By Ben Murane, Executive Director
So much changed on October 7th– and we are still absorbing the consequences. On the ground, our partners have shifted everything to address the current crisis in the ways that only they can.
Under the umbrella of our Emergency Safety Net response, we and the organizations we fund are providing humanitarian aid; safeguarding civil and human rights; bolstering Jewish-Arab relations; and providing an alternative vision for Israel’s future.
In the past few weeks, we’ve issued emergency funding to urgent humanitarian needs through our new partner, the Tzedek Centers located throughout Israel and especially the south. Read more about that essential aid here.
Just weeks ago, our Canadian-funded partners were protecting Israeli democracy. What are they doing now? Of course, they are still fighting for our shared values, even in wartime.
Preventing inter-communal violence in mixed cities
Whenever violence erupts between Jews and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, there are worrisome chances that violence will also spark between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens, like we saw in May 2021.
Abraham Initiatives and other Jewish-Arab groups are gearing up for the launch of a large national joint campaign. Since May 2021, NIF and our shared society partners built a network to respond in real time to reduce tensions and demonstrate Jewish-Arab solidarity. Abraham Initiatives is not only a key member of these real-time efforts, but is also a key member of a 17-organization “hub” established by NIF that includes many current and recent NIFC partners: Givat Haviva, Women Against Violence, Sikkuy-Aufoq, ACRI, the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, and others.
Responding immediately to human and civil rights violations
Since the start of the war, misinformation and disinformation have been spreading online and NIF grantees have been working to combat the phenomenon. At the same time, extremists in the government and around the country have targeted Palestinian citizens of Israel and left-wing activists, subjecting them to campaigns of harassment and disciplinary action for expressing their opinions. We are working to ensure that the war is not exploited to clamp down on criticism of the government or chill dissent.
For example, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is the country’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization. Before the war, ACRI had petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down the government’s “unreasonableness law.” Since the start of the war, ACRI has been working across multiple fronts to support displaced Israelis, advocate for marginalized communities, and defend civil rights. This includes advocating to delay bill payments for families impacted by the war, as well as proactively petitioning against the imposition of anti-democratic emergency regulations.
Our partner Adalah is Israel’s leading legal rights NGO for Arab citizens of Israel. In a major victory, last week Adalah and other NIF-funded groups petitioned Israel’s government to designate the areas of the western Negev containing the unrecognized Bedouin villages as “populated.” This change only now extends them protection under the Iron Dome system as rockets continue to fall. Adalah is also focused on fielding hundreds of calls from Arab citizens reporting discrimination and violence – many of whom are refusing to go to work for fear of revenge attacks.
Early on, our partner Breaking the Silence, with 36 other human rights NGOs, made clear and unequivocal statements as humanitarian law experts and opinion leaders that Hamas’ brutal attacks and kidnappings on October 7th needed to be called out as war crimes. Just this week Breaking the Silence joined a coalition of 30 other human rights groups raising the alarm about the state-permitted settler violence that has forced several Palestinian communities to abandon their homes. This could also lead to further violent escalations.
Standing with all Israelis in a time of need
These are just a handful of examples of our currently-funded partners whose grassroots activism is doing what we’ve always done — protect the most vulnerable, defend democracy, and advance a better future for all who live there.
I encourage you to also read more about our projects receiving emergency funding right now, which are providing humanitarian aid through the Tzedek Centers, and fighting online incitement through FakeReporter.
All of this work is critical right now. The situation on the ground continues to change, but regardless of whatever happens, we know that Israeli civil society can count on us to support them, always.