A Case in Point

When Israel's Supreme Court overturned a bill banning the sale of certain houses or plots of land to non-Jews, New Israel Fund president Peter Edelman was elated. Thanks in part to dollars from the NIF, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel initiated the litigation that ultimately gave the Ka'adans, a family of Arab-Israelis, the right to buy land in the Northern village of Katzir.

"The Ka'adans are going to have their house," said Edelman in front of an audience of about 40 people at the Germantown Jewish Centre.

The anti-discrimination case is just one of the many initiatives supported by the NIF, which aims to promote democracy and equality among Israeli citizens. Since its inception in 1979, more than $130 million in NIF grants has flowed to more than 700 think tanks and advocacy organizations in Israel.

"Our work is about protection and fulfillment of the idea of democracy and social justice in Israel," said Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University who under President Clinton served as an assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

While the NIF is a partnership of Israelis, North Americans and Europeans, Edelman was adamant in saying that only Israelis run the initiatives put forth by the fund.

"The decisions are all made by Israelis on the ground," he said.

During his talk, he was quick to say that his group supports the upcoming disengagement from settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, but admitted that the outcome is anything but certain.

"It feels modestly that something is stirring in a positive way," said Edelman. "I would not want to overstate it."



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