At a time of ceaseless budget crises, it may astound many that American
taxpayers are deploying their precious dollars not to pay for peace in Israel,
but to achieve the exact opposite: confrontation.
Each year, American
aid, taxpayer subsidies of 501(c)(3) organizations, and other financial programs
richly support political confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis, vocal
critics say. Tax experts estimate that for every $1 million in donations
received by a 501(c)(3), US taxpayers must subsidize approximately
Tax-exempt charitable organizations are supposed to be just
that: charitable. But prominent Israeli critics claim that highly politicized
American charitable organizations, including several operated by some of
America’s most prominent Jewish personalities, are actually working hard to
destabilize the Israel Defense Forces and erase Israel’s identity as a Jewish
state. Rather than engaging in charitable programs, outspoken critics say, these
charitable groups are focused on massive political lobbying and fomenting
internal political upheaval that make peace between Arab and Jew seemingly
Not a few of these critics point to the prestigious New
Israel Fund as the chief culprit.
NIF grants steer millions of dollars to
scores of confrontation- oriented Israeli NGOs.
Among the controversial
NGOs is B’Tselem, which circulates video cameras to Arab villages that are
hotbeds for confrontation.
Israeli military officials assure us that they
rely upon B’Tselem’s help to document IDF infractions. But many critics in the
ranks charge the cameras are calculated to capture the scene after soldiers are
taunted into finally reacting.
One such critic is Col. Benny Yanay, who
represents Consensus, an organization of several hundred IDF
“The New Israel Fund,” insists Yanay, “acts against Israel –
against the soldiers of our country.
It is important to me that people
recognize the New Israel Fund for what it is. It is supported by foreign
governments and organizations so that Israeli soldiers will be
Yanay adds, “Their budget is more than anything we have – so
it is not a fair fight. We are not a political organization.
Adalah, another Israeli NGO, brags that it has devoted itself
to getting Israelis prosecuted for war crimes. Among its efforts was the
now-recanted Goldstone Report. On its website, Adalah confirms: “The Goldstone
Mission report is a watershed...
[it] contains thirty-five direct
references to Adalah on ten separate legal cases and mentions many other Gaza
cases handled by Adalah without specifically citing the
The organization’s website adds, “The Goldstone Mission
dedicated an entire chapter...
relying extensively on Adalah’s
According to a spreadsheet prepared by NIF officials for this
investigation, in 2011, Adalah received $84,000 in core grants – NIF’s own grant
money – plus $321,275 in donor-advised grants, that is, those grants wherein
third parties channeled tax-deductible money through NIF for directed
In 2011, B’Tselem received $158,053 in donoradvised funds as
part of the NIF’s total support. The next reporting year, 2012, that amount rose
to $255,477. NIF’s US donations are subsidized by American taxpayers.
the allegations against NIF true? Knesset Deputy Speaker Yoni Chetboun says
“yes,” and flatly asserts, “The main goal of the NIF is to undermine the Israeli
Army, by knowingly financing left-wing Israeli groups that try to get young
Israeli soldiers prosecuted for war crimes.”
Knesset member Yariv Levin
agrees, “The NIF’s lobbying and its funding activities are all part of a
campaign to destabilize the IDF. They want to ruin the good name of the IDF,
making it more possible to take soldiers to international courts.”
Faina Kirschenbaum also agreed, stating, “Yes, the NIF is trying to destabilize
and delegitimize the army. In my opinion, the goal of the NIF and all its
grantee organizations is to change the priorities of the Israeli nation and
The New Israel Fund has heard these allegations many times
before, and forcefully rejects them. NIF Vice President Naomi Paiss concedes,
“We are not about soup kitchens. We are about social change.”
claims the critics are just right-wing political opponents.
Levin and Kirschenbaum are indeed considered from the political
But they and others say this rebuttal only proves their point,
that NIF is not a charitable entity but actually a wealthy political
organization, empowered by huge American tax subsidies bestowed upon its
American donors – many of whom may not understand the true impact of their
Chetboun and others are quick to credit NIF for its many
helpful activities, such as those which uplift battered women and the
disadvantaged. But they also complain that NIF constitutes the biggest and most
powerful political lobby in the Knesset.
Not infrequently, critics
complain, NIF, which asserts its staunch commitment to democratic institutions,
undermines Israel’s democracy by trying to convince Knesset members to not vote
in their own parliament.
On the NIF website, one NIF lobbyist confirmed
that efforts were made to have some MKs stay away from the Knesset during
crucial votes. “Our goal,” she writes, “was to recruit the entire opposition to
be present for the vote, and ensure that as many government coalition members as
possible would either vote against the measure or not show up. We asked that all
of our activists begin networking with their various contacts....
their contact was someone who did not feel comfortable voting against the
measure, then to ask them to at least absent themselves from the
It was not clear how discouraging an open Knesset vote by all
members was consistent with democratic values. But in one case in which NIF
tactics were to be reined in by legislation, NIF was able to use the “no-vote”
tactic to help defeat the measure. The lobbyist wrote, “In the end, we met our
goal. Most of the opposition MKs showed up for the vote and many of the
coalition MKs did not. And in the end, the ‘inquiry’ failed by a vote of 57 to
Hence, NIF confirms that it was able to influence not only the
Knesset tally but even who voted.
American policy is to support peace and
reconciliation through millions of annual taxpayer dollars. But many in Israel
believe the opposite is occurring. Instead, American money is too often misused
by scores of NGOs to finance the flames.Edwin Black is the award-winning
author of the international bestseller
IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic
Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful
Corporation. This article is drawn from his just-released book,
the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and
Terrorism in Israel.