Established in 1979, the New Israel Fund’s (NIF) mission is to “strengthen Israel’s democracy and to promote freedom, justice and equality for all Israel’s citizens.” From its inception through 2005, NIF granted over $120 million to more than 700 Israeli organizations that share its political and social objectives — which focus heavily on the redistribution of wealth and the radical transformation of an allegedly oppressive society. To complement its grant-making, in 1982 NIF established Shatil (a word meaning “seedling” in Hebrew) to provide technical assistance and training to leftist social change organizations in Israel. Among the major beneficiaries of NIF grants are Adalah, the Ahali Center for Community Development, the Arab Association for Human Rights, Hamoked, I’lam, Ittijah, and Mossawa. These NIF-supported NGOs regularly produce reports that accuse Israel of human rights violations and religious persecution.
NIF’s Program Areas include the following:
Arab and Bedouin Citizens: “Arab citizens of Israel occupy the lowest rung on the socioeconomic ladder and suffer pervasive discrimination, unequal allocation of resources and violation of their legal rights.”
Social and Economic Justice: “Israel’s economic policy over the past decade has involved massive cuts to education, health and social welfare budgets. This once-egalitarian society now has a gap between rich and poor second only to that of the U.S. among industrialized nations. [NIF] aims to reduce the social and economic gap between rich and poor in Israel … [by] investing $3.2 million annually in its work to achieve social and economic justice for Israel ‘s disadvantaged citizens.”
Civil and Human Rights: “1.3 million Arab citizens of Israel … face pervasive discrimination and unequal allocation of resources in housing, planning and education … NIF works to … safeguard the legal rights of disadvantaged populations [and] educate and mentor the next generation of civil rights advocates.”
Religious Pluralism and Tolerance: In an effort “to move Israeli society toward … promoting religious pluralism, tolerance and social cohesion,” NIF each year invests $800,000 in grants to 23 organizations “enhancing the links between Jewish life and social activism among all streams of Judaism.”
Education: “The Israeli education system has not yet met the challenges of providing equal educational opportunity to rich and poor, native and immigrant, Jew and Arab. Massive government budget cuts have exacerbated these inequalities …” To address this issue, NIF invests $1.2 million each year in education and youth activities, through grants to 21 nonprofit organizations. The Fund also petitions the courts for the implementation of the Long School Day Law and the Hot Lunch Law to cover (with taxpayer dollars) the costs of food and after-school programs for children whose mothers work fulltime jobs.
Environment: “Environmental degradation is endangering the health of Israel ‘s citizens – particularly disempowered groups and those living in the geographic periphery … Israel’s recreational and pristine areas are being devoured by unfettered development …” NIF invests some $300,000 per year in the Green Environment Fund (GEF), the largest funder of environmental NGOs in Israel. Other major contributors to GEF include the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Pratt Foundation. NIF also administers a Training and Empowerment Center for Social Change Organizations, which seeks to strengthen environmental activist groups by providing assistance with strategic planning, management, fundraising, advocacy, public relations, and media.
Immigrants: “Massive immigration to Israel over the past 25 years brought nearly one million people from the former Soviet Union (FSU) and another 90,000 from Ethiopia , increasing the country’s total population by 20 percent. … [These immigrants] are still grappling with day-to-day issues of unemployment and under-employment, housing, youth at-risk, and social alienation. Draconian cutbacks in government assistance since 2001 have further exacerbated problems. NIF is investing an average of $800,000 annually to 22 nonprofit immigrant organizations …”
Women’s Rights: “Women … still confront a situation of profound inequality. Social institutions, traditions and religious laws have kept girls and women at a disadvantage in schools, in the workplace, in divorce cases, and as victims of violence.” NIF provides grants to a variety of organizations working to promote women’s rights. A special NIF initiative, launched in partnership with the Nathan Cummings Foundation, aims to promote social change for Orthodox and Arab women. A major objective of NIF’s Women’s Rights program is to “advocat[e] for increased government funds to address the needs of poor women.”
NIF has awarded numerous multi-million-dollar donations to Arab groups (such as Adalah and Mada al-Carmel) that oppose Israel’s existence as a Jewish State. One high-ranking NIF official has stated that his group not only views Zionism as an anti-democratic movement, but also believes that Israel should eventually yield to the creation of an Arab state where Jews will be a minority.
Two Wikileaks cables from 2010 summarized meetings between U.S. officials and leaders of NIF, B’Tselem, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the latter of which is a flagship NIF project. One cable revealed that leaders of these groups had been telling U.S. officials that the Israeli legal system was incapable of honestly investigating claims of wrongdoing against the Israeli government and military. The other cable indicated that NIF’s Associate Director in Israel, Hedva Radovanitz (who managed some $18 million in NIF annual grants to approximately 350 NGOs) believed that “in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.”
In July 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that NIF was behind demonstrations in Jerusalem calling upon the Attorney General to indict the Prime Minister. Netanyahu said that false claims were being made by liberal media outlets regarding police claims into “the “submarine affair,” in which Netanyahu’s personal lawyer had been questioned regarding allegations of purchases of submarines from Germany. Netanyahu blasted; (I do not know who that is, I have never met him in my life, I have no idea what they attribute to him. I know that my decisions) those media outlets for utilizing “Soviet methods,” noting that “I am viewed as the barrier standing in the way of the rise of the left to power and I have to be removed.” Netanyahu claimed that the protests “are illegal demonstrations financed by the NIF with the goal of putting pressure on the attorney general.”