One of the website’s leading writers is Erez Tadmor, co-founder of the Im Tirzu organization. The website’s founder, Ran Baratz, who was appointed by Netanyahu as head of public diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office, resigned and returned to Mida, and the prime minister has even shared articles from the website on his Facebook page.
One of Mida’s favorite targets is the New Israel Fund (NIF), which it accuses of a foreign political influence on Israeli democracy. A recent Yedioth Ahronoth investigation, however, turned the spotlight on the activity of the American Tikvah Fund, which promotes a conservative agenda in Israel—for example, by opposing the disabled protests or an expansion of the health basket. The bodies financed by this fund include the Mida website, Shalem College and the Kohelet Policy Forum. The fund’s chairman is American billionaire Roger Hertog, who has donated to Netanyahu and to the US Republican Party.
On an Israeli scale, these bodies receive massive funding. The Shalem College, for example, has been given some $70 million in donations from the Tikvah Fund since 2001.
Tikvah is a very large fund. It has about $150 million in its coffer—five times the budget of the NIF. Other American funds are active in Israel as well, promoting different goals from the development of educational programs to and advancement of the Hebron settlement. Despite receiving massive funding from the United States, the Right keeps complaining about a “foreign influence” in the Left, personally attacking left-wing activists and advancing legislation limiting the activity of civil society organizations.
By the way, when Yedioth asked Baratz why he keeps attacking the NIF while being financed by the Tikvah Fund, which engages in similar activity, he played dumb, saying that it was merely ideological activity. “If the Tikvah Fund joins political parties or petitions the court,” he said, “I won’t be there.” But the Kohelet Policy Forum, which the fund also donates to, has already petitioned the Supreme Court on issues related to the Settlement Division and asylum seekers. The Tikvah Fund itself holds seminars together with the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties.
It’s time to stop this hypocrisy. The political debate between the Right and the Left deals with a variety of issues. The Tikvah Fund has a right to attack the social protest or support settlements, just like the NIF has a right to advance social justice issues and oppose the settlements. The fact that both funds are financed by American Jews actually bolsters their activity in Israel, because the Jewish people’s involvement in the state’s affairs is a deep reflection of Zionism and this is something we must encourage, rather than inform those Jews condescendingly that they should send checks to the IDF and to our hospitals but that they are not allowed to talk about prayer rights or about the occupation.
On a deeper level, it’s time to acknowledge the fact that we are living in a global era, in which political debates cross national borders, and just as well. Iran and North Korea know how to handle “foreign influences”; I doubt that’s the model we wish to live by.
Mickey Gitzin is the executive director of the New Israel Fund.