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Did Rockefeller Money Pay For An Expensive Anti-Israel Campaign?

When Israel’s detractors openly promote anti-Israel messages, many often fall into the trap of focusing solely on the particular antics and claims used in the attacks. While the false and discriminatory rhetoric of anti-peace BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) groups should be forcefully refuted, there is often significant funding that enables the campaigns.

The recent phony New York Times stunt demonstrates the importance of following the money trail.

On February 2, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an anti-Israel organization that seeks to “drive a wedge” in the Jewish community over support for the Jewish State, distributed 10,000 copies of a propaganda pamphlet masquerading as The New York Times. Claiming to be a special edition of the paper, the publication featured “articles” praising BDS and blaming Israel for the latest round of Palestinian terrorism over the past four months.

The high production value of the lookalike—described by the Times as “deliberately designed to trade on our name and mislead users”—should direct focus towards those that provided the funds required to make such a stunt possible. Aside from the cost of printing thousands of copies of the multi-page fake, JVP and its partners devoted resources towards launching a faux Times website and Twitter account to accompany the handouts.

While JVP does not publish information on its financial backers, some of their supporters proudly announce their bankrolling of this group. In 2015, JVP received a two-year, $140,000 grant from the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF). The private fund made the allocation through its “Peacebuilding” program, which claims to “advance just and durable peace by supporting innovative and collaborative approaches and policies for conflict prevention, management, and transformation.” It is unclear how financing groups that demonize Israel, promote discriminatory boycotts, and aim to silence its advocates can be considered a “collaborative approach” that will advance peace.

JVP’s outrages extend far beyond this specific incident. JVP has frequently romanticized Palestinian terror attacks, which are intended to murder and maim innocent Israeli civilians, including stabbing pregnant women and murdering mothers in front of their children. Incredibly, JVP referred to the stabbings and shootings plaguing Israel as “Palestinian popular resistance” and shared a statement on its Facebook page that praised “a new generation of Palestinians … rising up en-masse against Israel’s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.” Such repulsive messages highlight JVP’s goal of demonizing and vilifying Israel, regardless of the circumstances.

JVP is far from the only hostile and offensive group to receive RBF’s blessing. In 2015, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)—a group that regularly refers to “Israeli apartheid” and Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians—received $50,000 for its “Israel Program.” The Quaker group is a close ally of JVP, and promotes BDS initiatives throughout the United States, including on university campuses. AFSC’s Dalit Baum authored a 2014 divestment resolution at Loyola University and has spoken numerous times with the pro-BDS group Students for Justice in Palestine. Similarly, JVP and AFSC have partnered to host “BDS summer camps” to train college activists.

Perhaps even more heinous than the funding for JVP and AFSC is RBF’s relationship with the extremist group Zochrot. Zochrot’s goal of eliminating the Jewish State by achieving a “de-zionized Palestine” was enhanced when it received $20,000 in “Peacebuilding” money in 2015. Though RBF has since removed information about this award from its webpage, the Israeli group is still listed as a “featured grantee” on the site.

The radical organization vehemently opposes Jewish self-determination. In the ideal future envisioned by founder Eitan Bronstein, “Jews will no longer be able to determine their future…by themselves.” In Bronstein’s warped utopia, many Israeli Jews who are unable “to adjust to a non-Zionist reality” may “prefer to use their other passport to move elsewhere.” Again, one can only wonder how Jews fleeing the country after Israel is dissolved fits the lofty mission statement of RBF’s Peacebuilding program.

The ugly crusade embarked upon by its grantees is inimical to RBF’s vision of a “more just, sustainable and peaceful world.” By propping up these organizations, RBF is betraying its own mission and is depriving those who are actually working for achieve these values of the means to continue and expand their work.

The funding provided to extreme anti-Israel organizations is the oxygen that enables them to demonize and delegitimize Israel in their assault on Jewish self-determination. The New York Times and the public at large are right to be angry at JVP. But the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which claims that it “values transparency, openness, and accountability,” is also responsible.

Yona Schiffmiller is a David Littman fellow and researcher at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.

[Photo: thenails / flickr]