The NIF Guidelines: Confusion, at Best

from The Forward:

NIF Grantees and Critics Uncertain About Group’s New Guidelines

Guidelines announced by the New Israel Fund detailing who can qualify for its grants have left the organization’s critics and grantees alike wondering exactly what they will mean.

The confusion was compounded by NIF’s claim that the principles reflected in the new guidelines are not, in fact, new at all. That hardly satisfied the right-wing groups who had campaigned against the funding organization.

“If the content is not new, it raises the question of why organizations that clearly violate them have received funds. And if they are new, the question is how they will be implemented,” said Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, one of NIF’s primary critics.

The guidelines, published on NIF’s website September 20, state that NIF will not give money to organizations that work against the idea of Israel as a Jewish homeland – specifically, that any organization that “works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel” will be ineligible for NIF “grants or support.”

The decision to publish guidelines follows a high-profile eight-month campaign against the organization by the right-wing Israeli not-for-profit group Im Tirtzu, and comes three months after the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, called upon it to adopt “ethical guidelines.”

NIF has tried to play down the significance of the new guidelines. CEO Daniel Sokatch said in an interview with the Forward that they are simply “a codification of long-held principles that NIF has always employed.”

But NGO Monitor was quick to claim victory and to dismiss such declarations as attempts to save face. According to Steinberg, NIF is “trying to deny responding to the pressure, but at the same time respond to it.” He said: “The fact that they felt a need to put on their website these points that were never articulated in this manner is a clear change and is a clear result of controversy.”