, the Forum for Freedom of Choice in Marriage, AdalahBreaking the SilenceB’Tselem, the Coalition for Affordable Housing, Public Committee Against Torture in IsraelYesh DinKav LaOved, and the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights.[11]

NIF’s action arm, SHATIL (lit. „seedling“) is an internationally-recognized capacity-building organization that trains nascent NGOs in organizational growth and management. SHATIL has six offices in Israel and employs more than 100 professionals.[12]

In September 2010, NIF published guidelines defining who is eligible to receive its grants on its website for the first time.[13][14]

[edit]Other Activities

[edit]Gender Segregation

In January 2011, the Israeli High Court ruled that publicly–funded buses cannot enforce a policy of gender segregation.[15] IRAC, a grantee of NIF,[16] initiated the legal efforts to integrate the bus lines. NIF-backed efforts against gender segregation in public spaces included a Chanukah candle-lighting to protest gender segregation at the Western Wall plaza. [17]

[edit]Social Justice Protests

In the summer of 2011, as hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to call for social justice, NIF was the only major American Jewish organization to support the protestors. NIF reportedly raised $35,000 on behalf of the demonstrators. [18] NIF also organized a petition signed by nearly 4,000 people in support of the protesters. The petition was published in the Israeli edition of the International Herald Tribune.[19]

[edit]Response to Mosque Arson

In October 2011, following the arson of a Mosque in the Galilee village of Tuba-Zangariyye NIF mobilized more than 1,000 rabbis from around the world to sign a statement condemning the torching.[20] The torching was reported to be a part of the Price tag policy.[21] The NIF-backed statement was presented on October 6 by a delegation of dozens of rabbis and peace activists to the imam of the mosque.[22]

[edit]Criticism and Controversy

[edit]NGO Monitor

Since 2003, NGO Monitor, an Israeli non-governmental organization, has criticized the NIF for its support of groups that NGO Monitor regards as having an anti-Zionist agenda.[23] In 2011, NGO Monitor accused NIF of supporting Israeli non-profits that „reject the legitimacy of Israel as Jewish democratic state, and are active in boycott and similar campaigns.“[24]

Chemi Shalev, writing for Haaretz, alleged that charges of this sort against the New Israel Fund are not made in good faith. He wrote: „But these organizations comprised only a miniscule part of the NIF’s activities, as everyone knows, including, I suspect, the NIF’s accusers. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that the campaign against the organization has much less to do with whether the NIF is or is not assisting the Palestinians and more to do with what they are doing to help Israelis. [25]

NGO Monitor’s claims were denied by the former President of the NIF, Peter Edelman, who described NGO Monitor’s criticism as „un-democratic and un-Jewish“ and „inherently and fundamentally flawed.“[23] Larry Garber, former Executive Director of the New Israel Fund, and Eliezer Yaari, NIF’s former Israel Director[26] wrote an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post that if Israel accepted the accusations of NGO Monitor, „Israel’s credibility—and, more important, the nation’s morality—will suffer.“[27]

[edit]Im Tirzu

In January 2010, a Zionist extra-parliamentary group, Im Tirtzu, accused NIF of supporting Israel NGOs that provided information to the United Nations report on the Gaza War.[28][29] The UN inquiry, with which Israel refused to cooperate,[4] and the subsequent report accused both theState of Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip of violating international human rights law and international humanitarian lawduring the conflict.[30][31] Im Tirtzu alleged that 16 Israeli NGOs, that received approximately US$ 7.8 million from NIF during 2008 and 2009, served as 14% of the sources for the commission. NIF acknowledged that some fund recipients cooperated with the UN inquiry,[4] but they estimated that 1.3% of the citations in the UN report originated from reports by organizations supported by the New Israel Fund.[32] A fund spokesperson said the human rights groups were just doing their jobs and that NIF did not necessarily endorse their positions.[4][28]

Im Tirtzu placed newspaper advertisements depicting NIF’s President Naomi Chazan with a horn sprouting from her forehead, for which they were heavily criticized. Gershon Baskin, writing in the Jerusalem Post, accused Im Tirzu of using an „anti-Semitic motif“ as part of a „witch-hunt“ that „is reminiscent of the darkest days of McCarthyism.“[33][34], and the Jerusalem Post canceled her regular opinion column.[4] The Zionist Organization of America stated that it supported the criticisms.[35] The CEO of the fund described Im Tirtzu’s actions as an attempt to stifle dissent.[4] Naomi Chazan dismissed Im Tirtzu’s case as baseless and accused them of attacking the principles of democracy and the values of Israel’s declaration of independence.[35] NIF described Im Tirtzu as a „radical right-wing movement whose funders include the John Hagee Ministries and the New York Central Fund, both of which fund settler groups.“[36] John Hagee Ministries (JHM), „expressed deep displeasure“ with Im Tirtzu after its campaign against the New Israel Fund and announced the cessation of its funding.[37]

A report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) challenged Im Tirzu’s allegation, saying that, „according to Im Tirtzu’s own study, 16 NIF-affiliated groups comprise just 14 percent of all the sources for the Goldstone report.“ JTA also reported that „the 16 NGOs named in (the Im Tirzu) report are a small portion of the more than 300 groups funded by the NIF, many of them having to do with building infrastructure, assisting immigrants, and defending the rights of women, the disabled and religious and ethnic minorities.“ [29]

The Im Tirzu allegations also resulted in the postponement of a visit to Australia by Naomi Chazan due to political pressure from the local Zionist Federation.[38] Martin Indyk, the Australian-born former US Ambassador to Israel and Board Member of the NIF, defended the NIF from these criticisms in an opinion piece directed at the Australian Jewish Community, saying that „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.“[39] In June 2011, Naomi Chazan was welcomed in Australia for the founding of NIF’s new Australian affiliate, which has already attracted broadbased support in the Australian community.


NIF is opposed to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.[40] It has stated that it does not support global BDS and will not support organizations with BDS programs but that its policy allows NIF the discretion to „engage in dialogue with an important organization that signs one letter supporting divestment rather than summarily dismissing them“.[41] Naomi Paiss, Director of Communications described the campaign as „a tactic that embodies the message that Israel cannot and will not change itself, and for that reason, we think it is inflammatory and counter-productive“.[40] Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The Atlantic, criticized NIF for not defunding grantees that „support BDS, even incidentally“, describing it as a „bright-line“ issue.[41] The NIF does not fund organizations with BDS programs, and removed the Coalition of Women for Peace from its list of authorized donor-advised organizations in early 2011, which led to a heated response by CWP.[42] Naftali Balanson, writing a response to Paiss‘ article in Zeek, says that „even if BDS messaging were improved and there was no backlash among “besieged” Israelis, BDS would still be immoral and inherently wrong.“[43]

Alana Goodman, writing in Commentary in March 2011, questioned the clarity of NIF’s funding guidelines and alleged NIF was „funding two groups that are organizing an ‚Israel Apartheid Event‘ at Tel Aviv University.“[44] Both groups mentioned in the Commentary article have been removed from NIF’s list of authorized donor-advised organizations, and NIF no longer accepts donor-advised funding on their behalf.[citation needed]

[edit]Ford Foundation Funding

In 2003 and 2008, the Ford Foundation provided five-year grants worth $20 million each to NGOs in Israel through the New Israel Fund. The foundation was the focus of criticism because most of its donees are liberal. The foundation adopted new, stricter funding guidelines after theWorld Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001, when many of its recipients supported resolutions that equated Israeli policies with apartheid. At the beginning of the second five-year grant, the Ford Foundation said it would not renew its grants to Israeli NGOs, which had provided roughly one-third of the New Israel Fund’s donor-advised giving, citing its policy of creating sustainable funding, which is also being applied to much of its NGO funding worldwide.[45]


In September 2011, the contents of a United States diplomatic telegram were revealed via Wikileaks, stating that Hedva Radovanitz, then Assistant Director of NIF Israel, said „she believed that in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.“ [46] NIF stated that these comments „do not reflect the policies or positions of the New Israel Fund.“ Its CEO responded that „New Israel Fund’s dedication to an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic could not be clearer.“[47] Radonavitz later released a statement complaining that her comments had not been accurately reported, but also confirming that she resigned from the NIF due to disagreements with their policy directions and guidelines.[48]


  1. a b c d „frequently-asked-questions“. New Israel Fund. 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
  2. a b „About NIF“. New Israel Fund. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  3. a b c „Contact Us“. New Israel Fund. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  4. a b c d e f g h Sanders, Edmund (2010-02-08). „Israeli conservatives attack U.S.-based philanthropy as unpatriotic“. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  5. a b c „Mid-Year Report“. New Israel Fund. 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  6. ^ „New Israel Fund Principles“. New Israel Fund. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  7. ^ „Registrar of Companies“. Ministry of Justice. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  8. ^ „Charity Navigator“. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  9. ^ Board of Directors
  10. ^ „The Paradox of Ethnicity and Citizenship“. New Israel Fund.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ SHEFLER, GIL (2010-09-20). „NIF denies plans to change funding policies“. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
  14. ^ „NIF Funding Guidelines“. New Israel Fund. 2010-09. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
  15. ^ Johnson, Jenna (15 July 2011). The Washington Post.
  16. ^ [3]
  17. ^ [4]
  18. ^ Guttman, Nathan (2011-08-26). „New Israel Fund Alone in Funding Israel Protests“. The Forward. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  19. ^ [5]
  20. ^ [6]
  21. ^ [,7340,L-4130148,00.html
  22. ^ [7]
  23. a b „Exchange of letters on NIF transparency and accountability“. NGO Monitor. 20 August 2003. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  24. ^ Info File for the NIF, NGO Monitor.
  25. ^ [8]
  26. ^ Nekhim, Valeria (24 September 2008). „New Israel Fund director responds to criticism“Jewish Tribune. Toronto. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  27. ^ Larry Garber and Eliezer Ya’ari (March 19, 2006). „Who’s really damaging Israel’s image?“Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  28. a b Selig, Abe (2010-02-02). „New Israel Fund comes out swinging against Im Tirtzu report“. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  29. a b Kampeas, Ron (2010-02-09). „Breaking down the Im Tirtzu report on New Israel Fund“. JTA. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  30. ^ „Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict“ (PDF). London: United Nations Human Rights Council. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  31. ^ „UN condemns ‚war crimes‘ in Gaza“. BBC. 2009-09-15. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  32. ^ „Lies, Damn Lies, and the Im Tirtzu Report – Analysis of the Im Tirtzu Report on the New Israel Fund“. New Israel Fund. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  33. ^ BASKIN, GERSHON (2010-02-09). „A dark day for democracy“. The Jerusalem Post (JTA). Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  34. ^ „Chrisitians fume over ad showing Chazan wearing horn“. The Jerusalem Post (JTA). 2010-02-03. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  35. a b Susser, Leslie (2010-02-08). „NIF fracas: Defending Israel or destroying democracy?“. Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  36. ^ „NIF Under Attack“. New Israel Fund. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  37. ^ Gil Shefler (23 August 2010). „John Hagee Ministries cuts funds from Im Tirtzu“. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. a b Paiss, Naomi (2010-10-28). „Don’t Divest; Invest“ZEEK(The Jewish Daily Forward). Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  41. a b The New Israel Fund, Dipping Its Toe Into the BDS Swamp
  42. ^ CWP responds to NIF
  43. ^ Balanson, Naftali (2010-11). „Moral Argument Against BDS“.ZEEK (The Jewish Daily Forward). Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  44. ^ NIF-Funded Groups Organize ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ Event, Commentary Magazine, 2011-3-14.
  45. ^ Guttman, Nathan (April 6, 2011). „Ford Foundation, Big Funder of Israeli NGOs, Pulling Out“The Forward. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  46. ^ Cable reference id: #10TELAVIV439
  47. ^ [9]
  48. ^ [10]

[edit]External links

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