Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Tikvah Fund's Transparency Problem

Professor Zachary Braiterman has picked up a theme that I wrote about last year, but at much greater length and in much greater detail. He demonstrates that the Tivkah Fund, which ostensibly supports Jewish literacy and encounter with Jewish culture from a neutral, academic standpoint, is really a neocon kiruv (outreach) outfit. This is no surprise, considering the people on the Tikvah board. But, argues Braiterman, unlike the Posen Foundation, which wears its commitment to Jewish secularism on its sleeve (one might say, like frontlets between its eyes), the Tikvah Foundation, which funds quasi-academic programs at NYU, Princeton, Oxford, appears to take no political stand. On the contrary it positions in the middle -- just like other self-described centrist organizations like the American Israel Cooperative Enterprise and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, who think that they if they sponsor some Zionist left scholars from Israel (AICE) or have a few old fashioned Zionist liberals (SPME), they are somehow in the middle. Braiterman does not appear to be against ideological foundations like Posen funding academic initiatives, because they are transparent where Tikvah isn't. I don't agree. The cognoscenti know what the Posen foundation stands for, but I doubt many faculty members take the trouble to explain to their students that the syllabus has the approbration of Felix Posen, who only pays if a course has enough secular Judaism in it. Anyway, transparency is important, but it is not the only consideration -- ideological meddling in the academy is another. If a college professor thinks that secular Judaism is worth teaching, he doesn't need -- and shouldn't take -- money from an ideological foundation with an axe-to-grind. It is true that universities more and more accept money with strings attached. That undermines the whole mission of the university. And faculty members don't have to accept money from these ideological foundations. But back to Tikvah and its lack of transparency. Braiterman decided to focus his sights on Tivkah, USA, and the Jewish Review of Books, with its clear right-of-center bias. It's a pity he didn't rip the mask off the most egregiously rightwing and opaque Tikvah Fund project, the Tikvah Israel Fellows program. Like Aish ha-Torah's "Jerusalem Fellowship," which appeals to unsuspecting college students without revealing its rightwing, orthodox agenda, the Tikvah Israel Fellows promises that "a select, international group of outstanding undergraduates, post-graduates and graduate students will gather in Israel for a transformative journey of intensive study, cultural exploration and mutual discovery." And where will that discovery take place?
The program will take place at the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, located outside Jerusalem, and will be led by Dr. Micah Goodman, one of Israel’s most celebrated thinkers
It doesn't serve the Tikvah's fund purpose, which is neo-con "kiruv", to note that Ein Prat is in "Judea", a.k.a., occupied Palestinian territory, not recognized by anybody as annexable to Israel in a peace settlement. The line-up of speakers reads like a veritable who's who of Israeli neocon and to the right, with the occasional liberal hawk on board for decoration. (Look at the website if you don't believe me.) This is the Shalem Institute's dream-team of speakers, but everybody knows that the Shalem Institute is a neocon think-tank, with folks like Yoram Hazony, transferist Daniel Gordis, Natan Sharansky, Moseh Yaalon, etc. as directors or fellows. And that's their business. But the lack of transparency of the Tikvah Fund "Israel" Fellows, who are being housed on occupied Palestinian land outside of Israel, and taught by Israel's own "Commentary Crowd," is simply incredible. Just a small example: Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the man who has made a crusade of delegitimizing Israel human right groups by questioning their transparency, and by taking that crusade to the Knesset, appears here on the Tikvah website as "founder of Bar Ilan University’s Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation and teaches in the Department of Political Studies" -- without any mention that he is the Director of highly ideological NGO Monitor. And what will he be teaching the Israel Fellows about?NGOs, Human Rights, and the Arab-Israel Conflict." So much for transparency. Which just goes to show that the first law of kiruv is that you are not doing kiruv.


fromwhereveritcomes said...

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for a great site! I have a question, but I don't see a way to contact you so I'm using the comments section of this (loosely related) post.

I'm studying this year in a yeshiva in Har Nof, Jerusalem. According to wikipedia part of Har Nof stands on part of what used to be Deir Yassin (about which I am not an expert). I think it would be courteous for me to engage somehow with that fact, at least by finding out more - any pointers? Suggestions?

[About me - don't assume I agree with the tenets of your website, but I'm in sympathy with the spirit of it, certainly more than the Jewish mainstream assumption set.]

Shana tova!

Jerry Haber said...

My email address is

I dont know how far the Deir Yasin village exended. Years before Har Nof was built, there was a hospital/home for the mentally ill in the area, called Givat Shaul Bet, right at the end of the industrial area.

Actually, my wife and I visited her friend in one of the houses of the original Arab owners before it was torn down for the new neighborhood. My wife's friend's parents received the house.

I doubt anybody you ask there will have a clue what you are talking about. But you should contact a great organization, Zokhrot

and they will give you more details. Look for an email address on the site.

Unknown said...

The Tikvah fund has all the classic signs of being a front for US and/or Israeli intelligence agencies, from whence it is likely most of its funding comes.

You should try to follow the money and you will find other false front foundations funnelling money to Tikvah.

Unknown said...

The Tikvah fund is, without a doubt, a front for the US and other intel agencies.

Follow the money and you will not be able to find legit donors.