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Strategic Investment in Israel’s New War

Foreign governments, acting thoughtfully and strategically, fund dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that form a flourishing anti-Israel movement within Israel itself.  This movement neither represents the will of the Israeli people nor seeks to operate as a legitimate political opposition.  Instead, it is an orchestrated attempt from outside Israel to alter—dramatically—the basic character of the Jewish state.  The effort is a new tactic in the old war against the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

Non-Israelis often assume that Israelis can and should be responsible for dealing with Zionism—and, therefore, with anti-Zionism as well.  This assumption ignores a fundamental shift in the balance of power among anti-Zionist forces.  From 1948 to 2001, the struggle was primarily physical; it could take place only in Israel among Israelis.  From 1948 to 1973, the struggle was between nation-states at war.  From 1973 to 2001, the tactic became terrorism.  Now, however, the main arena—the “Durban strategy,” which emerged at a 2001 UN conference in Durban, South Africa—is a battle over the legitimacy of the very existence of Israel.

Because the struggle is no longer physical, international financial support has become critical.  When Alistair Burt, the UK Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, was asked about the $800,000 he has given to anti-Zionist Israeli organizations, he noted, “Since we began supporting these programs there have been a number of changes to Israeli civil and military judicial practice and decisions, and increased public debate on these issues.”  Furthermore, he said unapologetically, “we believe that continuing British support will assist in strengthening democratic processes” in Israel.  

Britain is not alone.  Between 2006 and 2010, European governments transferred some $20 million to the 15 most radical anti-Zionist organizations operating in Israel.  In America, the New Israel Fund, with a 2010 budget of $34 million ($1 million is dedicated to lobbying), has funded 92 percent of the Israeli groups that accused the Israel Defense Forces of perpetrating the war crimes alleged in the Goldstone Report.  Other NIF-supported NGOs have joined the worldwide witch hunt that condemns Israeli officials like Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni as war criminals. NGOs supported by the European Union participate in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns.

Overall, foundations and organizations trying to alter the fundamental nature of Israel receive approximately $100 million a year from sources outside Israel.  These organizations influence public discourse in academia, culture, the legal system, the economy, and the media.

A New Profile, an Israeli NGO that received $137,870 from Germany’s Bread for the World foundation in 2009-2010, encourages draft-dodging.  Breaking the Silence, which got $135,570 from the British government in 2010, sullies the image of the IDF and its soldiers.  The Association for Civil Rights in Israel—which has received $71,200 from the Belgian government, $69,300 from the British government, and $489,190 from NIF—argues that a Jewish nation-state is, by definition, a racist state.

In academia, Hebrew University’s Gilo Center for Citizenship, Democracy and Civic Education, which in 2007 received $200,000 from the Gilo Family Foundation and additional funding from the EU and the Norway Fund—along with similar organizations, like the Minerva Center for Human Rights, the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, the Swiss Center for Conflict Research, and the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace—host one-sided conferences, grant scholarships to like-minded students, and seek to guarantee that the next generation of scholars will hold the desired views.  It is no accident that eight out of nine political science professors at Ben-Gurion University openly support anti-Zionist positions.

Elite lawyers who share an anti-Zionist ideology are groomed by NIF through its Israel-U.S. Civil Liberties Law Program, described by Ha’aretz as a “crucial” initiative that has “changed the face of public law in Israel.”  The program places lawyers in dozens of anti-Zionist NGOs—and the State Attorney’s office, which, at last count, held 55 of the program’s alumni.  Thus, in some civil liberties cases, complainants and defendants are interchangeable: Both advocate the NIF agenda.

NGOs participating in BDS actions—like the Women’s Coalition for Peace, with $150,560 from Germany’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and $261,000 from NIF—have begun to have some success.  The Israeli company Ahava had to close a store in London.  Deutsche Bahn and Pizzaroti have pulled out of an ongoing Jerusalem-Tel Aviv rail project.  Veolia has withdrawn from the Jerusalem Light Rail project, and the Norwegian national oil fund no longer invests in Elbit and Africa-Israel.  B'Tselem, an internationally known, often-quoted NGO that has received $156,360 from the EU, $101,300 from the Dutch Government, $71,725 from the Norwegian Embassy, and $180,000 from the Ford Foundation, has repeatedly misrepresented international law, skewed statistics, and perpetuated lies about the IDF.

The problem is that no opposing voice is heard, that there is no one to answer people like NIF’s Associate Executive Director in Israel, who sees an Arab majority in the country as a good idea that would make Israel more democratic. Most Zionist organizations are not equipped to face this strategic challenge, one that threatens the identity of the only Jewish nation-state.

Those who want to preserve the Jewish state must change the way they use the financial assets at their disposal.  Zionist philanthropists should not focus only on projects that ameliorate societal conditions and do not play any role in the current fight for Israel.  They must start spending strategically to neutralize the influence of anti-Zionists in the culture war.  They should use their money to fight uncompromisingly against the anti-Zionist organizations that lead the campaign to delegitimize Israel at home and abroad.  Moreover, they should use their funds to rebuild a pro-Israel vanguard within Israel, supported and educated in Zionist principles and values so that they can successfully stand against those who seek to damage Israel.

A country’s strength is measured not by the number of its tanks and planes or the money in its bank accounts but by the willingness of its people to tie their fate to that of the nation.  The tragedy of pre-Zionist Jews, Herzl said, was that “we lack faith in ourselves.”  Thus, he predicted, “The same day that we will believe in ourselves, our distress will end.” The test of our generation will be whether we can renew this belief in the rightness of our path.

Ronen Shoval is founder and chairman of Im Tirtzu.


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Shlomo on October 10, 2012 at 6:39 am (Reply)
And yet the anti-Zionist Left has the effrontery to complain about Sheldon Adelson's subsidies to the Yisrael HaYom newspaper.
Carl on October 10, 2012 at 8:13 am (Reply)
I just finished reading "The Fall of the Third Republic" by Shirer, and the political warfare waged by Germany against France prior to WWII is reminiscent of the political warfare being conducted against Israel. Israeli's need to be aware of who are behind many of these NGOs that seek to weaken Israel in the international arena and also from within. I also wonder if European taxpayers are aware of how their money is being spent.
Elihu Davison on October 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm (Reply)
Shoval and Im Tirzu don't take criticism of Israel very well. They're fast to censor and censure what they don't like. But their attempts to muzzle views they don't like make them the new Stalinists of Israel's political right.
    jacob arnon on October 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm (Reply)
    Stalinists? Elihu? Aren't we being a little too melodramatic? You probably meant
    mccarthyites but that wasn't strong enough in your image of the devilry of those who disagree with you.

    Stalinism, Elihu, since you don't seem to know what it means is a politcal system that doesn't just silence its opponents. It crushes them, it eliminates them. Do you really believe that Mr. Shoval has the power (or inclination) to murder his opponents? Are you that paranoid?

    Listen, Elihu, Shoval isn't just talking about normal criticism of Israel and of some of its policies, he is talking about the desire to eliminate the Jewish State. Why do you think those "critics" of Israel endorse Hamas and Hezbollah? Is it because they are just being critical of Israel? Is Hamas engaged in a verbal war only? Are the rockets the send to kill civilians merely statements?

    The endorsement of Hamas is what Stalinists would do. Just as the soviets supplied weapons to Nasser to kill Jews so to do those people you call "critics" of Israel stand shoulder to shoulder with people who also want to kill Jews.

    I wouldn't call these passive aggressive anti-Israel NGO's Stalinists, no Stalinists were active and delkiberate murderers. These NGO don't have the courage to say openly what their aim is.

    Still, the Stalinists are the [people who want to destroy the Jewish State which they find abhorrent.

    What Shoval did was make clear what the real aim of these "critics" are. This is why you called him a Stalinist when in reality the Stalinists are those like Hamas and Hezbollah who are trying to eliminate the Jews from the Middle East.
    Barak Eitan on October 11, 2012 at 2:53 am (Reply)
    If people, even relatives in your house were promoting lies about you and trying to destroy your good name would you sit quietly.
    Perhaps you should read a little more history or fewer left wing publications before you jump to conclusions.
    You are very judgmental. Does blaming the victim help resolve your conflict over being Jewish?
Ben Niderberg on October 11, 2012 at 6:18 am (Reply)
No opposing voice is heard to those who see an Arab majority in the country as a good idea that would make Israel more democratic? Seriously? Oh, come one. I'm not a fan of the NIF viewpoint, but this is an alarmist, and, yes, McCarthyite load of tripe, and really not worthy of JID.
Robert W. Nicholson on October 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm (Reply)
Excellent article identifying the key strategic threat to Israel's legitimacy. Some members of the Knesset believe the answer to this NGO onslaught is to limit the freedom of civil society. A much better, and more liberal answer is to equip Israeli courts to properly deflect NGO challenges through litigation.

I invite interested to peruse my recent article in the Syracuse Journal of International Law & Commerce (Summer 2012, Vol. 39) entitled "Legal Intifada: Palestinian NGOs and Resistance Litigation in Israeli Courts."
Yitzhak Yeranen on November 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm (Reply)
Ronen Shoval's view of what is in Israel's interest is skewed, to say the least. "Breaking the Silence" doesn't "sull[y] the image of the IDF and its soldiers," but instead shows its best face, opposing and exposing the occasional abuse of military power by Israel's forces. A democratic country’s strength is indeed measured not by the number of its tanks and planes or the money in its bank accounts. It is measured by the ability of its citizens to exercise their freedom to criticize their government and call it to account. It is measured by the ability of the press, political parties, and civil society to advocate vociferously for policies in every field of government endeavor, to engage in debate, to expose corruption. Shoval's view of what should be tolerated in this regard would plunge Israel into the league of Belarus, Myanmar, and China rather than Britain, Denmark, or even India.

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