I imagine if I said anything nice about its pending launch, that may well be used to condemn it. To my mind, that reflects that it is more interested in being respectable than in doing or saying anything worthwhile. I don’t really expect very much from it. I went to an NIF talk at Emanuel, where the speaker was almost unbelievably insular, and walked out when he said that the Palestine Papers showed much Israel was willing to compromise. I mean, there are some excellent NGOs in Israel. But the Left basically doesn’t exist, other than a handful of brave individuals and marginal groups (Anarchists Against the Wall etc).
So what do we know so far? Its leading figures:
Robin Margo, a Sydney-based barrister, has served in several leadership positions within the Jewish community, most notably as president of the New South Wales Jewish community from 2008-2010.
He remains actively involved in the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Council for Jewish Community Security (NSW) and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the roof body of Australian Jewry.
He also acted for Jeremy Jones, past president of the ECAJ, in a long running legal battle against Holocaust denier Fredrick Töben.
Ok, so virtually all those things in my view count against him. He reportedly was also involved in student activism against Apartheid South Africa. I think everyone now says they were, I should be very interested if there were some means of finding out more about this.
Mr Benjamin, “is also a former president of the Australian Zionist Youth Council”.
“Irving Wallach, the son of Holocaust survivors, is a former head of Betar Zionist youth movement and former chair of the Zionist Youth Council of NSW. During his student years he fought against the anti-Israel campaigns of the Australian Union of Students.” [Betar for those who don’t know is a particularly right wing group, in the tradition of Jabotinsky, who was arguably fascist (for those who think I’m throwing the word around, see Shlomo Avineri’s study of modern Zionism)]
Liam Getreu: ” a former president of the Australian Zionist Youth Council and was AUJS president in 2010.” He made some comment that angered AIJAC types in the AJN, so he backtracked.
Mandi Katz alone doesn’t have any organisational role with these types of organisations listed. I don’t know if she has statements on the public record. Margo certainly does. Here he can be seen implying that Mike Carlton is anti-Semitic. Here I discuss where he called the Peace Prize awarded to Pilger a disgrace. He quoted Auberon Waugh.
Anyway, here is Ron Weiser (from the Zionist Council of whatever) worrying about whether its loyal enough to the State.
There are certain red lines that the Zionist Council believes there is consensus on in this community.
One is the basic legitimacy and morality of the concept and existence of the “Jewish State”. And that undermining its legitimacy and morality goes against what this community stands for.
Here we are not talking about the size of the State – therein is legitimate debate.
The second is that any support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, Israel Apartheid Week, the attempt to equate Israel with Sth Africa during apartheid times, lawfare etc etc also crosses communal red lines.
The third is the understanding that anyone who supports the “2 State Solution” but simultaneously supports the “Palestinian Right of Return”, actually supports the end of the Jewish State.
It seems clear on past evidence that some NIF grantees such as Adalah, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) and the Sheik Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM) to name but a few, cross some or all of the above red lines.
Note that Sheikh Jarrah solidarity is a basically mainstream cause in Israel, with support from Amos Oz and David Grossman (who are actually anti-Palestinian shoot and cry fake liberals, who supported the slaughter in Lebanon and Gaza).
He goes on to explain
On the 6th of April this year the CWP called for Goldstone to retract his “retraction”.
Horror of horrors, right? Presumably anyone who supports the Goldstone report is evil.
He goes on to write:
According to NGO Monitor,NIF grantees the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Adalah, Bimkom, Gisha, HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Yesh Din submitted a written statement to the Goldstone Commission on June 30, 2009.
That statement says NGO Monitor, included the following “offer our own distinct perspective – human rights violations for which Israel must be held accountable.” Alleged “violations” include “a deliberate new strategy for the ‘disproportionate use of firepower,’” “deliberately and knowingly shelling civilian institutions and rescue services,” and holding prisoners in “harsh, inhuman and degrading conditions.”
And there are numerous other examples.
Isn’t that appalling. NGO Monitor would take a while to describe. But this is a good enough summary. Its head is Gerald Steinberg. Here he writes:
Goldstone is a high priest in this religion, with close ties to Human Rights Watch – whose officials have a documented history of sharp anti-Israel bias and false allegations. Following HRW and the other groups, the Goldstone report repeatedly and falsely charges Israel with war crimes. By any logical definition of proportionality, after 8,000 rocket attacks, on which Goldstone and his colleagues remained silent, Israel had the moral right to flatten all of Gaza.
Charming. This is who Weiser takes as his moral compass, and the standard by which the NIF is to be judged. If this is this is the standard to which NIF in Australia aspires to, there is no point in it existing. Its members might as well rejoin ECAJ, AUJS, JBD etc. If they will confront the occupation, that should be commended. At this point in time, it seems to me unlikely it will play a progressive role in Australia (whether this changes will depend on grassroots changes I think).