Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ford Foundation & Israel

'The Road Ahead' Without Ford

With little fanfare, the Ford Foundation has declared victory and prepared for a phased withdrawal from its long, largely inconspicuous campaign to influence Israeli politics. News reports have focused mostly on the foundation's 23-year-long patronage of the New Israel Fund which, in addition to some laudable activities, has funded opaque groups that have exacerbated tensions between Jews and Arabs. Some NIF-backed pressure groups including B’Tselem, HaMoked and Adalah self-righteously colluded with the now discredited Goldstone Commission Report.

But Ford's involvement in Israel's affairs goes well beyond the New Israel Fund. The Foundation, today with $10.2 billion in assets, was created in 1936 by automobile magnate Henry Ford's son Edsel. Since then it has disbursed a staggering $16 billion in grants worldwide. While Henry was a notorious Nazi-sympathizer and anti-Semite, the foundation his money helped endow transmogrified into a quintessentially "progressive" entity devoted to promoting "social change worldwide."

In 1953 the foundation began making apolitical grants that benefited research in Israel. Then, on the very day Israel claimed victory in the June 1967 Six Day War, President Lyndon Johnson recalled McGeorge Bundy, his former foreign policy aide, newly ensconced at the helm of the Ford Foundation, to explore ways to coax Israel out of the just liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Bundy did not produce any tangible results though in hindsight his involvement can be seen as having driven the foundation's fixation with changing Israeli policies.

Ford became a benefactor of writers, researchers and pressure groups devoted to ending the "occupation" notwithstanding Arab intentions. Judging by where it puts its money, Ford views Israel as an oppressor state that routinely victimizes its Palestinian Arab minority.

By the 1980s it had helped bankroll Meron Benvenisti's West Bank Data Project campaign which sullied as ineluctably in the wrong Jewish life beyond the Green Line. When the Palestinians under Yassir Arafat declared a state – the first time around on November 15, 1988 in Tunis – it was thanks to a blueprint drafted by Prof. Jerome Segal who was later rewarded as a Ford grantee. Ford supported Stephen P. Cohen's Institute for Middle East Peace and Development which gave him the institutional heft that allowed his chum, New York Times advocacy journalist Tom Friedman to incessantly cite Cohen as a "Middle East expert" in promoting their shared views critical of Israeli policies.

Ian Lustick, the intellectual godfather of efforts to "redefine" pro-Israelism and to dissociate American Jewish backing for Israel from support for its West Bank and security policies would also go on to work for Ford. The foundation remained on the periphery of an interlocking directorate of agencies including the Foundation for Peace in the Middle East and the Tides Foundation that conducted a withering pressure campaign to force Israel back to the 1949 Armistice Lines.

The now defunct International Center for Peace in the Middle East provided the organizational front for disaffected Israeli and Americans Jewish actors such as Abba Eban and Rita Hauser as they campaigned for precipitate U.S. recognition of Arafat's PLO.

Ford also become a major funder of Arab and far-Left groups behind the virulently anti-Israel 2001 UN sponsored Durban Conference and with a few degrees of separation continued to back the malevolent boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against the Jewish state. Whether by backing innocuous-sounding groups like One Voice and Peres Center for Peace or by supporting tendentious polling on behalf of the Geneva Initiative, Ford's efforts have weakened Israel's ability to reach a negotiated solution.

Like Peace Now, the Geneva Initiative is so well-funded by European governments that it simply does not need Ford's money. But Ford has gone on to lend moral support for J-Street as it takes Lustick's crusade to redefine pro-Israelism to ever more absurd heights.

Looking back, Ford's directors can feel vindicated that the fund's heavy investment in artfully stoking a multi-layered campaign to force an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice boundaries – irrespective of Palestinian belligerence – has gained inexorable momentum. Ford's outlay has helped leave Israel's security damaged, its international standing weakened and its domestic divisions worsened. As for the New Israel Fund's ability to carry on Ford's work alone after 2013, that will depend on how successful it is in branding itself dedicated to "creating a better Israel" even as it obfuscates the, shall we say, awkward activities of its dependent NGOs.

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-- April 24, 2011

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