In June 2010, amidst considerable controversy, an Australian branch of the New
Israel Fund was launched by its president, former MK Naomi Chazan, who a few
months earlier had been disinvited from an Australian Zionist speaking
engagement because of controversies associated with the NIF.
last year, I wrote a critical review of the NIF, observing that whilst the
majority of the organizations who were beneficiaries of over $200 million of
funds dispersed by the NIF were engaged in worthy welfare and developmental
projects, vast funds were also being provided to groups engaged in campaigns to
Foremost amongst these groups, I referred to Adala
which, in addition to promoting the Goldstone Report, urged foreign governments
“to reevaluate their relationship with Israel” and described Israel as “a
colonial enterprise promoting apartheid.”
The group also called for
implementing the Palestinian right of return to Israel, provided affidavits to
Spanish courts to charge Israeli officials with war crimes and defended a
Hezbollah spy as a “human rights defender.”
I also related to
NIF-sponsored “Breaking the Silence” (BTS), another organization which had paved
the way for the Goldstone Report.
Presumably in order to improve their
image, Australian NIF invited a prominent Israeli to promote their case to the
Jewish community and Australian media.
They made the disastrous blunder
of selecting David Landau, a talented and articulate writer who has published a
number of influential books, including a recent biography of David Ben-Gurion
based on interviews with President Shimon Peres.
The NIF also highlighted
the fact that he was an Orthodox Jew and a former yeshiva student.
LANDAU, a former editor of Haaretz
, is also renowned for promoting far-Left
views that a majority of Israelis would consider contemptible. Many Israelis
still recall that in September 2007 in the course of an intimate gathering at
the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, he told then-secretary of state Condoleezza
Rice that Israel was a politically “failed state” and urged the US impose a
solution on Israel.
“I implore you to intervene,” he said, adding that
the government of Israel “wished to be raped.” His remarks appeared in the media
and created a considerable furor.
Last year, in the course of condemning
the Knesset for its controversial NGO legislation, Landau stated: “I call on
parliaments throughout the democratic world and inter-parliamentary associations
to boycott Israel's parliament, once the pride of the Jewish people, until it
buries the bill and recovers its democratic heritage.”
Australian Jews, a
largely post-Holocaust community, are passionately Zionist and strongly
committed to pro Israel advocacy. Over the decades, they have succeeded in
cultivating a climate of political bipartisanship and friendship towards Israel
which is probably unique in the Western world. Their leaders have also
maintained a tradition of avoiding public criticism of security policies adopted
by the democratically elected government of Israel.
Many Jewish leaders
were apprehensive that Landau would articulate his anti-government views to the
Australian media. Danny Lamm, president of the Executive Council of Australian
Jewry, refused to meet or endorse him and subsequently bitterly criticized some
of his remarks to the media.
However, president of NIF Australia, Robin
Margo, seemed unconcerned that linking his organization with a person espousing
such views would be counterproductive.
In fact when the West Australian
Jewish community’s director of Public Affairs, Steve Lieblich, circulated my
article on the NIF and background information about Landau to his colleagues on
the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Margo declined to refute the
information and instead sought to intimidate him by threatening that he could be
subject to legal action for “distributing grossly defamatory
“I suggest you take legal advice,” he told him.
an environment, one might have expected Landau to be cautious about expressing
his more radical views. But in fact, he told the media that McCarthyism in
Israel was rife and that “the poison of the occupation is seeping back and
corroding our democracy... local Jews needed to speak out instead of blindly
toeing the government line.”
He castigated settlers, alleging that they
“resort to subterfuge to make life difficult for the Palestinians.”
example, he claimed that “little settler boys” scattered drawing pins on the
carpets of mosques.
In a subsequent ABC interview he conceded that his
grandchildren lived over the Green Line, claiming that they were being
brainwashed to discriminate against Arabs.
He also stated that
Goldstein’s murderous rampage in Hebron in February 1994 was not the act of a
man who had lost his senses but a calculated operation to “derail the Oslo Peace
At a breakfast meeting in Sydney, prefacing remarks endorsing
the actions of the NIF-sponsored BTS, Landau recounted how 25 years ago whilst
on reserve duty in Hebron, he had witnessed a fellow IDF soldier committing an
unspecified act of “bestiality” which tortured him to this day and which he had
not yet confided to anyone, including his wife.
One could, of course, ask
him to explain why after witnessing “bestial” acts committed by a fellow IDF
soldier, he failed to immediately report the incident to his commanding officer.
And why he should raise this issue now in such a vague and tortuous manner, in
Australia of all places? In fact, this vague charge of IDF “bestiality” was a
prelude to Landau lauding the NIF-sponsored organization.
BTS, created in
2004, paved the way for the Goldstone Report by releasing unsubstantiated
anonymous “testimony” from former Israeli soldiers accusing the IDF of war
crimes which were plastered on the front pages of the global media. When
subsequently proven to be without substance the damage was irreversible and
Israel became imbedded in many countries as a criminal state.
Goldstone commission compiled the despicable report – from which Goldstone has
now distanced himself, BTS provided them with “evidence” of alleged Israeli war
In March this year, BTS hosted an exhibit in Sweden introducing
it with the statement: “We are the oppressors, we are the ones that are
violating human rights on a daily basis. We are basically creating terror
This is the organization whose budget the NIF tripled last
year and whose spokesman told the Australian media and Jews that it represents
the “conscience of our people.”
The NIF is entitled to sponsor enemies of
Israel and the Jewish people. But it should do so transparently so that naive
charitable donors are not duped into believing that their contributions are
being utilized to transform Israel into a better society.
It is surely
also unconscionable for the local affiliate of the NIF to host an Israeli
emissary, who undermines the long-standing efforts of Australian community
leaders to maintain strong bipartisan support for
The writer’s website can be viewed at