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What's So Frightening About Civil Society Groups That Recognize Israel's Complexity?

Mickey Gitzin
Mickey Gitzin
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Columnist Gadi Taub speaking at a pro-Netanyahu rally in Petah Tikva, in 2019.
Columnist Gadi Taub speaking at a pro-Netanyahu rally in Petah Tikva, in 2019.Credit: David Bachar
Mickey Gitzin
Mickey Gitzin

There’s a name for Gadi Taub’s claims regarding the New Israel Fund: conspiracy theories. As is his wont, in other instances, Taub is offering a theory full of holes, and ignoring everything that doesn’t serve his claims or that contradicts them. His obsessive preoccupation with a Trumpist-type of conspiracy has already brought us such gems as the declaration that U.S. President Joe Biden won’t really serve as president, but will immediately be replaced by Vice President Kamala Harris, herself a puppet of former President Barack Obama; or the claims regarding votes being cast for Biden by deceased citizens. The “Obamagate” theory that Taub is obsessively promoting adopts the same method: combining distortion and half-facts lacking any context into an attractive story.

That is exactly what Taub did in his response to an article by New Israel Fund President Prof. David Myers, regarding its reluctance (along with other Jewish organizations) to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. Taub has apparently fallen in love with his theory, to the effect that the NIF collaborated with Israel’s enemies in the name of the “de-Zionization” of the State of Israel.

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He was not convinced by Myers’ words, to the effect that “the NIF is committed to the vision of democracy as it is expressed in the [Israeli] Declaration of Independence, which called for ‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.’” Instead, Taub collected several organizations supported by the NIF, and from them he has drawn conclusions about its allegedly concealed objectives.

Taub himself is not important. For a long time now he has justified any anti-liberal opinion. This article is being written because of the respectable platform in which he publicizes his theories, and for the readers who are exposed to them.

Taub is convinced of the existence of the demon he has created, and ignores anything that may disprove his theory. But among the partners of the NIF one can find groups that work on behalf of the disabled, fight against violence and help immigrants from Ethiopia (the contribution of the NIF in the absorption of those immigrants is described by Dr. Nigist Mengesha in his book “Hineni,” “Here I Am” in English, published this year); organizations with a sociopolitical agenda, alongside some that deal with preserving individual rights; Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, as well as the Hehalutz movement – part and parcel of the Zionist left; and the Mizrahi-traditionalist Tikkun movement, together with Yisrael Hofshit (A Free Israel), which combats religious coercion.

The claims of “de-Zionization” also fall flat in light of the facts: donors to the NIF are liberal Jews who have chosen to be active vis-a-vis Israel, as were their parents and grandparents. The vast majority have visited Israel and even speak Hebrew. These are the people whom Taub presumed to teach the meaning of antisemitism, while he is metaphorically participating in pro-Trump marches alongside Holocaust deniers and white supremacists, for whom antisemitism does not end with spreading theories.

While Taub place around with baseless theories about a so-called mobile elite with globalist attitudes and the immobile masses who are rooted in their land and tied to their people, the NIF is operating throughout the country to help the weakest populations – both Jews and Arabs. The Citizen’s Forum for Health Development in the Galilee, which the fund supports, is working to narrow the gaps between communities in the center of the country and the outlying areas, while the Public Housing Forum helps families in distress.

NGOs supported by the NIF have shaped the state of human and civil rights in Israel, from the High Court of Justice decision in the case of Alice Miller (which improved gender equality in Israel's army) to the Kaadan ruling (forbidding discrimination against Arab ownership of apartments in Jewish towns). As mentioned, this was done along with supporting groups dedicated to the fight against the occupation, because as Taub hiself once said, “Without separating from the occupied areas we won’t have a homeland.”

In the past year alone, NIF organizations played a central role in petitions against the Shin Bet security service's tracking of COVID-19 patients (the Association for Civil Rights in Israel), in publishing minutes from government discussions about the coronavirus crisis (the Freedom of Information Movement), and in recognition of Reform and Conservative conversion (the Israel Religious Action Center and the Masorti Movement). There is no Israeli citizen who doesn’t benefit from NIF activity.

The full picture is too complex and rich for Taub’s one-dimensional theory. Maybe his rhetorical tricks will succeed in explaining how the Ahoti (My Sister) movement for Mizrahi women and the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews are part of the “mobile” community and are working “to destroy the Zionist enterprise.”

Instead, I have another explanation: The NIF favors the advancement of democracy and equality in Israel, based on a clear liberal ideology. It works in cooperation with many organizations, some of them differing greatly from one another in their ideology, and each of them advancing a different aspect of its own broad world view. However, the NIF is not only the sum of all the opinions and ideologies of these groups. There is no complete overlap between the opinions of the NIF and those of the organizations it supports. We believe that it is possible to conduct broad partnership based on pluralism rather than consensus.

Taub is incapable of absorbing that. And it’s true that conspiracy theories are flourishing because they offer a refuge from the need to deal with complexity. Those who favor them will see a master plan, a guiding hand, everywhere. For Taub, as for other conspirators, there are only good guys and bad guys, every opponent is a scoundrel, and every undesirable scenario is a catastrophe.

The NIF offers a shared life because it recognizes the complexity and diversity of Israeli society, not invented theories about imaginary unity, the mobile and the immobile. Perhaps that’s exactly what Taub is afraid of.

Mickey Gitzin is the CEO of the New Israel Fund

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