Published On: Wed, Apr 4th, 2018

New Israel Fund mulls suing PM for libel following diatribe in migrant crisis

NIF Director Mickey Gitzin says Netanyahu's contention that the organization stands behind scuppering a deal with Rwanda for the mass deportation from Israel of illegal African migrants is an 'unprecedented lie' and an attempt to 'find a scapegoat for his failings.'

NIF Director Mickey Gitzin and PM-Netanyahu-Photo-Amil-Salman-PMO

The New Israel Fund’s (NIF) Executive Director Mickey Gitzin said Wednesday that his organization is considering filing a lawsuit against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for libel after he blamed it a day earlier for scuppering a deal with Rwanda, saying that through European states, it had persuaded the African nation to refuse to take in the African migrants slated to be deported from Israel.

“This time he is lying in an unprecedented manner, and we are looking into the legal side and whether we can sue him for libel,” Gitzin said, lambasting the prime minister for the second time in two days.

In a Facebook post, Netanyahu asserted that “The Fund endangers the security and future of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” adding that it “receives funding from foreign governments and elements hostile to Israel … such as George Soros.”

“We are seriously concerned and are now calling on anyone for whom the State of Israel as a democratic state is important to stand by our side, whether that person agrees or disagrees with us,” Gitzin said in his latest appeal, a day after Netanyahu tasked Coalition Chairman MK David Amsalem with establishing a parliamentary committee to investigate its role in allegedly stifling the Rwanda deal.

“Anyone who doesn’t understand that today it’s us and tomorrow it’s him doesn’t understand what has been going on here in the last year,” Gitzin added.

Netanyahu’s comments, Gitzin argued, were inciting and threatening and intended to distract the general public from more pressing issues.

“His goal is to divert the public’s attention away from his failings and to terrorize organizations like us to make us afraid,” he said, adding that the prime minister’s remarks threatened the very essence of Israeli democracy.

“There is a strategic danger to the State of Israel here in many aspects, because it doesn’t only harm freedom of speech or freedom of struggle, but also the deepest sense of the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora,” Gitzin asserted.

“The power of the State of Israel in relation to the world, the freedom of expression and individual liberties: These are the things about which he boasts when he travels around the world.”

It is not the first time that Netanyahu has lashed out against the NIF and accused it of being a fundamentally foreign outfit operating in a hostile fashion against the State of Israel.

However, Gitzin accused the prime minister of attempting to replenish support he may have lost for the humiliation caused by his flip-flopping on a deal with the UN that was intended to resolve the migrant crisis and put an end to government plans of mass deportation.

Gitzin drew attention to the fact that Netanyahu reneged on the agreement just hours after praising it. This, he concluded, is why Netanyahu is attempting to find a “scapegoat in order to explain his shortfalls in dealing with the migrant crisis.

“Netanyahu has a different ‘devil’ every time that is intended to divert attention away from his personal failings,” he charged.

“We have already seen this with the ‘Arabs in droves,’” he added in reference to the prime minister’s electoral campaign comments in 2015, in which he urged Israelis to vote to counter the high turnout of Arab voters.

“And with the comment that ‘the Left have forgotten what it means to be Jewish,’ and we saw him in Zion Square. We have seen him polarize and divide Israeli society, but this time he is lying in an unprecedented manner and we are looking into the legal side and whether we can sue him for libel,” the NIF director said.

He categorically denied any connection whatsoever with the Rwandan government, which was the third country that was supposed to absorb the migrants.

“Does he want to check? Let him. Unlike his activities, everything is transparent and open on our internet site,” Gitzin said in a dig against Netanyahu, who is embroiled in corruption probes.

In any event, he insisted that “It is also legitimate for a civil society to work with governments, but we were never in contact with Rwanda or any other individual from organizations that we fund.”

“This is a prime minister who did the most massive zigzag of his life and was himself shocked by his own decision. After all, only two days ago he said that the deal with the UN was the best thing that could have happened. And suddenly he realized that he has a problem with his political base and chose the most despicable way,” he continued.

The NIF has two operative branches: The first provides financial grants and the second is the Shatil movement, which is an initiative for social change. The NIF used the two branches in order to fight against the deportation plan.

It also provides money to organizations that have opposed the deportations such as the activist group “South Tel Aviv Against Deportation”, an organization that offers succor to the migrants. The NIF branches were also involved in formulating strategy, organizing demonstrations and submitting some of the petitions to the High Court of Justice on the subject.

“I say here explicitly, our world view is clear and is against the deportation of refugees. We worked and will continue to work on the matter,” he promised.

Despite being in the prime minister’s crosshairs, Gitzin vowed that the activities of the NIF would continue as usual in order to promote its core values.

“He is attacking us because he knows there is no place that we do not touch. We are also effective, significant and know how to operate and are not scared, and when the prime minister sees an opponent like this he decides that it is at the heart of the issue,” Gitzin said.

“We didn’t come to the NIF to be scared, but to change the State of Israel and to turn it into a better place for its citizens, Jews and non Jews, refugees and others. At the end of the day, we see it in the endless donations and letters of support that come our way,” he claimed.

“The Israeli society appreciates our strong stance and understands that we have become a sacrifice in this media spin, and that we don’t have any intention of becoming scared or morally corrupt.”

Netanyahu’s call for establishing a parliamentary committee to investigate the NIF is unlikely to be translated into action, however.

Last October, the Knesset’s Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon said that the Knesset had no authority to launch an investigation following Netanyahu’s calls to establish a parliamentary investigative committee to look into the financing by foreign states of left-wing organizations.

“The issues under discussion cannot constitute a matter for a parliamentary investigation since an investigation of this kind of civil society organizations on ideological grounds stand in opposition to basic government principles,” Yinon wrote at the time.

By Ynet News

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