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April 21, 2011 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-04-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

world

Israeli air strikes in Gaza City
provoked International outrage.

Gloved Fist from page 28

month, when the Israeli army notified the
Supreme Court that any Palestinian civil-
ian deaths in the West Bank caused by
the IDF in noncombat situations will now
automatically spark a criminal investiga-
tion.

Under the old policy, the army first
conducted a fact-finding field inquiry to
decide whether or not to open a criminal
file, laying itself open to charges that the
"fact-finding" often was simply a ruse to
block criminal proceedings. Now such
criminal investigations will be mandatory.

In The Lurch

Ford Foundation pulling out of Israel.

Nathan Guttman
The Forward / JTA

Washington

A

fter being a target for political
attacks during the past year,
progressive nongovernmental
organizations in Israel are now bracing
for another hit: the loss of one of their
largest donors.
The Ford Foundation, which has pro-
vided $40 million to civil society NGOs in
Israel since 2003, will not resume its fund-
ing for programs in Israel once its current
grant round ends in two years. The reason,
the organization explains, has to do with
changing priorities, not with politics.
But for struggling groups in Israel,
losing the Ford Foundation's financial
backing means spending time and effort
on developing alternative resources in an
atmosphere of growing hostility toward
civil society organizations that focus on
human rights.
In recent months, the Ford Israel Fund,
the foundation's arm handling grants in
Israel, began notifying grantees that fund-
ing will not be renewed after the current
$20 million grant expires in 2013.
The Ford Foundation, ranked the
second-largest philanthropic foundation
in America, with assets of more than $10
billion, launched its program in Israel in
2003 as a partnership with the New Israel
Fund (NIF), which provided the pres-
ence on the ground and administered the
grants. Prior to this program, the Ford
Foundation had given to a broad array
of causes in Israel since the Jewish state
gained its independence in 1948.

Big Giver
The establishment of the Ford Israel Fund

30

April 21 • 2011

made the Ford Foundation a key player in
Israel's NGO world. The initiative focused
its grant making in three fields — advanc-
ing civil and human rights, helping Arab
citizens in Israel gain equality and promot-
ing Israeli-Palestinian peace. The initial
$20 million grant expired in 2008. But the
Ford Foundation then followed up with a
new five-year, $20 million commitment.
"That initiative wound down success-
fully," said Ford Foundation director of
communications Alfred Ironside in a state-
ment he provided for the Forward.
The statement noted that since 1948, the
Ford Foundation's support for programs
in Israel exceeded $70 million, and said
the foundation would "explore how best to
contribute toward democracy and develop-
ment in the region going forward."
But the bottom line is clear: The part-
nership with NIF, which yielded $40 mil-
lion for progressive NGOs in Israel, is corn-
ing to an end.
"NIF has grown into a robust and capa-
ble independent foundation, and we look
forward to seeing it continue to thrive," the
Ford statement concluded.
Aaron Back, director of the Ford Israel
Fund, explained that the foundation's
commitments "had never been open-
ended:' The new leadership of the Ford
Foundation had conducted an across-the-
board review of all programs and made
significant changes in its priorities, he said.
The foundation's president, Luis Ubinas,
took office in 2008 after the new grant to
Israel already had been approved. Both
five-year funding programs were adopted
during the tenure of former president
Susan Berresford.
"I would obviously want to see this
money continue into the future, but the
legacy of the Ford Foundation's work with
NIF will continue to be noticed',' Back said.

In what American military strategist
Edward Luttwak has dubbed "the post-
heroic ere the IDF finds itself hampered
by two major constraints: care not to
conduct operations that might incur inter-
national censure or operations that could
lead to heavy Israeli military casualties.
Sometimes the two principles are at
odds, as when Israeli ground forces used
heavy fire in the Gaza War to avoid casu-
alties, and in so doing put Palestinian
civilian lives at risk. But often they are
complementary, as in the IDF's reluctance
to commit ground troops unless abso-
lutely necessary.
Part of the solution to the post-Gold-
stone dilemma lies in technology. For
example, using super-accurate munitions
that can pinpoint terrorist targets, pilot-

No Surprise
He added that despite the foundation's
decision to shift funds to other purposes,
he views the funding program for Israel as
a success, thanks to the support it provided
to organizations that he sees as having a
"hugely important voice and to the way in
which it helped NIF in becoming "a robust
and capable" organization.
The end of the Ford Foundation grants
is expected to have a significant impact on
NIlE They currently make up approximate-
ly a third of NIF's donor-advised giving,
which reaches $14 million to $15 million
a year. NIF's core giving, however, which
totals $10 million to $15 million annually,
will not be affected by the withdrawal of
Ford funds.
"This was not a surprise for us',' said
Daniel Sokatch, the group's CEO.
Sokatch praised Ford for what he
described as the foundation's "smart
philanthropy," which focused on NGOs
by building their capacities and ensuring
their sustainability. He said the foundation
did so by making sure the funds were used
for growth and stabilizing the grantees.
The director of one of those groups,
Jafar Farah of Israel's Mossawa Center,
which advocates for equal rights for Arab
Israelis, told the Forward that he hopes the
Ford grants will no longer be needed by
the time they end in 2013.
"I hope that by then, Israel will be a real
democracy with equality for all," he said.
But if Farah is unsuccessful in what he
calls "changing the reality',' he still expects
the Ford Foundation to reconsider its deci-
sion to withdraw from Israel. Mossawa
owes nearly 10 percent of its budget to
grants from the Ford Foundation.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel
receives $100,000 a year, 3 percent of its
budget. Hagai El-Ad, ACRI's executive
director, said the impact of the Ford Israel
Fund's loss will not be that great.
ACRI devoted the money it received
from the Ford Foundation in recent years
to programs aimed at promoting social

less planes that can identify and attack
would-be rocket launchers, and active
defense systems like the Iron Dome —
anti-missile batteries that recently downed
several Grad rockets launched from Gaza.
The system simultaneously located their
launch points, enabling immediate attacks
on the militiamen firing them.
These capabilities enabled Israel to cool
the latest Gaza flare-up without incurring
international opprobrium or risking sol-
diers' lives.
In other words, the Goldstone Report
and its international ramifications have
pushed the IDF into a process of self-
examination, resulting in a new doctrine
of "fighting smart" from operational,
legal, humanitarian and media points of
view. I 1

justice and fighting economic gaps in
Israeli society.

Some Criticism
Back believes that most, if not all, grantees
will survive the loss of Ford as a funder.
"I'd be surprised if any one of them will
go out of existence he said, adding that he
intends to focus his work in coming years
on ensuring that grantees develop alterna-
tive funding sources for the day after the
Ford Foundation pulls out.
The foundation's decade-long partner-
ship with NIF was fraught with criticism
over its choice of grantees and causes,
which mostly were on the liberal end of
the political spectrum. This criticism
peaked after the 2001 Durban conference,
where NGOs, some of them funded by
the Ford Foundation, backed resolutions
equating Israeli policies with those of the
South African apartheid regime.
In response, the foundation adopted
stricter criteria for funding; and despite
being blasted by Israelis, it decided to
move ahead with the first five-year $20
million grant.
"Ford Foundation has improved their
grant guidelines since Durban I; but there
are still concerns with funding practices:'
said Naftali Balanson, managing editor of
NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog
organization that has been a leading critic
of not-for-profit organizations that express
critical views of Israel.
In the past year, NIF and other NGOs
supported by the Ford Foundation came
under attack in Israel from politicians on
the right and from such organizations as
NGO Monitor and Im Tirtzu, which claim
that the groups support the delegitimiza-
tion of Israel. The Israeli Knesset passed
laws requiring increased transparency of
NGO funding and initiated parliamentary
hearings targeting these groups.
"Unfortunately, the situation in Israel is
troublesome Back said, "but I don't think
this should be the guidepost for measuring
our success:' Li

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