Arlene Kushner, Senior Policy Analyst
Center for Near East Policy Research
August 14, 2009
Mr. David Lewis
You will find here my response to the letter – a critique of my report on Adalah -http://israelbehindthenews.com/library/pdfs/InsideAdalah.pdf, sent to you by Nicholas Saphir, Chairman in London of the New Israel Fund, in early June.
A copy of Mr. Saphir’s letter follows this response
Mr. Saphir suggests that I inadequately researched Adalah and thus provide information “that is so inaccurate” about this agency. The fact of the matter, however, is that – while, indeed, I did not interview the General Director at length – to a very large degree I secured my information either in interviews with administrative staff by phone – including multiple conversations with Fathiyya Hussein, Administrative Director, or via Adalah’s own material or material from funders of Adalah, including the New Israel Fund.
(I will say that I found neither administrative staff of the NIF -this was in the US, not London- nor the director of the Ford-Israel fund, which administers monies from the Ford Foundation via the offices of the New Israel Fund, particularly eager to speak with me. In fact, in the main I was stonewalled.)
One situation in which I utilized secondary sources was with regard to articles written about the constitution for Israel that Adalah had proposed: the articles, from reliable journalists, focused on issues of concern.
Aside from the constitution proposed by Adalah, and the telephone interviews, my primary source of information about Adalah was the Adalah website: http://www.adalah.org. I do trust that Mr. Saphir would acknowledge this as a trustworthy source. What I discovered there spoke volumes.
To an extremely limited degree, I drew upon information from Eye on the UN, with regard to information on Durban (which I will get to), and NGO-Monitor, which has information on Adalah. I also relied upon a small number of very credible and reliable sources, such as the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, not to secure information about Adalah, but to refute the accuracy or objectivity of what Adalah was claiming.
Claims of errors in my report
As to errors Mr. Saphir claims I made in this very “inaccurate” report, I find essentially two charges.
One is what he maintains are inaccuracies in reporting the financial data. I secured that data in telephone interview with Development Director Rina Rosenberg (and I spoke to her more than once to verify information), and from official financial statements available on the Internet. I didn’t make up these figures, and I didn’t secure them from secondary sources. I made no accusations with regard to the financial management of Adalah, nor did I misrepresent the facts. I simply reported what was on the public record.
Do different tax calendars and the fact that not all funds allocated are necessarily spent in a given fiscal year account – as Mr. Saphir maintains – for what seemed on the face of it to be discrepancies? An example of the sort of apparent discrepancy I’m referring to is the fact that NIF records indicated that in 2007 NIF allocated $105,396 to Adalah, while Adalah records indicated that $69,646 had been received from NIF for that year. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the case that this discrepancy could be explained by the fact that not everything allocated by NIF was spent by Adalah in 2007 – for Ms. Rosenberg told me that for 12 years NIF had given Adalah $65,000 annually (the difference between this and the $69,000 being accounted for by donor-advised funds). I reported what I found, but will allow that Mr. Saphir may be correct, at least in some measure.
The second issue of contention has to do with Mr. Saphir’s charge that I am confused with regard to Shafa’amr. I had said that this was a politicized reference to Haifa – politicized because Adalah used this Arabic name for a region of Haifa for its address. Mr. Saphir says I “juxtaposed a strange story with incorrect information about occupation from the website of ‘Palestine Remembered.’” The fact is that I searched the Internet for information about Shafa’amr and did, indeed, come across that website, which, yes, spoke about Shafa’amr as “occupied” and part of Haifa. This is consistent with the Palestinian narrative of displacement.
But I didn’t just happen upon the “Palestine Remembered” website and decide that this must apply to Adalah: Before I had even alluded to Shafa’amr in my report, I discussed the fact that Adalah has a second office in Beersheva, but refers to it in its literature exclusively as Beer El-Seba, which is an Arabic name for the municipality that is today known officially by the Hebrew name Beersheva. This seems to me an enormously politicized statement, which is what I said in my report.
If, as Mr. Saphir has indicated, Shafa’amr truly is a separate Arab municipality, and not part of Haifa today, and Adalah used this name because it was located there, I stand corrected.
But as Mr. Saphir makes absolutely no mention of the Beersheva/Beer El-Saba issue, I assume I am on firm ground there. And so, even if I erred in extrapolating from Beer El Seba to Shafa’amr, my essential charge still stands: Adalah makes a Palestinian-oriented political statement in how it lists at least one of its addresses.
It must be pointed out here that this position taken by Adalah is actually consistent with certain of its other actions:
For example, in May 2008, Adalah released a PowerPoint presentation created by Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara on the Nakba (catastrophe) that took place for the Arabs of Palestine with the creation of Israel in 1948. Its thesis is that Israel has occupied Palestine, including the land within the Green Line.
How Mr. Saphir can then accuse me of “juxtaposing a strange story…” bewilders me. Consistent with this PowerPoint’s position is the notion that Beersheva – and perhaps also Haifa – are Arab areas, best referred to by their Arab names, that are occupied by Israel.
What I would ask is how an Israeli NGO can justify taking the position that Israel even within the Green Line is an occupier of Arab land, and what it says about Adalah that it does take this position. Then I would ask if Mr. Saphir thinks it acceptable that Adalah has taken such a position.
Mr. Saphir titles his paragraph on this topic “Incorrect Facts about Durban 1 and 2,” but he doesn’t actually identify any factual errors I made. I do not believe I made any.
Mr. Saphir writes, a bit defensively, that “Adalah’s participation in Durban I does not mean that the organization is responsible for any statement made by any other participants…”
But I never said Adalah was responsible for what others did. What I said was that Adalah was involved in the preparatory meetings for Durban I and the parallel NGO Forum and participated in drafting the declarations for the Conference and the NGO Forum – from which emerged the most horrendously anti-Israel material.
I documented very specifically – drawing from the Adalah website itself – which meetings were attended by which Adalah officials.
And I wrote:
In various venues – including Durban – Adalah has charged or participating in charging Israel with:
- grave breeches of international humanitarian law
- war crimes
- willful killing
- ethnic cleansing
My position is that Adalah has responsibility for its participation in these meetings and for helping to draft the documents. Mr. Saphir does not deny that Adalah officials attended, but instead simply makes no comment about this. I wonder if he would justify their activity.
Adalah legality and professional associations
Mr. Saphir goes to great pains to point out that Adalah is properly registered with the Israeli government and conducts itself legally. But I never suggested otherwise. Illegality was not my issue.
He also goes to some lengths to mention professional associations of Adalah. I must confess that this is of no import for me, and I would like to explain:
The so-called human rights NGOs – in particular the ones that Mr. Saphir mentions, such as ACRI and B’Tselem and HaMoked – use “human rights” as a front for anti-Israel activity. Charges they make against Israel are often distorted or biased and frequently used as a weapon within the international community to delegitimize Israel. The war being fought against Israel within the Arab world contains that PR component of delegitimization of Israel, and Adalah, quite simply, fits within this mold and naturally associates cooperatively with these other organizations. These groups, with their persistent exaggerated or distorted charges against Israel in international forums are doing damage to Israel.
(I have done some work for the Center for Near East Policy Research regarding false charges made by B’Tselem, and would be happy to share with you parts of this material, which has not yet been released.)
The fact that Adalah presents before the High Court of Israel carries no weight whatsoever. Israel is an extraordinary nation, permitting any agency or party to present before the court. (This is known as b’gatz.)
Issue of human rights
Mr. Saphir’s comment, that the attitude of my report is “very anti-human rights,” is both insulting and exceedingly off the mark. Where to begin?
I never said that promoting human rights in Israel is against the state of Israel. Rather, I said several other things, which can only be summarized here:
First that Adalah, which represents itself as “the legal center for minority Arab rights in Israel,” in fact does not speak only for Arabs who are Israeli citizens – but also files briefs and petitions on behalf of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, and in Gaza. How is this “promoting human rights in Israel”?
What is more, Adalah’s statements and actions on behalf of Palestinians are one-sided. For example, well before the recent military action in Gaza, Adalah accused Israel of committing “war crimes” in Gaza. But, in spite of the fact that Adalah claims to be a “non-partisan human rights organization,” it made no mention in the course of these charges of the rockets launched by Palestinians against civilians, including women and children, in the south of Israel – even though this action clearly represents a war crime.
Were Adalah genuinely a human rights organization, it would have spoken out here. Israeli Jews also have human rights. It did not because it uses the language of human rights to attack or criticize Israel almost exclusively. (So much is this the case that Adalah tends to ignore deprivation of human rights suffered by Palestinians at the hands of other Palestinians – and I document this in my report. It is as if the deprivation is not worth mentioning if Israel cannot be shown complicit.)
What is more, its charges against Israel lack objectivity and balance. I included in my report instances in which the situation as represented by Adalah was exaggerated. For example, it charged Israel with “plunging Gaza into darkness,” when the fact is that Israel’s Ruttenberg power station in Ashkelon continued to stream electricity into Gaza, providing the people with 70% of their electric power.
Such charges do not represent a defense of “human rights.” Rather they are a politically motivated misrepresentation of the situation (and, I might add, in this instance, an echo of what Hamas was claiming), and, YES, as such are anti-Israel.
As to defense of Arab Israeli citizens, I have responded in two ways in my report. On the one hand, I praised Adalah’s efforts that were constructive. An example: Adalah filed a petition against the mayor of the town of Mazra’a, claiming that the recruitment for the position of Council Secretary was done through a closed bid that excluded Arab residents of the town.
On the other hand, I expressed concern about Adalah’s tendency to defend radical Arab groups that present a threat to Israel. It can certainly be argued that even radicals require legal defense. But whether that defense, as offered by Adalah, is truly a matter of “human rights,” as would be claimed, or is more accurately a partisan political action that does a disservice to Israel is a question that must be asked. Two examples from my report illustrate this concern:
On August 23, 2008, on orders from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Al Aksa Institute in Umm al-Fahm – which served as the headquarters for the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – was declared an “unlawful organization” and shut down because it was found to have links with Hamas.
By August 25, Adalah had demanded of Barak that he withdraw his order for closure and the proclamation that the Institute was “unlawful,” because “these steps constitute a violation of the rights to freedom of expression, religion and association to the association’s members and to the Arab minority in Israel in general.”
Let us pass over the fact that these charges are exaggerated and ultimately ludicrous: Closing the headquarters of a radical group in the north constitutes a violation of the rights of freedom of expression and religion for Arabs across Israel? Come on!
The even more salient point is that Hamas – which has the goal of violently destroying Israel – is defined as a terrorist organization in Israel and as such is banned. Precisely whom and what is Adalah serving by pushing for an office that has Hamas links to remain open?
Then, back in February 2002, the Ministry of the Interior of Israel issued an order prohibiting Sheikh Ra’ed Salah – leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – from leaving the country for six months because security services had determined that permitting him to travel abroad would constitute a security risk.
Adalah ran an ad campaign regarding the violation of the freedom of movement of the Sheikh and filed a petition with the High Court. According to Adalah, Sheikh Salah “is widely respected in the Islamic world as a spiritual leader.”
In point of fact, Salah regularly incites against Israel and Jews, utilizing the theme that the Al Aksa Mosque on the Mount is being threatened as a means of arousing the Arab population to violence. (He was subsequently identified as a member of the board of trustees of the “Union of Good,” an umbrella organization that channels “charitable” funds to Hamas-affiliated groups.)
Mr. Saphir would have it that Israel is a better and stronger place when all of its citizens have their human rights protected. I wonder if he is truly pleased that Adalah defends a man such as Sheikh Salah, who in fact endangers innocent Jews in Israel with his incitement to violence.
Lastly here I want to mention that Adalah does not just defend the individual human rights of Israeli Arabs but insists that they have collective human rights. This is problematic, and I would like to address it below.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER: ISRAEL AS A JEWISH STATE
It is with regard to this issue that I find Mr. Saphir’s arguments most dishonest and convoluted. Shockingly so, actually.
I would like to point to words from his concluding paragraph:
“I will, of course, continue to take any issues you raise very seriously, as we both share a vision of an Israel that delivers the vision of her founders.” (emphasis added)
And then I would like to look at words from the Israeli Declaration of Independence, so that we might understand absolutely without ambiguity what that vision of Israel’s founders was:
Eretz Israel [Hebrew: The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.
Exiled from their land, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and for the restoration in it of their national freedom.
Impelled by this historic association, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in masses…
In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave explicit international recognition to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home…
On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Resolution calling for the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, and called upon the inhabitants of the country to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put the plan into effect.
ACCORDINGLY, WE…HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.
What is readily apparent is that the founders intended a state of Israel that is fully and unabashedly Jewish. And it is precisely because I wholeheartedly embrace this Zionist vision that I am pleased to do research on behalf of the Center for Near East Policy Research.
With all due respect to Nicholas Saphir, I would suggest to you that neither the policies of Adalah nor of the New Israel Fund support and promote that founders’ vision, but instead very seriously undermine it.
Here is where Adalah addresses the notion of the “collective” human rights of the Arab citizens of Israel. Adalah claims that a Jewish state is inherently prejudicial to Israel’s Arab citizens. It proposes instead what is referred to as “Israel as a state of all its citizens.” This means no more Hatikvah, as this speaks of the Jewish soul. This means no more Jewish star on the flag, as this doesn’t include the Arabs. And on it goes. I have documented Adalah’s position on these matters in my report.
How dare he then, as the Chairman of the New Israel Fund, which funds Adalah, state that he has a vision of Israel that delivers the vision of her founders!
I want to look at the constitution for Israel proposed by Adalah, which is called the Democratic Constitution. Within that constitution we are able to see exactly what it is that Adalah intends for Israel.
(You can see it yourself at: http://reut-institute.org/data/uploads/ExternaDocuments/democratic_constitution-e.pdf.)
This material, which is represented as a “constitution,” is in fact a political and not a legal document. In its introduction it states that Israel must recognize its “responsibility for the Nakba and the occupation,” must recognize the “right of return of Palestinian refugees,” and must withdraw to pre-1967 lines.
With this alone we have evidence that Adalah (and presumably then Mr. Saphir) does NOT support a Jewish Israel. The return of over 4 million “refugees” to Israel would shift the demographic balance of our state to an Arab majority.
But we see more: In order to insure Arab control of legislation a couple of different models are proposed. One, for example, proposes that no legislation be passed in the Knesset if 75% of the members of the Knesset who belong to Arab parties oppose it. What this is saying is that even if a law supported by all Jewish parties and 25% of the Arab parties did indeed have a majority of the Knesset, this would not suffice. This is not equality between Arabs and Jews: this guarantees Arab control.
It further states that any group that has suffered injustice (by which read Arabs) is entitled to affirmative action. Any Arab that has lost property will not only have it restored, but will receive compensation for the period in which it was not in his control.
And so, we see that this “Democratic Constitution” – which would swallow up the Jewish population within a larger Arab population – thoroughly destroys the vision of the founders of our state.
Yet Mr. Saphir has the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to try to reassure you with this:
“Based on the proposal through the Democratic Constitution (sic), Israel is the only state in the world with a Hebrew name, Israel.”
That’s scant compensation if the Jewish nature of the state is destroyed and so foolishly simplistic as to be an insult to the intelligence of any thinking person. Besides which, it occurs to me that an Arab majority in Israel might opt to change the name of the state.
Further, he says that Israel would “incorporate Jewish symbols.” And this, sir, is simply a shameful lie. For the constitution suggests a “Parliamentary Committee for Multicultural Affairs,” which would have a 50% Arab composition, and would define the symbols of the state. Clearly there would not be Jewish symbols.
He adds that Judaism would be “an official religion” – perhaps, but if so, along with Islam. And I find this prospect exceedingly dubious once there is an Arab majority, in any case: the Arabs are not tolerant of the freedoms of Jewish minorities. Lastly he adds that “Jewish citizens [would be able to] exercise power to govern.” Not sure what that means, other than that they could run for the Knesset, along with Arabs. Certainly, in the state as it would be constituted Jews wouldn’t truly “govern.”
Mr. Saphir ends this section by saying that “the political solution of the Democratic Constitution relies on the solution of ‘two states.’” He is implying, with this convoluted sentence, that Israel would be Jewish and the Palestinian state would be Arab – this is the formulation routinely offered up. But this is totally a fabrication, as I have just demonstrated that the constitution as proposed by Adalah would destroy the Jewish character of Israel. Most certainly Mr. Saphir knows this. There would be two Arab states, undoubtedly that would ultimately merge into one (as is the goal of the Arabs).
David, everyone who cares about the vision of our Zionist founders should be very worried about what Adalah proposes, and very concerned that NIF supports Adalah.
I hope that I have addressed the issues to your satisfaction. My own dissatisfaction with what I have written here is that it does not sufficiently explore some very deep and complex issues. It would be impossible to do this in one letter. And so it would be my pleasure to stay in touch with you, to answer questions, explore further, and dialogue on these issues.
Vigilance on behalf of Israel is necessary, and in this regard the work of the Center for Near East Policy Research is on-going. We see it as a moral imperative.
With warm regards,
NICHOLAS SAPHIR Combe Manor Farm
Telephone 01892 785111
Mobile 07767 246610
Mr. David Lewis, CBE, FCA
London W% 1DR
4th June 2009
Thank you for your letter of March 2009. I apologise for the delay in replying, but I wanted to ensure that I fully answered your comments.
There are organisations and individuals with a particular viewpoint who spread inaccurate and distorted information about other organisations with whom they disagree. The report entitled “Inside Adalah” by Arlene Kushner of the Center for Near East Policy Research, Ltd., is one such example. It is totally unclear how this information was gathered. However, as far as I know, the only contact with Adalah itself was a few phone calls to make informal inquiries about grants. This may explain why the information is so inaccurate.
Adalah is a registered charity in Israel and is a grantee of New Israel Fund (NIF). It is under the scrutiny of both the Registrar of Charities and of New Israel Fund and adheres to all legal, regulatory and contractual requirements. You can be assured that the authorities in Israel monitor human rights organizations, and if there was anything illegal or grossly problematic with its work, their charitable status would be revoked.
Nevertheless, I will explain in a few pages the due diligence that NIF carries out in our grant making and monitoring, and will respond to several of the more blatantly unfounded claims and conclusion presented in the report that you shared with us.
NIF’s Professional Grant Making and Monitoring
New Israel Fund maintains a thorough process for grant making, including clear and specific guidelines, criteria and application procedures. The grant making process itself is multi-staged, and is reviewed by the international Board. The annual application and monitoring processes include review by professional staff through interviews, visits to the organization’s premises and programmes, review of organisational materials, charitable status documentation, activity and financial reports, public statements, advertisements, news articles, etc. In addition, each member of the Grants Committee visits several new organisations and those slated for in-depth discussion/review prior to each meeting.
Staff recommendations are submitted to the relevant grants committee, and the Board members who visited the organisations present their findings at the meetings. The Grants Committee makes its recommendations twice a year to the international Board, whose members may raise questions before finally approving or rejecting any of the recommended grants. Grant recommendations maybe (and have been) rejected by Committees at all stages of the process.
Once approved, all grantees must sign a grant agreement, which includes sections from the Law on Amutot (Israeli charities) requiring adherence to Israel law, disqualification if the organisation has anti-democratic objectives, acts illegally, or uses the funds for anything related to a political party or candidate. With NIF’s ongoing monitoring process of all grantees, there have been organisations and scholarship recipients whose grants have been terminated by us due to non-compliance.
Misrepresentation of Adalah – Basic Facts
The author made no attempt to check the facts with Adalah, no attempt to examine professionally the work of Adalah by interviewing the General Director or any of the lawyers, and no attempt to rely on credible sources. For example, the author opens the report on page 5, with the statement that: “The organization’s main office is in Haifa (sometimes referred to in Adalah literature as Shaf’amr)” AND p. 12 -“Similarly, the use of the name Shafa’amr with reference to Haifa is a politicized statement. Shafa’amr was an Arab village that, according to Arab organizations such as ‘Palestine Remembered,’ stood in one section of what is today Haifa, and has been ‘occupied for 60 years.’”
Obviously the author lacks basic information about Adalah and about Israel. From November 1996 – May 2008, Adalah’s office was located in the Arab town of Shafa’amr, about 30-40 minutes north of Haifa. Thus Adalah’s address was Shafa’amr. At the end of May 2008, Adalah moved to new offices in Haifa. Thus, Adalah’s address changed to Haifa. The author has made up and built a “politicized” story of how Adalah uses Shafa’amr to refer to Haifa, which Adalah has never done. Then the author juxtaposes this strange story with incorrect information about occupation from the website of “Palestine Remembered.” This imaginative story of how Adalah views the space is incorrect and illustrates a very clear and strange bias against Adalah.
Defending Human Rights
The attitude of this report is very anti-human rights. NIF’s mission is to protect human rights, and thus we support many organizations that work to promote the rights of the entire population of Israel, as well as particular subgroups that face discrimination in the public or private spheres. For the author, representing prisoners’ rights, defending the rights of Palestinian civilians living in the Palestinian Authority based on international humanitarian law (IHL), defending freedom of expression and the right for political participation of the minority and/or its leaders de-legitimises the State of Israel. In other words, this report is so extreme and inflammatory that it concludes the promoting human rights and democratic values in Israel is against the state. I am sure, based on our previous conversations, that you would agree this is absurd.
The Jewish Nature of Israel
Adalah is requesting Israel to be totally democratic – treating all citizens equally. Asking for a democratic state today in Israel is not just a demand of Arab NGOS, such as Adalah, but is also a demand being made by Jewish Israeli human rights organizations. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), for example, drafted a position paper entitled “The Definition of Israel as a ‘Jewish State’ within the Constitution,” which was approved by ACRI’s Board of Directors on 11 July 2006. This paper strongly criticizes the suggestion that the State of Israel be defined as a “Jewish state” in the proposed constitution. This is obviously a very difficult issue, but one that needs to be openly discussed, as over 20% of the population is non-Jewish. The issue is whether it should be a binding clause in a constitution, or remain as the status quo of using phrases like “Jewish state,” “the state of the Jews,” “the state of the Jewish people,” which lend themselves to multiple interpretations, and thus to more flexibility within the law. Adalah’s position is based on the issue of democracy and the issues that go with it. We may disagree with their views, but we would be absolutely wrong to deny them the right and opportunity to make their case.
Respect for Adalah With The Legal and Judicial Community
Contrary to the author’s assertions, Adalah’s litigation is highly respected by the Attorney General and the justices of the Israeli Supreme Court. Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak once stated at the annual conference of the Association for Public Law that the petitions of Adalah and ACRI, as public petitioners, are always taken very seriously by the court because of the highly professional work and constitutional basis. For this reason, Adalah’s lawyers are often invited to speak before justices and on the same panel with former justices, staff of the Ministry of Justice, Israeli universities and on academic panels.
In the autumn of 2008, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, the General Director of Adalah, was invited to speak on a panel with Prof. Ruth Gavison and former Justice Matza at the Association for Public Law conference; at the end of last month, Hassan spoke on the opening plenary panel of the Israel Bar Association’s Annual Conference with former Chief Justice Aharon Barak and Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan. Hassan and other Adalah staff attorneys who teach or have taught courses at the Faculty of Law in Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Haifa University.
Human Rights in the West Bank and Gaza
Since Adalah’s mission is to be concerned for human rights issues related to Israeli institutions, it is not their focus to discuss human rights within the Palestinian Authority (or any other Arab country). Therefore, since 2002, Adalah has brought some petitions before the Israeli Supreme Court challenging laws and policies which severely violate Israeli law and IHL. Almost all of these petitions were jointly filed with Israeli Jewish human rights organizations such as ACRI, B’Tselem, HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and others. In some of these cases, Adalah succeeded before the Supreme Court such as in “the human shields” case, decided in20o05, and the “no-compensation case,” decided in 2006. During the recent conflict in Gaza, Adalah and other Israeli HR organizations submitted two important cases to the Supreme Court concerning attacks on medical personnel and ambulances, and severe cutbacks to the fuel and electricity supplies, which were causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The facts are not disputed – medical personnel and ambulances were attacked, and the cutbacks did cause humanitarian suffering. It is between the petitioners and the courts to decide how these issues get resolved within the law. You and I or others may or may not agree with the petitions, but this is the purpose of a legal system – to determine what is in compliance with the law and what is not. It is certainly not a challenge or threat to Israel.
Incorrect Facts about Durban 1 and 2
Regarding Durban 1 and Durban 2: Yes, Adalah participated in Durban 1. Durban 1 was a UN conference against racism organized under the auspices of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Adalah’s participation in Durban 1 does not mean that the organization is responsible for any statements made by any other participants in this international conference. Immediately after Durban 1, Hassan wrote an article in Al Hayat, the leading international Arabic newspaper, criticizing some of the anti-human rights statements and anti-human rights attitudes expressed at Durban 1.
Regarding Durban 2, due to the limitations placed by the UN on NGO participation, Adalah decided to send just one Board member, Attorney Fouad Sultani, as an observer. His flight ticket was paid by the UN. The only statement submitted by Adalah regarding Durban 2 is a protest letter to the UN regarding its policy to limit the NGOs to “non-conflict specific” topics. Adalah is not responsible for any activity of any person or organization who participated in Durban 2.
The Democratic Constitution Prepared by Adalah
In 2006 and 2007, Arab organizations in Israel, including Adalah, published for the first time documents that represented some of their thinking regarding the relationship between the Arab minority in Israel and the Jewish majority and the State. The Democratic Constitution prepared by Adalah is distinct from the other documents in that it is written as a legal document, a proposed alternative constitution. The main goal of this document, as was stated in the introduction by Professor Marwan Dwairy, the former chairperson of Adalah’s Board of Directors, was to create dialogue: “If ‘The Democratic Constitution’ succeeds to underscore the enormous gap between it and the other (constitution) proposals, and to create and objective public debate and dialogue on the nature of rights and freedoms in this country, then we will have taken an important step forward in the issues of racial equality, freedoms and social justice.”
It calls for an equal and democratic state that guarantees rights and freedoms for all residents and citizens of the state. This should not be a vision that is deemed threatening to Israel, after all these sentiments are clearly stated in Israel’s own Declaration of Independence.
Adalah’s Position on the State of Israel – A Two-State Solution
Finally, the argument that Adalah is trying to eliminate Israel or the existence or the rights of Israeli Jews is completely wrong.
- The Democratic Constitution speaks about a constitution for the State of Israel, and not for any other state; and
- The Democratic Constitution incorporates in its provisions equal rights for Jewish and Arab citizens, and that these rights should be recognized equally. For this reason, the main theme of the document is “bi-lingual and multi-cultural.” The Democratic Constitution imagines Israel as a state in which Hebrew and Arabic are two official languages (as they are today); that the law of citizenship respects the principle of equality between all citizens with the exception of recognizing the right of individuals to immigrate for humanitarian reasons; that the symbols are agreed on by the citizens; that the borders of the state are those of 1967; and that the Knesset is the parliament.
- Based on their proposal through the Democratic Constitution, Israel is the only state in the world: with a Hebrew name, Israel; that incorporates Jewish symbols and that Hebrew is an official language; and that Judaism is an official religion and that the Jewish citizens exercise power to govern. The political solution of the Democratic Constitution relies on the solution of “two states.” Many law school classes in Israel incorporate the Democratic Constitution in their syllabus as a democratic proposal for study and academic discussion.
The report you received, sadly prepared without verification of facts or information, does not accurately represent Adalah, its activities or its positions. I am certainly not an apologist for Adalah, but our professional staff and board members know the facts, and based on them, the grant decisions are made. So in response to your question as to whether we will continue support for Adalah? All the time that Adalah meet the criteria laid down by the NIF Grants Committee and Board and whilst they seek to promote a peacful and democratic solution to the achievement of a society in which all citizens are able to live together in peace and equality they will receive our support.
One final word about the financial information quoted in the documents. Grant figures published by Adalah and NIF completely match. The differences cited in the document stem from the reports inaccurate quotation of the figures. The fact that grants approved in one year are not always paid fully in the same year, and not all organisations have the same tax years explains why the two organisations do not report grants to the same time periods. However, they do match and are transparent.
I very much hope that this satisfies your concerns about NIF’s support of Adalah, which after all, receives a core grant that is less than 1.5% of NIF’s total core grants budget. I would much rather that we move on to a more practical and productive discussion about how we can together support Israel to help her treat all her citizens fairly and to help them prosper as individuals and collectively. I will, of course, continue to take any issues that you raise very seriously, as we both share a vision of an Israel that delivers the vision of her founders. However, at this critical and dangerous time, I do hope that we can work together to develop the positive and build on the many successes.
Chairman, New Israel Fund