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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Radical Chic of Ms. Naomi Chazan; or Pride Precedeth the Fall

Ms. Naomi Chazan
President, New Israel Fund

Mada al Carmel, another group funded by the NIF, authored the "Haifa Declaration." Here are a few gems from that document: "Towards the end of the 19th century, the Zionist movement initiated its colonial-settler project in Palestine. Subsequently, in concert with world imperialism ... it succeeded in carrying out its project, which aimed at occupying our homeland ... The Zionist movement committed massacres against our people ... the State of Israel enacted racist land, immigration, and citizenship laws [a reference to the Law of Return] ... Israel carried out policies of subjugation and oppression in excess of those of the apartheid regime in South Africa." Israel Harel, Haaretz correspondent
Old Leonard Bernstein had a funny thing going -- a spot of radical chic -- with muscled Black anti-Semitism. More recently, a Jewish American university and a Jewish American college president did it with an anti-Israel Palestinian group in Jerusalem.

But now a new radical chic scandal has exploded in the Israeli press. It seems that the New Israel Fund , an ostensible pro-Israel charitable group, has diverted substantial funds to a number of radical anti-Israel groups. The details are given in a long, detailed, sober Report issued by the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu. (The IT report includes only groupings that contributed to the notorious Goldstone Report but does not mention other anti-Israel groups supported by NIF, for instance Mada al Carmel.) In turn, Im Tirtzu is being denounced, almost comically, by the NIF and its political supporters: McCarthyism ! ... Fascism !

[OK -- I cannot resist a small aside on the idiocy of these two epithets. 1) Those who use "McCarthyism" today, generally ignorant of the historical context of 1950's Soviet espionage and the crude backlash against it, imagine that the "victims of McCarthyism" had been totally innocent, totally loyal Americans. 2) Those who use the term "Fascism" here: what in fact do they think ? That right-wing Israelis today, like the Italian confederates of Hitler in WWII, are out to destroy democratic government ? It is true that some criticism of NIF has crossed the borders of good taste, but this hardly amounts to the capital crimes alleged by the extreme Left ]

Pride goes before ruin, arrogance before failure... (Prov. 16:18, new JPS translation)

But back to the NIF and Ms. Naomi Chazan, its current president. Some ten years ago I sat in an audience of American Jews whom she addressed in Jerusalem. Her message, as I recall it, was that Israel alone is to be blamed for the failure to achieve peace with the Arabs. She was impatient with us. At one time she explained that she is a political science professor and that therefore she can tell us a thing or two about how things really are. Nobody was much impressed with that argument, but the academics in the audience could hardly keep from laughing out loud.

Now, after much criticism of her handling of NIF funding, the consequent cancellation of her visit to Australia, and her dismissal from the Jerusalem Post, she again insists on her professorial authority: "As a politics professor, I know how to read reports," she says to Haaretz, denouncing the IT study. But in the same interview she also makes an assertion that completely destroys her credibility, as it destroys the credibility of those of her supporters who make the same argument: "We really don't support every single thing these organizations say, but we support their right to say it."

The reference here is to Voltaire, who is often thought to have said, but apparently never did, that
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire or not, this is a noble sentiment which is more often quoted than followed. And it is sometimes used disingenuously, as it was by Chomsky in his connection with the Holocaust-deniers. It is used disingenuously here by Ms. Chazan:

1) There is nothing in the tradition of Voltaire, nor in that of the First Amendment, that suggests an inherent right to be financed by those who disagree with you. Does the right to free speech involve a right to receive money from your opponents ? Surely a professor of political science knows the answer to that one ? The Voltaire principle, in other words, cannot explain NIF financing of kooks.

2) If the Voltaire principle demands, as Ms. Chazan tells us she believes it does, the financing of unpopular viewpoints, she would be obligated to finance right-wing viewpoints as well. But where in the list of NIF recipients are there groups of right-wing settlers on the West Bank ? Where are the followers of the late Rabbi Kahane on NIF lists ? Again, it is obvious that the Voltaire principle, pace Ms. Chazan, cannot in fact be what motivates her or her followers.

Then there is the business of NIF financing by the Ford Foundation. Millions go from the FF to NIF each year, five million in 2008 alone. Part of this money is (indirectly) US taxpayer money, which the FF receives in great quantities through a variety of tax benefits. It is obvious to me that without such US-based funding, many of these far-left groups in Israel could not exist at all.

Ms. Chazan won't like me for this, but I do think that old Henry Ford, wherever he may be up (or down) there, might not be altogether unhappy to see where his money is going today. Long before Adolf Hitler was heard from, old Henry published "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in his Dearborn Independent.




UPDATE (Feb. 17, 2010) The Organization "NGO Monitor" calls on the New Israel Fund to draw "red lines" to prevent the financing of anti-Israel propaganda. See the NGOM request HERE

UPDATE (February 24): Read the comprehensive report by David Bedein in the Jewish Week on the NIF scandal. Click HERE

READ: Professor Gerald M. Steinberg's analysis: NIF And the Addiction to Power

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