Likud, Bayit Yehudi MKs cancel appearance at NIF-funded conference

A letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post showed that the invitation to speak at the conference was signed only by Ha'aretz's editor and CEO, and no indication of NIF's involvement.

February 2, 2015 16:44
2 minute read.
Netanyahu and Bennett

Netanyahu and Bennett. (photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Likud and Bayit Yehudi candidates withdrew their involvement from a Haaretz conference Monday, upon finding out the New Israel Fund is one of its cosponsors.

Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked and candidate for Knesset Yinon Magal, as well as Likud deputy ministers Tzipi Hotovely and Tzachi Hanegbi and MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) canceled their appearances in Haaretz’s February 17 “Israeli Democracy Conference,” saying that they were not informed of the NIF’s sponsorship when they agreed to participate.

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A letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post showed that the invitation to speak at the conference was signed only by Haaretz’s editor and CEO, with no indication of the NIF’s involvement.

The Likud’s spokesman called the NIF an “anti-Zionist organization,” listing NGOs the NIF supports, including B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Breaking the Silence, Adalah and Women Against the Occupation and for Human Rights (Machsom Watch), and called it responsible for the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead.

“The Likud, as an ideological, nationalist party, will not cooperate with organizations who act non-stop to blacken Israel’s face,” he stated.

Bennett wrote on Twitter that “if the NIF’s involvement is canceled, I will be happy to go” to the conference.

Bayit Yehudi’s spokesman said: “A Haaretz conference – yes. A NIF conference – no. Our MKs were invited to participate in a Haaretz conference without any mention of the NIF and agreed, as they did to a [Haaretz] conference last year.”

“We will not take part in a conference in which an anti-Zionist organization that invests all its time and money in harming IDF soldiers and the State of Israel as a Jewish State is involved,” he added.

The newspaper’s previous conference, in which Bennett participated and was relentlessly heckled throughout his address, was also partially funded by the NIF, but Bayit Yehudi’s spokesman said that the party did not realize it.

Bayit Yehudi MKs and candidates often speak out against the NIF, whose website says it is “dedicated to advancing democracy and equality for all Israelis.”

Ronen Shoval, who is 16th on the Bayit Yehudi list for the next Knesset, is the founder of Im Tirzu, which calls itself a Zionist education organization.

Im Tirzu has led several campaigns against the NIF, saying that it supports those who accuse Israel of war crimes, a claim that the fund denies.

During his primary campaign, Bennett commended Shoval for “changing the way the public sees the NIF.”

Erstwhile Bayit Yehudi primary candidate Batya Kahana-Dror was criticized by the party for accepting NIF funds for the organization she leads, Mavoi Satum, which helps agunot, “chained women” who have been refused a religious divorce and are unable to remarry according to Jewish law. Kahana-Dror dropped out of the primary the night before the vote.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said that the Likud and Bayit Yehudi MKs’ cancellation “shows how right-wing extremist MKs do not understand what democracy means. Boycotting the NIF is a type of McCarthyism, censorship and total denial of the right to freedom of expression.”

A NIF spokesman said that the “Israeli Democracy Conference” was initiated by Haaretz and the NIF supports it along with other organizations.

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