Too Close for Moral Comfort

The New Israel Fund wants a donation from me, its letter says. I’m afraid I’ll have to decline again this year.

Not only for the usual reasons, namely that many of the group’s goals are diametrically opposed to mine. What it calls “vibrant social change” in Israel is what I consider anti-Judaism social engineering; what it conceives of as religious freedom is what I view as societal anarchy; what it promotes as pluralism will, I think, create an unbridgeable and permanent chasm between groups of Jews in Israel.

But for something new, too. The NIF’s advocacy for Palestinian rights has always smelled suspiciously to me like an effort to dismantle the Jewish State. But recently the group came under fire from even some of its own supporters when it emerged that among the “human rights” groups it funds are several that promote the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, the campaign to brand Israel as an “apartheid state” through economic, political and academic shunning.

Born of the notorious anti-Israel, anti-Semitic orgy known as the 2001 “Durban I” conference, the BDS effort is widely perceived as a tactic to isolate Israel and advance the “one state solution” – an Arab-majority country, G-d forbid, in its place.

To its credit, the NIF is on record as calling the BDS campaign “unproductive” and “inflammatory.” At the same time, though, it says that it “will not reduce or eliminate our funding for grantees that differ with us on a tactical matter.” And so, in an exercise of obfuscation worthy of Big Brother himself, the NIF explains that while it “will not fund BDS activities nor support organizations for which BDS is a substantial element of their activities,” it will nevertheless “support organizations that conform to our grant requirements if their support for BDS is incidental or subsidiary to their significant programs.”

If I read that right (it’s not easy), what the group is saying is that those who seek to drill large holes in Israel’s far-at-sea ship of state are unworthy of NIF funding, but those enthusiastically drilling smaller holes can step right up with open hands.

No such hair-splitting is invoked by the NIF with regard to its opposition to the integrity of Judaism in the Jewish State – what it calls “the Orthodox monopoly over marriage, divorce and other issues of personal status” that “impinges on the rights of Jewish women to marry whomever they choose.” Or with regard to its own unproductive and inflammatory claims, like the one in the solicitation I received: that Orthodox Jews in Israel seek to “force women in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood to ride in the back of public busses, even to be separated from men walking down public streets,” and want to “undermine the power of the High Court of Justice – the ultimate bulwark against inequality and discrimination.”

“We must mobilize quickly,” the fundraising letter continues, the sentence underscored for emphasis, “and counteract this extremism.”

Such scaremongering dovetails disturbing with the abundant media incitement in Israel against the charedi community and arguably contributes to the hatred that has, tragically, resulted.

Like the recent report that various charedi Knesset members received threatening letters. “Take your pekelach and shtreimelach and stinking peyos,” one of the missives read, “and fly off to Brooklyn! Consider yourselves warned!”

Reminiscent of another time and place, a Rosh Yeshiva in Bnai Brak reportedly received a letter stating “Stop sucking our blood and living on our backs… We’ll fight you physically and you will feel our might on your bodies and against your synagogues.”

Now, I’m sure the NIF doesn’t condone threats or violence against anyone, even those it relentlessly portrays as dangerous religious extremists undermining Israeli society. But just as a degree or two of separation from BDS is not a nice place for a Jewish group to be, neither is a similar distance from hateful wielders of poison pens.


[Rabbi Shafran is an editor at large and columnist for Ami]

The above essay may be reproduced or republished, with the above copyright appended.

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1 Response

  1. Bob Miller says:

    What NIF discusses in its pronouncements and fundraising blurbs—and that’s bad enough—is the sanitized, for-release version of its treacherous goals and plans. Let’s not not rule out hate as one of its motivating factors.

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