Diaspora youngsters enjoy a Birthright Israel trip to the Jewish state..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Birthright Israel program, which brings young Diaspora Jews on free 10-days trips to Israel, has cut ties with the New Israel Fund, according to reports.
In a letter quoted in the Algemeiner Journal, Stephanie Ives, the NIF’s New York regional director, wrote to participants in an upcoming NIF-sponsored Birthright trip to inform them that “we have been cut from the trip.”
According to Ives, Birthright decided that the NIF had violated marketing guidelines by making its logo on promotional material for the trip bigger than that of Birthright.
In addition, she wrote, “Birthright Israel NEXT [which keeps in touch with Birthright alumni by hosting trips and reunions] has determined that it can no longer partner with NIF in any way, because we seek to influence policy in Israel, and they have a rule against partnership with organizations that seek to influence policies in Israel or the United States; and... Birthright Israel decided to cancel a number of the New York UJA trips because of recruitment concerns,” she wrote.
The NIF disburses millions in funding to civil society organizations across a range of fields in Israel and has been a target by many on Israel’s political Right over allegations that it has funded groups hostile to Zionist values.
Critics have criticized the NIF’s ties to grantees such as Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which in 2007 signed the Haifa Declaration calling for “a change in the constitutional structure and a change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state to a democratic state established on national and civil equality between the two national groups.”
A debate over the NIF’s participation in June’s annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York spilled over into Israel, with several MKs speaking out in opposition.
Responding to that controversy, the New Israel Fund publicly stated its opposition to boycotts against the Jewish state, and its cutting of ties with groups that supported such actions, as well as its support for “Israel as Jewish and democratic.”
In 2010, the NIF revised its funding guidelines, and “engaged grantees who appeared not to be in compliance after this thorough review in discussion, and in cases where there was no agreement, we removed those organizations from our list,” according to its website.
In response to Birthright’s decision, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of NGO Monitor, a watchdog group, told The Jerusalem Post that the NIF “seeks to do more than ‘influence Israeli policy’ – on central issues, their unelected officials seek to impose their opinions on the Israeli democratic process.
“For example, as NGO Monitor research shows, members of the NIF NGO network, including Adalah, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Yesh Din and others use their budgets to bombard the UN, the European Union, journalists, academics and others with false allegations of ‘wars crimes’ and ‘apartheid.’ In this context, the precedent set by Birthright is important and might encourage other Jewish and Israel-related organizations to examine NIF’s disproportionate impact,” Steinberg said.
Neither the New Israel Fund nor Birthright were able to provide comment before this story went to print, likely due to the US Thanksgiving holiday.