A new chapter in the New Israel Fund controversy was written this week, as a left-of-center activist related her harrowing experience in an NIF seminar that brought her to tears. The NIF, which purports to be a pro-Israel fund, has been fire since a damning report published in February by a Zionist student group exposed its aid to groups that slandered the IDF following the 'Cast Lead' Gaza counter-terror operation.
The letter from the activist to NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch was first published in Hebrew by journalist Ben-Dror Yemini in his blog on the Maariv-NRG website, and later translated into English.
The activist, who identified herself by the pseudonym Shlomit, told a story that appeared to corroborate Im Tirtzu's depiction of the NIF as a sinister radical group that hides behind a facade of pro-Israel Zionist morality.
Shlomit, 36 and a mother of three, described herself as “religious left-wing” and said she voted for dovish-religious Meimad in the last elections. A former spokesperson for an organization promoting women’s rights, she is currently employed in an organization that helps the disabled.
She described herself as “very connected” to Shatil, an organization that operates under the auspices of the New Israel Fund, mentoring NIF-supported groups and helping them apply for funding from other sources. “Within my professional framework, I have always been aided and assisted by the services of 'Shatil' from the outset,” she explained.
“The report of the 'Im Tirzu' movement created somewhat of a shockwave amongst me and my colleagues,” Shlomit elaborated. “On the one hand, we thought that if there was an element of truth in it then the Fund should do some soul-searching and we assumed they would. However, we were not prepared to cast aspersions on our loyalty to the Fund and to Shatil.”
She was offered a scholarship for “a week in the desert along with fellow activists, with professional guidance from America,” and saw it as “an opportunity for empowerment and growth.”
Other participants hailed from Amnesty International, Sikkuy (The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel), AJEEC (Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation), Neve Shalom, Itach (Women Lawyers for Social Justice), Moussawa (Advocacy for Arab Citizens in Israel) and additional groups.
Feeling “so elated and grateful that they were willing to invest in me in such a way,” she accepted.
"That turned out to be a mistake,” she wrote Sokatch.
“It has now been two weeks since the program ended and I am still struggling to get back into routine both at home and at work. The level of the shake-up I experienced was so powerful that it led me to write this letter especially to you. I found myself in the desert under laboratory conditions, cut off from the world, cut off from Internet, with Palestinian and Jewish human rights activists who negated the State of Israel's existence. With people who want to annihilate the State without ruling out violent means, who believe that the State of Israel was born out of sin and who apologize for its existence, who loathe Israel and its symbols, who justify harming Israel, its soldiers and all its institutions, who devote their lives and efforts towards turning Israel into a bi or multi-national country. In fact the above is inaccurate. These people are fighting for one nationality alone – Palestinian. These same people oppose communal or civil national service for Arabs within the State. They also equate Israel's actions with those of Nazi Germany.”
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