New Israel Fund denies contacts to block deportation of migrants

The New Israel Fund (NIF) says that it “had no contact with the Rwandan government” on Israeli plans to deport Eritrean and Sudanese migrants to the African country.

In response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claims that the New Israel Fund (NIF) is to blame for pressuring the Rwandan government to cancel its deal with Israel’s government to deport people seeking asylum, and in response to the PM’s call for a parliamentary investigation into NIF, Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the NIF, released the following statement:

“Let’s be clear: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacks Israeli democracy and civil society when he attacks NIF. He lashes out to deflect attention from his own morally bankrupt choices.

“This week, for a brief moment, we celebrated a victory for the 37,000 people who are seeking asylum in Israel and who deserve the right to live their lives and raise their families in peace. Then the Prime Minister backtracked, leaving their lives in limbo. And now he’s blaming us.

“We’re proud of our work. The New Israel Fund did not pressure the Rwandan government to refuse to participate in Netanyahu’s cruel mass deportation plan. We did support massive numbers of Israelis standing up for what is right and demanding action from their own government.

“This isn’t about NIF. It’s about all of us — everyone who cares about democracy and equality in Israel. It’s time for everyone who cares about Israeli democracy to stand up and stand together against this blatant assault on Israeli civil society from an increasingly desperate and flailing PM.

“Mr. Netanyahu, you want to investigate us? I’ll answer any question you like, ” said Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the NIF, a U.S.-based human rights organization.

Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he is seeking to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the activities of the New Israel Fund, which he blamed for the failure of Israel’s plan to deport African migrants from the country.

He claimed the NGO, which provides funding to hundreds of civil-society groups in Israel, “endangers the security and future of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Netanyahu asserted that the NIF “receives funding from foreign governments and figures who are hostile to Israel”.

Netanyahu said that “the overarching goal of the New Israel Fund is to erase the Jewish character of Israel…alongside a Palestinian nation-state free of Jews on the 1967 lines, with its capital in Jerusalem.”

He further accused the NIF of supporting “anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian” organizations.  “I don’t know of any Western democracy, particularly the United States, that would tolerate hostile activity funded by foreign countries, as has happened here in Israel with the New Israel Fund for decades,” Netanyahu added.

The NIF said Netanyahu had “crossed every red line in his incitement against the NIF : “To the point, the fund had no contacts at all with the Rwandan government. All information on the activity of the NIF and its bodies is exposed, transparent, and reported.”

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is a U.S.-based non-profit organization established in 1979. It describes its objective as social justice and equality for all Israelis. The New Israel Fund says it has provided $300 million to over 900 Israeli civil society organizations. It describes itself as active on the issues of human rights in the occupied territories, the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, civil and human rights, women’s rights, religious status and freedom of speech.

Its financial support for “Breaking the Silence” and civil rights groups like “Adalah”, “B’Tselem” and “Yesh Din” whose stated goals are to document human rights violations in the Israeli-occupied territories has drawn criticism from the Israeli government.

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