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.