NIF denies plans to change funding policies

Group says speculation it would stop providing funding to controversial Israeli-Arab human rights groups is "mistaken."

The New Israel Fund on Sunday denied speculation it would cease giving money to the Mossawa Center and Adalah, saying it stood firmly behind its commitment to provide financial aid to the controversial Israeli-Arab human rights groups.
“Recent reports about a change in NIF policy are mistaken and result from a misunderstanding over this complex issue,” Itzik Shanan, the NIF’s director of communications, told The Jerusalem Post.
“The NIF shall continue to support – as it has done in the past – important organizations protecting the rights of the State of Israel’s Arab citizens, such as Adalah and Mossawa.... [T]he NIF has never acted as though it were the thought police, and it never will,” he said.
Speculation regarding the possibility that the NIF would sever its ties with its two grantees began last Thursday when new NIF director Daniel Sokatch told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview that it would not support groups lobbying for Israel to cease being a “Jewish homeland.”
“If we had an organization that made part of its project, part of its mission, an effort to really genuinely organize on behalf of creating a constitution that denied Israel as a sovereign vehicle for self-determination for the Jewish people, a Jewish homeland, if that became the focus of one of our organizations, we would not support that organization,” he was quoted as saying by JTA.
Sokatch’s quote seemed to imply that his organization would severe ties with Adalah and Mossawa, which in 2007 co-wrote a manifesto calling for Israel to abandon its definition as a Jewish state in favor of a binational one.
Back in 2007 the NIF rejected criticism that funding the groups helped undermine Israel’s Jewish character. In an oped in this newspaper, NIF officials said that while they disagreed with the so-called New Vision document calling for Israel to become binational, they believed that supporting groups like Mossawa Center and Adalah helped create dialogue and made Israeli society more egalitarian.
Some NIF critics jumped the gun and congratulated it for cutting its ties with the Israeli-Arab groups.
“NIF leadership is taking an important step by agreeing to adopt the substance of NGO Monitor’s ethical guidelines for funding political NGOs,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, in a press release last week.
“These new guidelines have the potential to end funding for groups that call into question the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. With these new guidelines, NIF will need to reevaluate funding for Adalah, Mada al-Carmel, Mossawa, the Coalition of Women for Peace, PHR-I, and other groups with similar goals.”
NIF added that on its website Monday, for the first time, it will release specific guidelines defining who is eligible to receive its grants.