Oron: We'll probe right-wing funding

Controversy over Im Tirtzu report which attacked NIF continues to build.

By BY ABE SELIG, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
February 5, 2010 06:08
3 minute read.
MK Haim Oron

haim oron 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The controversy surrounding a report released this week by the Zionist student group Im Tirtzu, which blames the New Israel Fund for much of the Goldstone Report on last winter’s Operation Cast Lead, continued to build on Thursday, as additional Knesset members weighed in on the now-embattled NGO.

MK Haim Oron (Meretz) told The Jerusalem Post that calls to open investigations into the NIF’s funding and activities amounted to a “show trial,” and were unnecessary given that the information contained in the report regarding the organization’s allocation of funding “could easily be found online.”

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Im Tirtzu has alleged that organizations receiving financial support from the NIF made up the bulk of Israeli sources used by Richard Goldstone’s panel of inquiry that faulted IDF conduct in last winter’s Gaza operation.

Additionally, the Im Tirtzu report contains allegations that NIF-backed organizations signed a letter “calling on Britain to prosecute senior IDF officials for war crimes,” and shared responsibility for arrest warrants issued for senior IDF commanders and Israeli politicians in Europe that have surfaced over the last year.

Nonetheless, Oron said the report and attacks mounted against the NIF in its wake were tantamount to “an attack on the existence of human rights groups in Israel” and were harming the Jewish state’s democratic character.

“A country doesn’t go from democracy to fascism overnight,” Oron said. “It’s a slow process, which begins with small steps. Then, one day, we wake up in a totally different country.”

Oron added that should probes be launched into the activities and funding of the NIF – as Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller, Tzahi Hanegbi and Yisrael Hasson, together with Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, have demanded – he would launch a probe into the funding of right-wing organizations.

Earlier in the week, however, other MKs joined the chorus of condemnation against the NIF, with Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein telling Israeli reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the Israeli government had “been concerned for a time with a number of groups under the guise of NGOs that are funded by foreign agents.”

“I didn’t say hostile or subversive or terrorist,” clarified Edelstein, who is currently on a tour of the US, “but foreign agents, including foreign governments, and this matter has come to a [head] through a body called the NIF.”

Edelstein added that while the NIF was responsible for “a number of projects that are very beautiful, very welcome in the social sector... they [also] run activities that I would say are very problematic.

“I’m not saying that in the wake of this [there is a need] to immediately close the fund or put anyone on trial,” Edelstein said. “But this requires a thorough investigation.”

He added, “I don’t think we’ll find many examples in democracies where these things exist like they do in Israel.”

Soon after Edelstein made his remarks, however, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement conveying his organization’s concern over the fiery response garnered by the Im Tirtzu report.

“We express our alarm at the recent attacks in the Israeli media against the New Israel Fund,” read Saperstein’s statement, released on Wednesday.

“Together with so many in the US and Israel, I know the New Israel Fund as a respected organization with a long, accomplished history of defending human rights, civil liberties, religious pluralism and social justice. Its efforts have helped make Israel a more equal, more just, more fair and more compassionate society,” the statement continued.

“In their twisted attribution of blame for the Goldstone Report to the NIF, these attackers are trying to delegitimize the New Israel Fund in much the same way that the Goldstone Report is being used to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world,” it read. “It is ironic, to say the least, that those pointing to the danger of the Goldstone Report are using the same tactics of half-truths, hyperbole and sweeping generalizations they criticize in it to delegitimize the New Israel Fund.”


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